A year without Facebook

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

By Tack Trudell

One year ago today I clicked delete on my Facebook account. In spring 2010 they decided that stuff I had explicitly set to be private was stuff they would rather have be public and changed my settings accordingly.

Against my will. In fact, they did this to everybody. Hundreds of millions of people. It was the last straw.

It wasn't the last time they did this either. Friends who remained on the network complained to me that they would randomly have their privacy settings reset to public and had to check once a week. And every time Facebook rolls out a new feature they use it as an excuse to mass reset everybody to public at least for those settings.

So, you set settings in an application and they never stay that way, always reverting to defaults. From a UX standpoint it's broken on the innocent side of the scale and a smokescreen for the settings practically not existing on the malicious side. And even if you don't chalk it up to malice it's a part time job keeping up with it. Which nobody's getting paid for. And somebody else is making the money.

It's just not worth it to me folks.

A year without Facebook.

So what's it been like? Better. I've been invited to plenty of parties. I've thrown events no sweat. My social life is as active as it was when I was on it. I forget that back in '07 before I had FB I had a life and I have a good one now too.

But it's not just maintaining a certain quality of life despite Facebook that seems surprising. It's that I feel that I've gotten closer to people and my relationships to others have improved since I left. I'm closer to my family and friends because when I want to know what's new I call them on the phone or go visit them. And consequently I don't have time to keep up with some dude I met at a party once or twice. I have actual, better friends.

Social is not the devil.

In advertising when clients ask you for social they usually mean Facebook. They're wrong. Even though I clicked delete on FB I still remain an active social media user.

I'm on Twitter. I only put public information on it. They don't ask for much and don't care if you're completely fictitious. I can't ignore or bury tweets from random acquaintances. So I prune who I follow pretty aggressively to stay on top of it.

That's actually much better than FB's algorithm. FB will make the people you interact with on the site most likely to be visible in your feed. Pruning who I follow on Twitter optimizes my feed for people I care about in real life and information that's really important to me.

I'm also participating in the Diaspora invite-only alpha. It is a lot like Facebook but much more empowering for users. Stuff is private by default. All your friends are in groups (aspects) you create so you are in control of who sees what. I can download the data for my user, import it into a Diaspora node (pod) I control myself, delete the old user and keep all my friends. This is amazing because it means if the operators of one pod go evil I can move to a competing pod pretty easily without losing anything.

I am not a luddite.

So it isn't the technology of social networking that I take issue with. I've used Friendster, Orkut, Myspace, Google Buzz, LiveJournal, Twitter, and Diaspora. It's the policies and priorities of the corporation behind Facebook that I take issue with and did something about.

Over the last year I've been accused of being a luddite for doing this. Those people are ignorant (I'm a big nerd and tech is my livelihood) or just jerks. Here's a social networking tip: learn some social skills first to make the most of these technologies later.

For the majority of people who were supportive of my decision: Hit me up for a Diaspora invite if you want one.

I've had a great life after Facebook and you can too.

About the author

I am an integrator of things. I look beyond front end, back end and the object to see where art and tech can manifest the whole.

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