Why I’m NOT quitting Facebook

FacebookThere’s been a lot of talk recently about Facebook and their privacy issues, as well as their perceived attempts to ‘take over the web’ through their ‘like’ buttons and other integrations with their platform.

As a result, quite a few commentators and influential social media types have announced that they are leaving Facebook, deleting their accounts and removing all the content – which isn’t that easy to do, it turns out.

I’m in no position to criticise what other people do, so I’m not going to – but I’m not going to leave Facebook. I’m not saying the privacy and other stuff isn’t important – it is. The Facebook privacy settings are a usability nightmare, but I do encourage everyone to take a look at theirs and lock them down however tightly you want. Below are my reasons why I’m not quitting:

1. It’s where an awful lot of people are

Facebook is where I connect online with less geeky family and friends. As some of you may have heard, my dad’s on Facebook. He isn’t on Twitter, or any of the other less-known platforms. Likewise with a lot of my friends for whom the internet isn’t the be-all and end-all of their lives (yes, such people do exist). If I stopped using Facebook, I’d stop seeing what these people are up to, their photos and other stuff. For me, that’s a bad thing.

2. My life is already all over the internet

Even if I wanted to, I can’t turn back now. I dread to think what information about me is already online, even taking Facebook out of the equation. If I decided to leave Facebook for that reason, then surely I would then, logically, have to track down all that information that is in other places. I simply cannot summon up the energy to do this. I made a decision a few years back that I was going to use the web to build a career and live my life. I can’t now complain that people I don’t know can find stuff out about me.

3. Attempts to control the internet always fail

Look what happened to AOL. If Facebook really thinks it can control the content people see and the way they see it on the web, they’re mad, and they’ll end up becoming irrelevant. I don’t really care that Facebook are trying to spread their platform wherever they like: let them. If it ends up being a case of giving up too much control for benefit accrued, people won’t engage with it and it will die.

4. My job means I need to use and understand Facebook

This is the killer for me, to be honest. A lot of the customers I work with want to use Facebook – it’s where people are, after all. How can I effectively advise them if I don’t know how the latest Facebook technology works, because I’m not using it myself? FIne I can read about stuff in blogs and whatnot, but nothing replaces the learning you get from playing with things yourself. So, professionally, I have to stay engaged with what remains one of the biggest and most influential social computing sites in the world.

Are you quitting Facebook, or sticking with it? I would be interested in hearing other people’s views!

26 thoughts on “Why I’m NOT quitting Facebook”

  1. Many good points there Dave – I’m in something of a similar position, particularly on the last issue. For me, FB has never been an entirely comfortable fit – I’ve long had a problem with the binary nature of the ‘friend’ assignation. The impact of friending/defriending is way too acute for comfort, and the word itself doesn’t reflect the subtle nuances of many relationships, including:

    – someone I used to work with, fondly remember, but won’t bump into again
    – a content creator I don’t care much for personally, but whose writing I value
    – a potential business collaborator with whom I probably wouldn’t socialise, but enjoy sharing content
    – a distant schooldays memory for whom there’s a good reason that we didn’t communicated for 20 years

    and so on…

    My use of the network tailed away slowly over the last year, and I did entirely drop out for a while (didn’t really miss it, tbh). The privacy stuff of recent weeks has influenced me, I’ll admit, and I’ve recently stripped down all personal content, and done a full lock-down. Much point me being there? Well, in terms of network development, no, probably not – but it still allows me to look at content if I need to for work reasons, and I may engage a little with comments and so on. But photo, video, groups, applications?

    No thanks. It’s a glorified, ossified address-book, really. Keeping in some sort of touch with those who are only there, as you say. That’s all it’s fit for at the moment. If there’s a radical reform of usability, particularly on sharing and privacy, then that might change. But I’m not holding my breath.

  2. I am not intending to quit Facebook – yet. I continue to need to know how it works for professional purposes and, at present, it’s the main social media channel that some of my friends use.
    I have spent little time on Facebook furing the past 6 months or so, however. Farmville put me off. I spend most of my time on Facebook deleting things and checking or amending my privacy settings.
    I do think it is good for organisations to be on it. I would definitely recommend it to not-for-profit cultural institutions.

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  3. Sticking with it. It’s where s lot of my real life friends and family are. It’s a different format to other channels and does some great things really well. I love it. I wish all my friends were there. I’ve reviewed privacies regularly but really, should any of us be posting stuff we’d be ashamed about? If you’re on the web then you’re on. Regular searches will reveal what others can find so at least you know what they know.

  4. To be honest, I’m no advocate of Facebook, really. I don’t use it much myself, other than when I get an email alert or whatever.

    I think it might end up being one of those things you have to keep your eye on because loads of other people are using it – a bit, perhaps, like the way we all still have to deal in .doc and .xls files because those are the ones everyone else uses, even though they are evil or rubbish.

    The other thing that is hard to ignore is the use of Facebook for genuine ‘grassroots’ movements, whether getting records to number 1 or making HSBC back down on their interest rates. Whether you’re a technologist or a sociologist, this is interesting.

