It’s funny, but I was on my way to write this post about why I don’t like Facebook anymore and suddenly the Cambridge Analytica scandal about Facebook just explode the last weekend. At the moment of writing this post, the front page of Reddit has a good number of posts about the scandal and r/Technology —the screenshot— is full of post about the issue. Not to mention that are also a couple of good posts in r/Politics, r/Worldnews and r/News. And of course all over the Internet too. There is even a hashtag in Twitter —#DeleteFacebook— with an even other hashtags associated —like #cambridgeanalytics— where people look for advice to delete their data from Facebook accounts and are vowing they are going to delete their accounts. All of this scandal started —I think— with this article on The Guardian, where an ex-employee and co-founder of Cambridge Analytica denounced how they harvested information from about 50 million of Facebook accounts. Not so much, if you take into account that Facebook has 2.2. billion of users.
All of this touches me a little bit closer, since I really believe that Data Science —yes this is what Cambridge Analytica was doing, Data Science— is here to help people to improve their lives and to understand better our world and lives, not to try to swing elections. Basically, what they were doing was to understand the psychological profiles of those Facebook profiles and then they crafted messages that appealed to their most inner core values to make them vote or change their vote in the elections. In other words “information warfare” at the service of political ideologies, or perhaps in this case not even that, just at the service of the powerful. Something, that surprisingly —or unsurprisingly— has been already depicted on media.
However, this is not a post about how bad Facebook is, about your privacy or conspiracy theories about how they and other social media platforms and networks want to harvest your data to sell it and to control you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to delete your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or [put here whatever social network you are concerned about] accounts, get a tinfoil hat and hide in your basement. That is totally up to you, and how crazy you are about the issue, and I really think it’s a really personal decision. I still believe that social networks, Facebook included, are services that really can help us to connect with other people all over the world, organize events or make us discover what is going on in our city, university or whatever social group or circle you are involved.
I don’t think that hiding is the answer either, but exactly one of the exacts reactions they want us to have. They want us to shut up, get quiet, be scared, follow their commands and continue with our lives. When we don’t share our ideas —political or not— our good moments, our photos, our lives… because we’re scare of what other people may think or what we can lose, then we are losing and they are winning. Do we really want to live in a society where what you shared in a social network, or any other public platform, at some point could be the difference between have some job, or be attacked by others? If we lose our freedom of speak up about what we think isn’t right them we turned our society into a kind of social dictatorship. Honest and respectful debate always helps, no mater the topic. Perhaps you are wondering who are they… well this is going to be a shock perhaps, but they are you and me and the next guy and other guy a little bit away. They is society, and it’s a system, we’re we all interact. Perhaps some people has a longer lever than others, or even have more than one lever, or even they have some other people working for them with their levers, but we all are they and we can interact in the system. So, we all part and solution of the problem.
Nevertheless, Facebook has lost its appeal for me and I no longer interested in spend a lot of time there. I would even say that my life has improved since I’m there just a couple of times a week and just for a couple of minutes. I just find it boring and no longer fits my communication and social needs. Why? Well there are several reasons and I’ll try to explain them next.
Facebook isn’t the correct format for me anymore
I don’t feel interested to share content on Facebook anymore because I find if too simple. Although it’s more painful, it takes me more effort, I prefer blogging. Blogging allows me to create more complex post and develop a much great deal of ideas in comparison with Facebook.
Facebook is designed to share small pieces of text without almost any formatting. This makes really difficult to create and explain complex ideas. Also usually when you write too much, Facebook just hide it and put a button to expand the text.
It’s true that you can share other content and not only photos in Facebook, but I find other networks more suitable to do it. If I just want to share a couple of photos, usually Instagram fits the bill much better and if want to share a whole album Flickr looks better suited for that.
Before Facebook came out that was the way we shared content, using multiple open services. After ponder how Facebook has contributed to share that content I think that with nothing positive or worthy. More the contrary, our content now is trapped in a platform that unless you have an account you see or share with others. It’s stuck there forever.
I really like the kind of interaction a blog provides. More meaningful, real and open. It allows me share content in more rich and diverse ways.
Facebook is an attention whore
This’s something that I really detest from Facebook with all my soul and I think it has become more acute lately. I really don’t know if it’s because this has been always the case, but since now I spend much much less time there —so they are trying to lure me back— or because they’ve deployed that policy lately to try to keep people engaged to the platform. I abhor it so much that I finally deleted the app from my iPhone and iPad because to get rid of the notifications and red bubbles.
Facebook want you to be inside of its interface as much as you can, so if you don’t hang out there for a bit, it’s going to create for you fake notifications to lure you into the application. At least in my case they where in the form of “friend has publish a photo” or “random friend has updated their state for a while”, when I have disable those kind of notifications in my profile. I’ve read somewhere that this is supposedly a bug in Facebook, but I really doubt it. A big company like Facebook seldom make that kind of errors, and even less they keep for so long. This is clearly a designed feature to lure you again inside. Other typical notifications were about some event that this or the other friend were about to attend and they were totally not interesting for me. Why? Whyyyyy?
