I’ve had a very tumultuous relationship with Facebook. I “deleted” (deactivated, of course) my account two or three times, for different reasons. I did it again about 5 months ago and I find it hard to explain to friends why anyone would want to voluntarily stay away from something that’s so useful and free! There are good things about Facebook and once in a while I miss them, but here are a few that keep me away :
- 1. Facebook is a for-profit, limited liability, publicly traded company.
Most people I know aren’t aware that Facebook has shareholders (your average Joe does not follow tech news like you and me), and it’s pretty clear by now that Facebook’s primary objective is to satisfy those shareholders. Making money is what Facebook needs to grow, and they’re pretty good at it. A lot believe that Facebook is either some kind of public service that we are now entitled to (a bit like Google’s search engine), or simply choose not to care about the implications this has. Wanting to make money doesn’t make you evil in itself, but when you do AND hold my very personal data on your centralized servers, I’m doubtful about your intentions.
- 2. Facebook is trying to redefine certain privacy norms which I find hard to agree with.
Mark Zuckerberg thinks our world has changed and people are more open about posting personal information on the Internet. He might be right but 1) it’s difficult to take such his statement very seriously, considering his business grows every time someone creates a new account 2) supposing he’s right – I don’t agree that it’s necessarily a good thing either. I would argue that the Internet has made the need for privacy even more important, and I find it dangerous that sites like Facebook are working so hard to convince people that posting everything about themselves is “normal” and “ok”. I think it’s OK if you want to reveal intimate details of your life to others, but I cannot stand the argument that goes : “why not? everybody else does it anyways“.
- 3. Facebook is trying to enhance, complement or replace my social interactions, and it’s doing a very shitty job at it.
I always found it weird that a distant relative, whom I’ve seen perhaps once in the last 10 years, would have access to the same information my girlfriend would on Facebook – just because we’re “friends”. It turns out that my social circles are not that simple. In real life, some people are friends of friends I don’t care for. Some people I will meet, and deliberately try to make them go away. Some people I really like and care for. Facebook just flattens all of this into a single group and has no real understanding of all the subtle variations inherent to relationships. The friends concept completely ignores the complexity of human interactions. I know I can make lists, hide certain posters, block others, etc. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. You end up like a paranoiac lunatic, “viewing your page as :” to make sure you’re showing this status to her, but not to him, and this picture to him, but not to her. No thanks.
- 4. Facebook is a megaphone to the loud, attention-craving people.
We’ve all witnessed this. And then on some morning, you wake up to what you think is your perfectly curated Facebook feed, only to realize after a few minutes that they changed the front page algorithm and you’re once again drowning in high school material, baby pictures and duckface selfies. I had maxed out at ~100 friends, and after you silence the loud individuals, the political zealots, the life coaches, the social media cross-posters and the frustrated loners, there isn’t that much I feel checking on anymore.
- 5. Facebook is not a company I feel deserves my trust.
- I seem not to be the only one with a trust problem. Long story short : Facebook deletes nothing (how suprising, right?).
- I’ve visited Facebook and met some of their people. They well all brilliant, extremely knowledgeable and fully deserved the job they were given there. But none of them struck me as being particularly interested in privacy or ethics, which I found a bit odd, given the nature of the data which drives Facebook (data about people!).
- Their lack of commitment to produce a set of clear, unambiguous privacy settings shows they have their priorities elsewhere. These are at best confusing, and some days I felt like Facebook is trying to make me give up (of course Zuckerber’s argument is that nobody cares about privacy anymore, so maybe that figures).