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why i broke up with facebook

April 30, 2010

I’ve had a profile on facebook since spring of 2004.  Yes, facebook existed in 2004, if only at a handful of universities.  I remember having it showed to me in my dorm room late one night (at least I assume it was late at night; most of my life circa 2001-2007 took place late at night).  As soon as I joined, the indoctrinating party encouraged me to friend him so he could “have 30 friends.”  Oh dear.  It was easy to see how things would go from there.  Why did I even get in in the first place?

Well, at the time, facebook was novel.  For me, fresh out of nerd boarding school, it was great to have an easy way to get in touch with all those friends who were important to me but went to universities in other time zones.  It was cleaner, simpler, less messy and angsty than myspace (I never did have a myspace profile).  Even as facebook evolved over the years, and 30 friends turned into 300 and on up from there, I always like to think that I kept my page that way.  I never really bought into the apps craze, never felt the need to log in every day, and didn’t even start using it to share pictures until I’d been on it for several years.  I do, I admit, have a bad habit of thinking up pithy status updates whenever something noteworthy happens to me during the day, but that goes way back before facebook, to my days of AIM away messages.

But the key here is that facebook did evolve.  It turned from a cool idea into a potentially lucrative project, and well, as they say, the rest is history.  As it got bigger, it got harder and harder to protect your privacy, and facebook certainly never made it easy on you along the way.  Every major change brought another layer of complexity to privacy settings; at this point, I’m just ready to give up.  I have no idea what’s private and what’s not anymore, and that scares me.  I find it especially scary because I have made a major effort to stay abreast of the latest privacy changes, and have always updated my settings accordingly.  The simple fact is that I joined a semi-private network of college students; I’m leaving a sprawling public data mine for companies.

It doesn’t help matters that the facebook folks have never been exactly reassuring in public, having a tendency to get caught saying pretty silly things in regards to the purpose of their company, and how they feel about users’ privacy.  The latest (accompanying their recent major changes, which make it impossible to maintain your old level of functionality with an old level of privacy) is no different.  As wired.com reports,

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears to have been outed as not caring one whit about your privacy — a jarring admission, considering how much of our personal data Facebook owns, not to mention its plans to become the web’s central repository for our preferences and predilections.

The link within their article goes to another article on wired.com that’s also very helpful in explaining some of my reasons for finally just packing up and leaving.  And if you think that’s scary enough, there’s another link in that story that’s even scarier: facebook tagged everyone’s badge at the f8 conference (where this has all been broken) with an RFID chip that tracked them around the conference, automatically updating their facebook pages when they moved around the venue.

I just don’t have any desire to be associated with a group that thinks that’s a cool idea rather than seeing it as absolutely fucking terrifying.  Thanks, but no thanks; I’m out.

Some of you may be wondering, hey dude, if you’re so concerned about privacy, this is a pretty personal blog you maintain here.  Totally legit point, my friends.  There’s a difference, though.  Everything I post here has been posted with the knowledge that it’s entirely public information; you may have noticed that I don’t use last names, and don’t address anyone in my blog by name unless they tell me it’s okay (the partner doesn’t care but finds it amusing to hear himself referred to as “the partner,” and the dog, well, is a dog).  I post pictures, sure, but none of them are explicit or incriminating.  And while I’m not exactly hard to track down with the information that is on here, and certainly not hard to profile if you’re a company looking to get data on me for marketing purposes, the information is so disorganized that it’d be a serious time investment to try to mine it (and then you only get one paltry anti-consumerist broke grad student at the end, anyway).

Those of you following my blog on google buzz  might be asking a similar question.  The answer is actually about the same — I have always been scared of google, and so I like to think I’ve always acted accordingly.  I was reluctant to get an email account with them after learning that they never guarantee that anything is deleted, and I’ve always felt echoes of 1984 when considering exactly how much information they control (which they’ve made no pretense of concealing).  However, they have won me over gradually with functionality.  The simple fact is that they make tools that are better, easier, and open-source friendly (the link is to wikipedia, to help my less tech-savvy readers understand what I mean by this).  This last one scores a huge ethical point with me in particular.  I’ll wax poetic about my feelings about open-source ideas, copyright issues, gift economies, open relationships, and the like another time (it’s all tied in together philosophically).

Anyhow, the real point is that now my information is either completely public and I’ve always known it to be so, or in the hands of a company I both fear and respect.  I would far rather be in the hands of google, with their “don’t be evil” motto and behavior with regards to China that I can respect if not agree with completely, than in the hands of facebook’s goons, who act like college frat boys drunk on their money and have slowly tried to publicize my private information as it became more lucrative to do so.

So facebook, I’ve had it with you.  You and I need to see other social media.

P.S. In keeping with their generally being evil bastards, facebook makes it fairly difficult to properly delete your profile.  Luckily, the web is kinder, and you can get step-by-step instructions here.  One extremely important point is that this will only delete your account if you stay out for two weeks after “deleting” it — it deactivates it first, to give you the chance to come back crying for more.  Yeah, right, facebook.  I won’t be back.

P.P.S. A nice piece of irony here is that I had a conversation about facebook with my grandfather when I was out visiting Pvt. Little Brother last week.  He got persuaded to join, and then promptly got friended by “an old classmate” looking to meet up for what seemed to him to be a homosexual tryst.  He’s now leaving, since that’s not really something my grandfather is really into or at all comfortable with.  I defended facebook a bit at the time (despite the tendency for it to harbor overly friendly people you might not actually want to have any contact with — but hey, that’s kind of the internet in general), but now I am running away too.  Must run in the family.

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3 comments

  1. P.P.P.S. All of the links in “pretty pictures” are now broken. If they aren’t, they should be, because they all link to facebook albums. So that’s why that page ran away. It’ll be back once I get my pictures loaded somewhere else.


  2. Yesterday I came very close to deleting my profile when it basically tried to make all of my interests, etc public by changing them to “pages.” I still find it very useful for staying in touch with people, but I don’t think I’ll be on much longer.


  3. […] As some of you might have noticed this morning, I’m back on Facebook.  It’s been almost exactly a year since I deleted my profile and blogged about the reasons I left in a huff. […]



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