Quitting Facebook

I must be starting to show my age a little bit. My back aches and I get muscle cramps with worrying regularity, I don’t in fact like the new-fangled music that young people appreciate so much, but especially I’ve come to reflect on how much I am *not* an exhibitionist. If friends are getting together and I’m the only one with a camera, there will be few pictures taken, and I’ve noticed how antithetical that is to today’s generation, who prefer to go in for the “share everything and hold back nothing” approach to partying and life in general.

Good on them though, I’m not the kind of person who thinks that his way is the only correct way for everybody, and indeed I’ve little patience for those who do. And that, in somewhat of a roundabout way, is why I’ve decided to shut down my Facebook account permanently.

The crux of my problem with Facebook is, in a way, that it is designed for young people who are by and large still in college, even though it is now used by a much wider variety of people; still, it’s not the audience itself so much as the obsession that Facebook has with denying that any such thing as privacy exists. It wasn’t always that way; initially it was conceived as a means for people in colleges and universities to have a sort of common platform with which they could keep in touch with friends and classmates. If you didn’t have a university email account, you were deliberately left out and therefore wouldn’t be able to see who or what was on Facebook, which is pretty good privacy.

Since then Facebook seems to have done a 180. Essentially they started making more and more formerly-private things public with scant notification only delivered after the fact, a bit like a friend you thought you could confide in but who ends up telling everyone at the party your little secrets. This wasn’t done all at once of course, as this informative infographic shows. Nor was it done out of a dogmatic desire for a more open society, but out of the founder’s desire to cash in by turning his site into the data-miner’s dream database in the hopes of attracting buyers.

Of course there are some people who say that all you need to do is watch for updated TOS and privacy policy on the Facebook site. Frankly, that still sucks. It’s like inviting “that guy” to a party at your place, you know, that guy who always drinks too much, that guy who ends up throwing up all over your bathroom and groping every woman there, that guy who ends every evening with a (thankfully drunken and abortive) fight. You could invite that guy to a party and have to spend all night keeping an eye out for him. Or, you could decide that his company’s not worth it and just not invite him. The second way is a lot more fun usually. My point is that Facebook just isn’t worth the bother at this point.

More disturbingly Facebook’s “make everything public” strategy has cost many people dearly. Content on people’s Facebook pages has been used to justify firing people, denying people promotions, or not hiring them at all. Pictures on Facebook have lead to people being arrested (I’m not saying it was without cause, but it’s still a concern). This is all a part of the public record and easily looked up. Clearly there are very significant negatives to having a Facebook account in the first place, and I’m not enough of a “2.0” kind of guy to think that the upsides of Facebook outweigh its downsides. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about the users, as long as he can squeeze more money out of the site. Remember Beacon? that was possibly the biggest intentional privacy black hole of the 2000s, yet it was only withdrawn very reluctantly (a class action lawsuit had to be launched) with no sign that Zuckerberg ever thought there was anything wrong with it, and without any guarantee that it wouldn’t rear its ugly head again in one way or another.

Some people are really into social networking; to be without Facebook would be like death to them… but I’m not one of those people. Yes, it’s quite useful if a former colleague or classmate now somewhere else is looking for you, but I’ve had a web site long enough that if you type my name in Google you’ll find this site, which is handy enough for me to share my thoughts with the world.

So, that’s my beef with Facebook. Why bother writing this? Well, I have a number of friends and family who are on the site and may wonder why I’m not on it anymore — now you know.

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