Recently there have been a lot of people out there quitting Facebook, myself included. Some are upset by the experiments that Facebook ran to see how users would react to changes in stories they were fed. Others, like me, are simply realizing how much pent up frustration Facebook is causing.
A few recent examples of people coming to their senses...
- Nick Briz does an excellent job of explaining why and how he left Facebook. He offers up some clever scripts to delete your Facebook content, but keep your account alive for work or apps.
- Jeannie Kim recognized her "addiction" to Facebook, and the things she learned by leaving.
- An experiment called 99 Days of Freedom popped up to encourage people to get off Facebook for 99 days to see what happens.
- Mat Honan ran an incredibly frightening experiment where he liked everything on Facebook for two days, and watched his wall turn into a giant advertisement, devoid of any human contact.
That's just a few examples among many, many other people who've left but haven't written about it.
But the theme is the same throughout - there's growing discontent about how Facebook is using our information to advertise to us, and even experiment on us. And more importantly, it's becoming clear that Facebook is just plain making us unhappy.
That was my reason for leaving. My goal has been to cut anything out of my life that annoys me or makes me unhappy. When I was on Facebook, I was annoyed by all the ads and irrelevant content being shown to me. Everything about it just made me feel bad.
Part of it was that nothing seemed under my control. Stories I had no interest in would constantly pop up. People I didn't know at all would show up in my stream because someone I barely knew commented on one of their photos. Even if I defriended a bunch of people, it was like winning the battle, but losing the war.
It was a constant cycle of being presented a bunch of news I didn't care about, a bunch of people I didn't know, and photos of picture-perfect lives (of which, I am 100% guilty of as well).
Perhaps more than anything though, I didn't feel any type of actual social connection with any of my real friends. Everything was rushed - like or get liked, and move on. It gave me the perception that I knew what was going on with my friends, but I really didn't. Facebook personas are mostly just the shiny coating that people present, nothing more.
I decided to try and stir things up a bit. To a group of my real friends, I wrote the following manifesto (slightly edited for privacy).
(A little backstory: before Facebook existed, I ran discussion forum software on my personal domain. The references to dankim.org/forums in the letter are to that forum software we used for a couple of years).
You may have noticed I deactivated my Facebook account. But most likely you didn't, because Facebook is a shitstorm of noise.
Harken back to 2000 (or whenever it was) when the actual dankim.org/forums existed. It was just that - a forum, a place for conversation. We had lots of lively, fun discussions and we felt connected. And Gary had a place to write a daily poll.
I'd argue that fun and that feeling of being connected is completely gone on Facebook. And I miss that, a lot. All of our lives are busier than they've ever been. I desperately want to keep up with you guys, not every God damn person I've ever met.
When it was 15-20 of us on dankim.org/forums, it was a place just for us, nobody else. It wasn't about acquaintances, it was about real friends. We discussed way more, and so we connected way more.
Facebook claims to keep us connected with our friends, but it doesn't. Instead we post a picture, a link, or a one-sentence status. People drive by and give you a like, and they move along to their 500 other friends.
These voice of our real friends are drowned out among all the other less important voices (and ads). Think about it - out of all your Facebook friends, how many do you really care about?
And even if there is something awesome you say or do, we don't comment because we'd expose ourselves to your hundreds of friends (and probably most of their friends, depending on the utterly impossible to understand privacy settings). We don't comment or discuss because we don't want everyone to hear us - just our friends. Another missed connection.
By contrast, the forums were way more engaging and fun because they were safe. Nobody could get in without my permission. There was zero chance of an accidental photo tagging, or posting to your wall instead of the group. And because it was safe, we talked about whatever. We made fun of each other. We wondered how Gary came up with a new poll daily. Nobody read our shit, guaranteed, except the group of friends.
And maybe last, but certainly not least - Facebook is horrible for long form writing like this. There is no chance I could write anything like this on Facebook.
Writing on Facebook is painful. If you write more than a paragraph, it gets truncated so people can move onto the next story. Comments are trimmed and hidden so you can't read what your friends wrote. Nowhere else in life are conversations built with "likes". It's fucked up.
I've now been away from Facebook for a couple of weeks, and I don't miss it at all. And I'm not just saying that to prove a point or to rationalize the choice I made - I genuinely feel better, every day.