13 July 2011

Goodbye to Facebook

I have begun the process of deleting my Facebook account. Fourteen days from now it will be no more than a bad memory. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, but the last straw was the fact that my account was spammed this morning. Some of the other factors in my thinking include:

  • Privacy issues. FB is parasitical upon the personal information it extracts from users’ accounts for advertising purposes. In the words of security expert Bruce Schneier, ‘Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re Facebook’s customer, you’re not – you’re the product . . . Its customers are the advertisers.’
  • Copyright concerns. A couple of years ago FB quietly changed its terms of use to give it the permanent right use any content you post on FB in any way they see fit (see this entry on Richard’s Kingdom).
  • Impact on social interactions. This is less tangible but potentially more disturbing than the preceding factors. One aspect is the increasing assumption on the part of FB users that everyone else is already on FB. (For example, last year I found out from FB that an acquaintance of mine had died. A decade ago I could have expected to have received that news from a variety of sources.) I fear that for an increasing number of people FB has become so central to their social interactions that it has become a chore for them to keep in touch in any other way. Another aspect is FB’s homogenizing effect on our social interactions: instead of unique interactions with individuals it encourages to send the same message indiscriminately to our entire social circle. Recently Lisa Lebduska has suggested (here) that this has the effect of flattening out the ‘otherness’ of our friends and acquaintance so that we are, in effect, really only communicating with a mirror image of ourselves. I’m not entirely convinced by that; I think she has overstated her case. But I am aware that FB has a certain chilling effect on what I’m prepared to post because of the fact that I belong to several different social circles that don’t overlap. What would make perfect sense to one group might seem ridiculous (or even offensive) to another. In the words of Richard King, ‘Don’t post anything to Facebook that you wouldn’t be happy seeing splashed across a 40′ billboard in your home town.’

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