Life after Facebook.

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Last Friday, I deactivated my Facebook account. I have been complaining about Facebook for a while now, so it was time for action. I opted for deactivation first before deletion because I wanted to see how a trial breakup would go. As it turns out, Facebook will still keep and mine my data! So hooray. Except the opposite of that.

To be clear, Facebook isn’t evil, but it is a deeply flawed tool, and my use of it was making me more negative, paranoid, passive-aggressive, and a whole host of other things I do not want to be. I feel sad yet certain that I need to add this disclaimer: this post is about me and my opinion of Facebook. Perhaps you will relate to it, and perhaps not. I am not advising that you quit Facebook. Your comments, as always, are encouraged.

Now that that is out of the way, here are some of the reasons why I left …

Status updates, photos, “likes”, and links are not the most valuable parts of someone’s persona. The assumption that they are is a dangerous one; people not immediately engaged with Facebook are forgotten about quickly in this fast-paced, information-dense world. Facebook itself helps with this amnesia by providing a news feed option that only shows updates from people one interacts with the most. These self-perpetuating blinders are clique-enforcing, not community-building. Since I already use better tools for communicating with cliques — like Twitter, Plurk, and Flickr — dealing with Facebook’s news feed and messaging is a consistent waste of my time. I would rather spend that time actually interacting with friends.

Speaking of friends, the concept of friendship as interpreted by Facebook is so removed from its offline counterpart that I often hear people distinguish between “friends” and “Facebook friends” in conversation. I understand that language is mutable, but I take issue with the use of “friend” for “contact” when they are obviously not interchangeable. Has friendship already changed in the wake of blurred terminology? Perhaps I am just shaking my fist at the kids on my metaphorical lawn here, but I believe that the decline of nuanced language impacts nuanced thought.

Related to the friend issue is “de-friending”, or severing Facebook ties with someone else. De-friending is done silently, absolving the de-friender from the awkward friend-breakup. Is this an acceptable type of social lying, or is it connected to the dilution of friendship? I have been both the de-friended and the de-friender, and I can see no long-term benefit to this type of anonymity. De-friending isn’t even its most objectionable incarnation. Far more worrisome are sites like AboutEveryone.com, where people can leave anonymous comments about Facebook users, and BreakupNotifier.com, which alerts a user when the object of one’s affection changes relationship status.

I shouldn’t be all that surprised at the ethical ambiguities around Facebook. After all, it is a product of a company interested in mining and monetizing personal data, and it changes its core functionality because of this, regardless of usability and in open defiance of privacy. (Who could forget last year’s privacy fiasco, or that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that the age of privacy is over?) Perhaps the most insidious part of Facebook is how it preys on the desire to be a part of a larger community, invited to events, up on all the latest music and movies, and visibly connected to people one admires. One of the reasons why I did not want to leave is because I knew I would no longer be listed on FunkyPlaid’s profile as his spouse. It had no bearing on our actual relationship, but it felt like it did. That is how much the mentality of belonging permeated my life.

It has been almost a week. My Twitter usage has increased as I find myself replying to people in lieu of “liking” their Facebook status updates. I have a hell of a lot more free time, which is time I should have been spending on homework and writing anyway. And I am hyper-aware that now I only see part of the conversation, but I tell myself that when my friends want to connect with me, they know where to find me.

24 thoughts on “Life after Facebook.

  1. HMW

    I'm finding that I've been slipping into a sneaky hate spiral when it comes to FB. I'm thisclose to deactivating my account, but haven't yet determined if not having an account will impact my marketing plan.

    My friend list is comprised of both friends and fans. I'm not keen on this, but I find FB's business pages cumbersome and lacking in the tools I need to promote my music. I'd rather not waste (more) time trying to manage yet another profile, so I opted for one personal page. This is fine in terms of interacting with my fans. At least, it used to be. More and more, when I post about shows, or anything music related, I'm lucky if anyone comments. If, however, I post something as silly as the obnoxious things my loud-mouthed attorney says about my hair, I'll see upwards of 20 comments. Sarcasm trumps art (or the promotion of art). It's a little disheartening.

    In terms of friend interaction, it implies a "connection" when there often isn't one. In the event that I no longer want to be connected to someone, defriending has proved tricky. More often than not, it goes unnoticed, but when when someone does realize it and they call me on it… ick. Some friendships are meant to fade to memory, but perhaps I'm just being a spineless ninny.

    And yes, I, too, find that I have become more neurotic, more passive aggressive and less engaged with things that truly matter to me. I should be squeezing life by the balls (or huevos, if you prefer) and singing about it.

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    • So the fading to memory thing I completely respect! That may seem contrary to what I said earlier, but to clarify: I do not think that every contact should be labeled "friend". Non-friend contacts are transitory, as they should be. I do not understand the severing of actual-friend-ties without some sort of acknowledgement, though, and I speak from experience on both sides of that. Someone I considered a friend de-friended me on Facebook a couple of years ago. I re-requested friendship, figuring it had to be a glitch. Then I caught on when she never responded. *That* hurt my feelings. I still to this day have no idea why she decided she was done with me. Maybe it wouldn't have changed anything, but I would have wanted to know. Now it no longer matters …

      [cont'd in next comment]

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    • When I think of you, I think of you squeezing life by the balls and singing about it, so whatever furthers that goal is what I think you should do. That's my bias! However, you need to be able to promote yourself with all of the tools at your disposal. I don't like that Facebook figures so prominently in online marketing, but this may not be the stand you want to take because of how it impacts your career. I respect that completely.

