Farewell to Facebook

The internet and social interactions over the internet have gotten better over time, but that doesn't mean that there haven't been dead-ends and backups along the way. Remember newsgroups? My first interactions on the internet (circa 1993) were using newsgroups. However, newsgroups got swamped with spam, trolls and random strangers talking past each other. At some point, I stopped launching my news reader and never missed anything. Newsgroups got replaced by invitation-only mailing lists and extremely focused discussion forums.

Picture from: http://www.amydobrzynski.com/2010/09/why-i-hate-facebook/ 
Similarly, although I was an early adopter of Facebook, I'm going to pull the plug on my Facebook account by the end of this week.

Facebook does fill a niche. There is no other way to communicate at large with a bunch of people who are unrelated to each other (by interest, kinship or education) other than that they are all somehow known to you. However, Facebook is trying to be everything and, thereby, it's becoming nothing.  I'm leaving Facebook because friends sometimes assume that I know what they've posted, and, as Facebook tries to become everything to everybody, I increasingly don't.  There are some friends in whose reading recommendations I am interested. There are some friends in whose photos I'm interested. There are some friends that I've lost touch with, but in whose "life announcements" (weddings, babies, etc.) I'm interested. The thing is that these are all different people and I would like to manage my friendships with them separately. It is much easier to do this if I use different applications for different things.

To communicate with individuals, I prefer email. Email is targeted, timely and, unlike the phone (which I hate with a vengeance), can be read at one's convenience. Email is also easily searched (especially if you use gmail), forwarded and extracted. When someone started carrying out a technical communication via Facebook, I quickly redirected him to my email.

I like it when friends post links to interesting content they have recently read. But doing this with Facebook has several drawbacks. (1) My Facebook feed is so active that I miss most of these links. (2) At the time that I log onto Facebook, I may not have the time or the inclination to read any articles. (3) Not all my friends have reading tastes that are similar to mine.  All in all, then, I end up reading few of the items recommended by friends.

A far better alternative to recommend articles (and to read your friends' recommendations) is to use a RSS reader. You probably know that you can use a RSS reader to subscribe to blogs and to newspapers. However, the "Share" feature on Google Reader can be used to recommend content and this itself creates a RSS feed.  So, you can subscribe to the "Shared Articles" feed of those of your friends whose interests match yours. And of course, you are going to be launching the RSS reader only when you have the time to read longish articles. So, this has none of the disadvantages of using Facebook. You can view my shared articles here (there's a link on that page to a RSS feed that you can subscribe to). I will be using this instead of sharing articles on Facebook.

The killer app on Facebook is its photo feature. I don't know of any good replacement for it. Web albums such as Flickr come close and are good enough, however. What you'll lose is the ability to tag photos with people, and to see photos of your friends tagged. I'm not sure that's such a big deal though. In any case, it's not enough of a reason for me to stick with Facebook.

Blogs are a good way to communicate long thoughts with your network of contacts. Facebook notes are comparable and sometimes better in that you can restrict comments to your network of friends. However, all my Facebook notes were just blog posts anyway. I never subscribed to peoples' notes anyway -- I subscribed to their blog posts. Hence, this is one capability of Facebook that doesn't even need a change in my habits. It also brings with it one benefit:  cantakerous friends-of-friends  have no compunction about making troll-like comments. On a blog, you can delete such comments. On Facebook notes, you have to worry about the reaction of the friend who forms the link between you and the troll.

I'm leaving Facebook, then, because the structure of its relationships bears no resemblance with the structure of the friendships I have in the real world.  Facebook friends: please subscribe using your RSS reader to my blog, to my reading recommendations and to my photographs (according to your interests!).  Definitely, send me an email if something important happens in your life.  Please do let me know when you start a blog or start recommending articles or create a shared web album so that I can subscribe.

Bye, y'all.

P.S. I realize privacy plays no role in my post. It did not play any role in my decision to quit using Facebook since there is nothing in my Facebook account that I would want strictly private.

No comments:

Post a Comment