Facebonked

This week has brought some pretty blizzardy weather on the Facebook front, so thick that I’m in a real quandary as to how I should navigate through it. Understand that, when it comes to Facebook, I try and keep my visits to the neighborhood to a minimum. Short story: I like the ability to keep up with people, but hate the annoying, incessant and spammy applications. I would have no use for Facebook if everyone would simply accommodate me and use LinkedIn and Twitter instead. But, as you might have noticed as well, the whole world apparently got Facebook for Christmas. I now have triple the old grade school/high school friends to connect to, and people from every social group I’ve been associated with for the last 40 years are popping out of the virtual woodwork. It creates a few challenges.

1. Should my Facebook community include everyone I know from work, professional circles, friends and childhood acquaintances? That’s a lot of communities slammed into one. I already wrestle a bit with the fact that most of what I talk about on Twitter is probably not interesting to some of the family and non-nptech friends who follow me. My online persona is my professional one. I’m not pretending to be someone else — the personal things that come through are authentic — but I really don’t want to bring every aspect of my life and interests online.

2. One of the main things that I dislike about Facebook is the applications. I keep pretty busy, with a demanding job; my family; active blogging/writing/presenting and volunteering duties; friends and relatives; an appreciation for movies, music and television; an unhealthy addiction to news, culture and technical info; and a love of crosswords. I’m not sure how I do all of this — and sleep — in the first place. So filling out Facebook movie comparison quizzes (and the like) does not qualify for a spot on my schedule. If you are connected to me on Facebook, and you’re hurt that I haven’t responded to the numerous gifts, games and trivial pursuits that you’ve invited me to, please don’t be. If you message or email me directly you’ll get a reply!

3. I think the people who run Facebook are unabashedly doing it in order to mine marketing info from the membership. And, since the main thing that you do on Facebook is connect with old friends and family, they’re using some fairly extensive personal history and interaction as fodder for their advertising streams. This is the nature of the net, of course, as I have Google ads in my email and a slew of ad tracking cookies no matter how often I clear them. But Facebook manages to be ten times creepier than any other web site I visit when it comes to this stuff. I just don’t trust them.

I’ve seriously considered doing whatever it takes to delete my account. I even emailed everyone and warned them of that intention at one point. But it’s getting to the point where deleting Facebook is kind of like boycotting food — you might have good reasons, but you’ll probably hurt yourself more than help, particularly since there is real value in having the place to connect, and, sadly, it isn’t LinkedIn that’s grabbed the zeitgeist.

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2 thoughts on “Facebonked

  1. chris

    It seems like a lot of your Facebook Friends have been friends from your youth… (I haven’t checked your friends lately so that may have changed..) It seems to me to make sense to continue with Twitter as that tends to be more of your current work/tech crowd while gritting your teeth and attempting to embrace Facebook for the ‘past’ reconnections… They are different groups and fulfill different ‘needs’.

    I totally agree about the applications.. they are data mining scams… Ignore them all. Probably half my FB Friends don’t use them… If somebody is wondering why you keep ignoring their invitations they will probably ask you… and that opens an opportunity to teach them about data mining.

    Sure, Facebook has it’s dark side… but sometimes you sound to me like the folks who use to say “the internet..! the only thing anybody uses that for is to look at porn”

  2. Peter Campbell Post author

    ha! Okay, that’s a bit bizarre, as I’m a big internet user and advocate — I think I even sent an email to a mailing list we’re both on the other day making the case for internet use to one of our more Luddite friends.

    My view of Facebook is of someone who has been doing online social networking for over 20 years, starting back in the BBS days with Fidonet. I really appreciate being able to keep in touch with people, share links and info, and have good conversation. From Fidonet to online mailing lists and more private social networks, I’ve been constantly active online. When I joined FB, I immediately connected with 40 or 50 of my nonprofit tech friends, and that really influenced my negative opinion, because I already had numerous places where I was having meaningful conversations with that crowd (mostly NTEN/Techsoup forums and our various blogs), so the sum of activity on Facebook appeared to be the applications. That really put me off. In addition, Facebook had just gone through their first big scandal, implementing a program that posted a message to your network when you bought something at Amazon or Good Guys. They were clearly willing to take great risks with their user’s privacy without giving it a lot of thought.

    So I can see now that Facebook can be used in a less annoying and more useful fashion, but all of that can be done other places, and I do it other places with the primary community that I connected with there. The issue now is that Facebook has become the network that has broken through to all of our mutual friends, who were probably put off by the immature nature of MySpace and not engaged by the blogosphere in the way that someone more techy to begin with might be (comfort with RSS is pretty much a prerequisite for serious involvement in the blogging community). Were I approaching Facebook as someone with little or no prior online networking experience, I’d be far more excited by it and forgiving of the flaws. But I’m coming from knowing that there are far less annoying ways to communicate online.

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