      Also, I still want to know what is wrong with your haircut. I love your haircut.

      Thank you for weighing in here. 🙂

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      • HMW

        More great insight! People do chime in more when the feedback is negative. How I missed that actually scares me a bit.

        With regards to defriending, I recently removed a woman I had been rather good pals with IRL. She's always been a bit of a know-it-all, but in the throes of my divorce that trait proved too much for me to navigate. (I'm bastardizing Aristotle here, but misfortune does truly allow us to see who our true friends are.) Gentle reason and re-direction didn't work during our interactions, so I decided to put more and more space between us. I've seen her once, by chance, in six months. During that encounter, she didn't miss a beat… more comments, more unsolicited advice, more hurtful observations. Finally, last week or so, I decided to remove her from my list. She sent me a bit of snarky msg about it and I admit that I didn't reply. I find it telling that my silence over the past year didn't cause her to react, but the simple act of defriending her on FB did.

        As for my haircut, I dunno. My attorney loves to give me grief about it. I suspect it causes him to have acid flashbacks. 😉

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        • It seems like your "friend" wasn't really a friend at all, and I understand why you did what you did. Facebook or no, there wasn't going to be a good way to end that relationship, and you took the route that you thought would be the least painful. I can appreciate that. This sentence really says it all about her: "I find it telling that my silence over the past year didn't cause her to react, but the simple act of defriending her on FB did."

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  2. Quitter! Fine by me though, as long as you're on here somewhere. I can understand completely someone avoiding, departing or ignoring facebook.

    On facebook I've curtailed some things I say due to who is "friends" on there that I know IRL. I keep LJ, Tumblr and Twitter to be more frank occasionally and to have the chance to interact with other people doing the same.

    I weep though that I'll never have the chance to harvest your crops in farmville, join your mob in Mafia Wars or send you some sort of bear or heart or hug or whatever. So sad!

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  3. Carl

    Hi Cygnoir, I joined FB about a year ago since *everybody* I know seemed to be on it but for some reason, I just didn't like any part of FB, the cold interface, gathering 100,000 mostly fake "friends" and of course security.

    I was just on the verge of deactivating my account when I read your post which convinced me.

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  4. I might follow you out the door. Why am I spending time reading status updates from a guy I last saw in 7th grade? I have LinkedIn for communicating professional stuff. I have a blog – which I have more-or-less abandoned in favor of Facebook. But I do not find going back & reading my Facebook wall as interesting as reading my old LJ entries. I like the comments better on my blog as well.

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    • I completely agree with you about the quality of blog comments vs. Facebook wall comments! I mention in my reply to HMW's above that I think the structure of "likes" vs. comments creates a flawed interaction mechanism: if you want to be positive, hit "like", and if you want to be negative, leave a comment (since there is no "dislike").

      I hate to pin everything on a little button, but I think "like" can be a cop-out that has all sorts of repercussions on intelligent discourse.

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  5. I went to send you that link earlier this week through Facebook and realized you weren't there. I honestly thought you de-friended me and was offended. True story.

    And then, I opened up my e-mail client and sent it to you by e-mail. I probably gave more context through there than I would have by blindly posting a link.

    I think you're onto something…

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    • Holy crap! I wonder how many folks think I have de-friended them. I did not think about that before leaving; I did not want to make a big I AM QUITTING post and then flounce off.

      I think I will make this post "sticky" for a while so that people dropping by here will see it.

      I am so glad you emailed me that link, by the way. 🙂

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  6. I have reached a point where I use facebook solely as a means of redistributing stuff I post via other social media platforms to friends and family members who still use it. I would give FB about 2 more years before it devolves into a completely unusable mess (like myspace).

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  7. Carl

    Hi Cygnoir, In my case, it's pretty easy contacting friends since I have only a few! I contact them by email, Twitter, or I can always activate one of my blogs. I also like the commenting on blogs with the ability to moderate, better than the FB system. Frankly, I never trusted FB comments or email because I wasn't really sure where the comment would show up, maybe in some unintended places.

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    • You raise a good point about Facebook, something I neglected to mention in my post: whenever I tried to add my own content or to integrate blog comments with Facebook, something would invariably mess up and annoy the crap out of people whose news feeds I was inadvertently burping all over. So frustrating, embarrassing, and alienating.

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  8. Hah, I left Facebook for a few months last year. While I didn't really miss it, I missed out on a bunch of real world social gatherings. Mainly because people have started using Facebook for organizing real world social events. In the old days you'd get a phone call from your friends to plan a gathering, then things moved to e-mail and evite.com perhaps and now we have reached Facebook. And with Facebook comes FOMO for some I guess. I don't seem to have that problem, but then I don't go to SXSW either.

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    • This is why I don't have a social life! Or why I just rely on FunkyPlaid to tell me when people are inviting me to things. 😉

      In all seriousness, you raise an important point about how Facebook has become a centralized place for event invitations. Likely I am missing out on some awesomeness. It's a risk I am willing to take.

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