    @Bridget – yes, you’re right. Nothing to fear unless you’ve done something stupid!

  5. Interesting – I’ve seen a few threads recently explore this “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” aspect. The most important privacy aspect for me doesn’t involve my content, as it happens. My photos are all over Flickr; my writing appears in lots of other places.

    No, the bit I’m most concerned about is visibility of my network. I have a rich and varied circle of acquaintance. A complex matrix involving levels of relationship, friendship, history. People of vastly differing perspectives, beliefs and backgrounds. Not all get on with each other. That’s their business. But opening up who-knows-who stuff is to my mind one of the most insidious forms of privacy breach. It can create problems, conflicts, mistrust. Choices of friend/not-friend, if openly visible, say things. So do the circles of acquaintance themselves.

    Triangulation, real and purported, can say more about one’s social life than is strictly necessary. That’s why the whole business of email-list-scanning, ‘suggestions’ and so on are so repellent to me. I’ll make the choices – thank you very much. And I regard my choices of network as one of my most private things.

  6. As always, an interesting discussion rather than the tabloid “Facebook is Evil!!! Ban social networks!!! They’ll come for your kids!!!” that the Daily Mail (and most other “Media” outlets) would have us believe. Trust you for such level headedness, Dave!

    Anyway, I’m sticking with Facebook. I will admit that I’m not happy with the way that they constantly chop and change their privacy settings, sometimes to the detriment of levels previously set by users; I know what I’m doing in this field so I can keep on top of things like settings, but for other less educated users I can see how tweaking the vast forest of checkboxes can be a logistical nightmare.

    For me Facebook is my walled garden (or at least as walled as I want it to be). When I first emerged onto the internet scene about five years ago, I kept a very public blog, talked about my family and what we were doing, uploaded photos of them to Flickr and suchlike. I never shared any personal inforamtion such as location, or other contact details, but as I kept on with this I became more and more uneasy. The internet is a powerful thing, for good or ill, and if you’re not careful on it you can come a cropper.

    So when Facebook came along, I uprooted all of my personal content and focussed on Facebook as my primary means of sharing what my family is doing with a select group of people who would reasonably care. These are family members, old friends; anyone I’ve met in real life. My cardinal rule is – if I’ve not met them, I’m not happy adding them (although I do make exceptions). I still don’t put personal information on there such as my postal address or telephone number; only email.

    I think that a lot of the issues here are media brouhaha and the perceptions of “entry level” users – this is reasonable however I do think that the sheer amount of options available does allow for a greater degree of customisation in your privacy. I think that as smartphones gain a greater market penetration, allowing people to always be connected to these networks (as I have for some time on my bog standard Nokia and now to a far greater depth on my Android) they become far more relevant and a valid third tier in our communication framework.

  7. I’m still keeping my Facebook account open for professional reasons but my advice to those considering using FB in their organisation has moved from “proceed with caution” to “avoid entirely”.

    Sadly, I have to stay a member to keep up with just how dreadful it is.

    The danger comes when an organisation moves from using FB as an additional channel for communicating with people to it being an exclusive one for some kinds of interactions. Want to join the discussion? You’ve got to be a FB member. That means encouraging/requiring people to agree to FB’s TOS that are highly injurious to personal privacy. That’s something that no reputable organisation should do.

    The power of FB hold-outs and apostates is that they check the spread of this kind of behaviour. All power to them.

  8. Actually, Adrian, that’s a really excellent point. A lot of the discussion over Facebook has been the impact to personal users, however there is also potential impact to business users who have built it into their business model.

    I believe I saw something like this referenced as a “Silver Bullet” where organisations build a reliance on third party tech to a level that impacts them greatly should either something go wrong with said tech, or something happen that they feel they cannot include it in their business model any more.

    I think Silver Bullets are unfortunately unavoidable, however, as people strive to implement new systems at reduced or zero budgets to meet the growing demands and expectations of their users. For example, at Lincoln we rely a lot on Google services such as Maps, Calendar and FeedBurner and services such as Yahoo Pipes. What were to happen if Google decided to charge for its services? Or changed its ToS to something that we as an organisation could not agree to? What if the notoriously flaky Pipes were to vanish? We need contingencies for these instances but, for many organistions, it’s simply too much of a quick win.

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  10. Great discussion. I’m a Facebook addict. I use it every day. For about 5 to 10 minutes. I love the birthday feature. I love it that it’s where my friends are and I can message all my uni friends at one go and we can all see the response more clearly than email.

    Like a lot of commenters, my life is already all over the net. Whatever. The only thing that I share in Facebook that I don’t share elsewhere is my political allegiance. In my line of work, I don’t want to cloud the issue in Twitter or blogs (even my personal one). Occasionally my politics are reflected in posts and of course you can poke around in my groups. But if you ask me directly, I will tell you which party I support anyway. After a drink. You buy.

    Anyway, I grew up in a small town where I was related to half the people anyway. I had less privacy living there than through anything I disclose in Facebook.

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