Almost, 99% of those notifications had zero interest for me and were really annoying in the end.
Ads everywhere and in hiding in multiple forms
Facebook is full of ads. They are the source of their revenue. They have ads in the sidebar, featured groups, pages, someone you perhaps know has liked some page, a featured post here and there… I despise that. I understand that as a company needs revenue to run their payroll and their servers, but at least in my opinion this is too much for me. Google has a much better approach, trying to be as less intrusive as possible. Normally, I use a script on my browser —F.B. Purity— that, on top of the ad blocker, remove all those annoyances. However I can’t have it on my mobile and my tablet. It would be fine if they had some ad here and there, but not every three post or something like that.
For me the most annoying thing are when Facebook pretend that an advertisement could be disguised as an interaction from one of your friends. Please don’t do that, don’t build fake stories to fill the timeline.
Toxic or silly conversation
Facebook has become a political tool, proof of this is just the last weekend scandal about Cambridge Analytical, and that is the less obvious way. And I say less obvious because they were doing it on the hiding. However, there’re much most obvious ways to use Facebook —or Twitter— as a political tool. There is an incredible amount of pages and groups which aim is to
discuss politics promote political ideas, or rather, be a battering ram against the opposite political group. There is a lot of toxic people and conversation there and a lot of disrespect for other. Besides, conversations can get pretty hairy easily, and you can easily be called names quick just to express your opinion with respect. Suddenly, people get angry or offended really fast and they don’t behave like they were talking to other human being but just to their computers. Computers and technology facilitate communication, but it also make it easy to forget that in the other side there is someone with feelings.
On the other hand, Facebook is full of content that doesn’t have any interested for me and due the way Facebook is design it ended in my timeline. I really care about my friends and what is going on with their lives, but I even care more when we are able to be together in the same spacetime, have a beer and talk. In other words, meaningful and real social interaction.
Facebook is a time-consuming machine and it’s been designed for that, to trap us inside and keeps us browsing and browsing the life of others. That doesn’t have any sense for me, doesn’t produce anything or have any outcome and in the end keep me separate from others. I like much more to spend time writing in English this blog about what I care and like, and using it to improve my English skills. When the web 2.0 came out everyone talked about being a prosumer —producer and consumer. I think that facebook has make us to be just consumers. Consumers of the life of others instead of producing out own life.
I prefer Twitter or Reddit
Although Twitter has some of the same problems that Facebook has, I prefer it because it’s much simpler. You have a small set of characters —240— so you have to be brief and direct and it’s mean to be use in real time. You don’t browse your the timeline so much back in time, perhaps just one hour or so, so you don’t spend too much time there. What it’s important is now & here. You can have a richer timeline in Twitter since it’s totally open, or most people use it that way. You don’t need to be friend of someone, you just follow them. I can interact there not only with friends and family, but almost with anyone, which is great. Personal and professional interactions also mix up, which make it more real. Everyone is at the same level.
Twitter has also ads and fake notifications —someone and some other have liked some third person post. However, they are easily avoidable if you use a third-party app, as I do —TweetBot.
I also like Reddit a lot. Reddit is really organic and mostly anonymous. You don’t even need to have an email account to register. I almost find gems in Reddit everyday. However, I don’t know if I would call reddit a social network, or just a place where people share stuff and other vote how worthy it’s and make comments about it.
Reddit is composed of subreddits, that are like thematic sub-forums or something like that. The mechanic of Reddit is really simple. Someone post something, usually a piece of text, which could be more complex than anything you can post in Facebook, or a link to something —image, gif, video, or other webpage. From there on things begin to become pretty wild and organic. Every post could be voted —positively or negatively— there are comments, people commenting in those comments and so on… Comments can be voted too. This creates a pretty interesting democratic structure where the most interesting content —for the community— get up in the page and the less interesting is buried to the bottom. It isn’t perfect, of course, but since it’s pretty democratic and free, the outcome is quite interesting and sometimes unpredictable. It isn’t free of toxicity and a week ago or so, the New Yorker, whose parent company owns Reddit, published an article about their struggle to keep things free of trolls and toxic conversation. There has been also pretty mess up things, like when they thought that they have capture the Boston bomber and other pretty similar things. Mobs and circle-jerking are dangerous everywhere.
As a result, I really think that I’m going to use less and less Facebook. I don’t think that I’m going to delete my account or just stop to use it. Facebook is still a valuable tool for me, it allows me to connect with my friends around the globe, specially with the Spanish ones. However, I encourage you to use other way to contact me, like email, messaging or just phone me if you know my number.
What probably is going to change is the way I interact there and the time I’m going to spend around, and I’m probably to spend more and more time creating post in this blog and less just browsing Facebook.