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A Slap to the Facebook

August 5, 2010

This past birthday gave me another opportunity–several direct inquiries in fact–to reflect on my post-Facebook life. I could just rehash all the policy arguments I’ve made before to explain why I quit. I could point out that the Wall Street Journal has begun to assemble a mosaic of the big-picture effects that businesses create in their infringements on individual privacy. I could point out that you are constantly installing flash cookies (aka bar-codes/serial-numbers), allowing almost anyone to collect information and track you without even bothering to get your consent like Facebook pretends to do. They just tell you that’s what they’re doing that on the never-visited Privacy Policy link at the bottom of that page. All that is perfectly legal in the United States, and isn’t about to change any time soon because it helps the bottom line of this economy, which is a value only ever expressed in terms of numbers of dollars. And because that data is immortal and untraceable, behavioral advertising and tracking will only be blunted if you blunt your own behavior and show some concern for your privacy (perhaps by using this helpful how-to).

But if those rationales didn’t convince you before, they’re not going to convince you now. No, I have newer, better reasons to appreciate the noticeable absence of The Social Network from my life. First and foremost is the sheer amount of time and energy I have saved from abstaining from all things Facebook. I no longer check my iPhone application or profile from the web to see if anyone has sent me a message or a link or a poke. I no longer fret and dwell in contemplation over the persona I would carefully construct and hone before exposing it to the rest of the world. I no longer consider the generally divergent and misapprehended protocols that come with being a part of the same single social ecosystem as one’s families, extended families, families-in-law, close friends, past friends, stalkers, voyeurs, bare acquaintances, total strangers, co-workers, employees, employers, friends’ employers, brands of pita chips, or Mark Zuckerberg, all wanting to be your “friend.” I am no longer troubled by what the word “friend” might mean in such contexts. I am no longer plagued by Zombie Infections, no longer attacked by neverending Mafia Wars, nor lured in by bass fishing simulators, all “suggested” to me by people I once respected enough to consider a “friend.”

Now, the average* Facebook user would probably say something like this in response:

You can quit Facebook if you like, but I get more out of Facebook than it takes: the event invites, the address book, the photo sharing and implicit opportunities of corresponding voyeurism. Never mind that each and every one of the functions Facebook offers can be found in some other less intrusive, more democratic forum on the web. Why should I have to remember and enter more than one log-in combination when I can gain seconds of efficiency by simply allowing Big Brother to track me wherever I go? Those are valuable seconds on Farmville. Who cares if someone is making money buying and selling my identity? It’s not like I need to enter into those negotiations and make sure the terms are fair; the market will take care of that. And it’s not like I have anything to hide! Sure, I’ll show you my asshole if that would settle the question. No, I don’t live in Arizona, why do you ask?

*Note: in no way do I consider any reader of this blog “average.” But having quit Facebook and communicating to you in this forum instead of a much more common status update reading “Thanks for all the B-day wishes!!!” belies a crucial point: I feel like I am communicating more than I ever had on Facebook. Specifically, I am communicating with you on a level I could have never achieved on Facebook, and that plateau is much more satisfying, even if it is a necessarily more prohibitively difficult climb. Facebook was an exercise in crafting a pale reflection of myself, one that would be discounted with an appropriate sense of skepticism by the casual observer. Writing blog entry after blog entry much more effectively fleshes out who I actually am as a person. My identity on display here, if you can call it that, transcends the limits of mere vainglory because I must transmit my personality through prisms of engagements with ideas, and not just through rose-tinted mirrors.

On that note, I wanted to thank everyone who helped make my birthday special; all of your expressions of friendship were earnest and genuine. I am truly fortunate to have friends and family such as yourselves in my life. Each “happy birthday” meant so much more than that salutation has felt in a while.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 8, 2010 3:14 pm

    I left Facebook for the same reason you did. I use Tumblr, having soon after eliminated WordPress because it doesn’t allow you to embed videos from enough of a variety of sources.

    I think about all of the flaws you mention, and I believe the market can fix them so people like us can reap the same kind of social benefits to online identity construction with ease, while also finding a way to incorporate complicated perspectives. Here’s a package the average intellectual news zealot would pay for, if everything was included and perfectly integrated: (1) an information organizational system that helps each individual easily find and alter a strong, steady drip of poignant, prescient analysis at every level of society: a Fareed Zakaria/Thomas P.M. Barnett harnessing geopolitics, a New Yorker/Slate cadre of columnists constantly uplifting and refocusing national cultural and political discourse, a G.K.Chesterton/Alan Watts/Bookforum.com/Thoreau/Psychology Today perspective on the evolving state of the Western individual’s soul, and in an ever-mold-able presentation format (e.g. a leopard skin background, a frame for big pictures, and in Comic Sans font), (2) an easily accessible, infinitely customizable blog/profile that accrues a time-lapsed personal journal of the values, ideas, and symbols the news zealot tries on day-by-day, hour-by-hour (a) to interact with offline friends, (b) to get the attention of, on, and through others’ blog/profiles, (c) to receive input and feedback enabling her to transcend her own echo chamber/narrow cosmos, but also (d) to shut off unproductive feedback and to protect her off-line life and reputation with intricate privacy controls ranging from public, to semi-public, to secret, to pseudonymous, to anonymous, to hidden, (3) full interoperability with all applications that requires an ever decreasing number of clicks/keystrokes/load-time to, for instance, scan Yochai Benkler’s article about new modes of social production from The Constitution in 2020 and send it through a direct line to her favorite blogger while CC’ing a friend, and then post it on her Tumblr page with her favorite line posted on a photo she recently took, uploaded, and vintage filtered on picnik.com, (4) the capacity to share, listen, and broadcast all the free music that’s available out there from listen.grooveshark.com, YouTube, and Myspace, and (5) no cookies.

    All that in one interface with the quite novel contractual right to private assembly thrown into the mix? Yeah, we’d pay much more than two cents a pop for a personal press experience like that.

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