First of all: I sort of loved Facebook, in a way. At its best, it was kind of like hanging out in the student lounge packed with hand-picked friends, acquaintances, and diverting folks met online. There was the witty repartee, and the feeling of simultaneity, of being integrated into the days of others. It was the only platform I had for communicating with some folks, and I found that leaving them all behind last night, probably for good, was really quite distressing.
So why'd ya do it, 5000?
There were two proximate causes. The first was the implementation of Timeline, the latest and most radical of the many no-choice platform changes Facebook has made since 2006. Every change has cumulatively eroded a product whose original appeal was its elegant simplicity. Timeline, in particular, reshapes the essential nature of the product. I did not particularly want to have six years of my personal ephemera put into this new easily browsed scrapbook format.
Nor, it must be said, was it courteous of the Facebook people to assume I would. No doubt I at some point clicked on an agreement that they could present my “content” any way they wanted to, and yes, of course I realize that one can, with some effort, exempt material from being displayed on the new system. This does not change the basic reality that I was encouraged to post my passing thoughts, photos, and links to adorable pictures of kittens for six years with the tacit understanding that they would sink into obscurity within a few hours. I would have used Facebook differently if I knew everything I said and did would be posted on a permanent timeline. You would have too.
Plus, Timeline is ugly like MySpace. There, I said it.
The second proximate cause was that Niece #3 closed her account, and opened an account that allows me to chat with her elsewhere. Which is to say, a straw broke the camel’s back. With Niece #3 gone, there were not enough pluses left to balance out the many negatives that had been stacking up. These negatives include, but are not limited to:
Facebook’s blandly creepy desire to be the hub of one’s use of the internet. This can be minimized, but I found it increasingly alarming to get announcements about, for instance, what articles people were reading on Yahoo News. Along with wondering if my friends really wanted me to know which pieces of impulse-buy junk journalism had suckered them in, there was always the disquieting question: are they being told what ~I’m~ reading? There’s only one way to be sure they aren’t.
The location thing is pretty creepy too. Whenever I saw one of my Facebook friends had “checked into” a bar or concert, I always felt like I should break into their apartment. Just to make the point. They were practically begging me to. Cooler heads prevailed.
The political crap. Exposure to a constant stream of fatuous, willfully ignorant, openly sentimental, and grossly simplistic arguments being used to support my own political leanings – I’m what they like to call a “tax-and-spend liberal” – would have turned me Republican by now, if the other side’s drivel wasn’t equally bad and so often crackling with an unsubtle note of angry-at-the-world schoolyard malice.
And, without getting too too about it, the Facebook medium increasingly encourages you to craft your identity as a consumer of ideas and media rather than to express yourself creatively.
Also, spring is coming, and it might be nice to get outside more.
More than enough reasons!
“Gosh, Michael5000, do you think ~I~ should shut down ~my~ Facebook account too?”
Ah, hell no, I’m not trying to start a movement here. People just seemed curious about my decision, and I was kind of curious about it too, so I wrote it up.
“That being the case, Michael5000, do you have any ~other~ advice about my internet use?”
Why, in fact I do. See, I had noticed of late that the internet seemed to be shrinking, as if I were swimming in a smaller and smaller pond of information. This weekend, I figured out why: those clever gnomes at Google have been jiggering my search results. “Web History helps deliver more personalized search results,” they say, as if it were a good thing, “based on the things you've searched for on Google and the sites you've visited.” That’s right: they have devised an algorithm that can help you reinforce your existing prejudices and narrow your intellectual horizons! Having developed the most powerful information-finding tool in history, they will now help you exploit it to the minimum!
Unlike other people we could name, for instance “Facebook,” Google at least lets you reject some of their bad ideas. Web History can be turned off easily at www.google.com/history/. If you do a lot of online research or, like me, just a lot of online puttering, you’ll feel like you’re escaping from the fishbowl back into the open sea.