This is my long overdue rant about Facebook. I am facing a Facebook barrage daily — it’s escalating, and it’s getting annoying.
It started a few years ago at work, with a few of my geeky co-workers asking “have you checked out this web site?” That’s innocent enough, many of us hear that phrase daily, especially when we work in the IT industry. And I admit that at first I was curious, but my curiosity was totally technical:
- How did they compose their pages? (I was busy studying their CSS and HTML)
- Where did they get their list-of-value table data from? (I was outright surprised that their list of high schools and universities was so damn complete!)
- What was their security model on photos and other personal data? (A co-worker and I experimented, and found out we could in fact see pictures we were not supposed to see, but unlike other people we didn’t publish our findings)
The list goes on, but I remember that Facebook and its shiny “web 2.0” design and fast-reacting AJAX elements were the topic of many technical discussions.
I was happy to leave it at that, but apparently a bunch of people that I don’t communicate with daily (if ever) discovered my Facebook profile, and started sending me friend requests. I obliged, and added them as “friends”, while curiously wondering why there wasn’t a setting for “no, this person isn’t my friend, just a random acquaintance”. I still wasn’t spending any time doing things in Facebook, I just hadn’t turned off the notifications, so they kept on coming in.
Then I noticed a disturbing trend… some of my actual friends and co-workers started to use Facebook’s email-like inbox feature to send me messages. Not good. I knew at that time that I wanted to remain in control of my communications, and not hand that over to Facebook. But I didn’t see any way to turn off the Inbox feature, so if someone would send me a Facebook message, I would reply to them in normal email.
Things got worse as my relatives jumped on the bandwagon, and started posting pictures of themselves. Partying and being idiots. Frankly, I don’t need to know which of my cousins got drunk this past weekend, nor do I need picture proof of it. I was kind of sad the one day that I learned through Facebook that one of my cousins was expecting a baby… back when our daughters were each on the way, we took the time to phone our relatives and tell them. Maybe my age was starting to show. My annoyance with this useless-to-me web site had grown to a level too high to ignore any longer.
The obvious solution to me was that I needed to delete my Facebook profile. However, being the raging data geek that I am, I was sure that simply trusting them to do so wasn’t going to make it happen. I know that databases can make it appear like data is deleted, when it’s actually only hidden from the user’s view.
So I took a multi-step long term approach to getting rid of my data. First, I changed my email address to a brand new Hotmail account. Then a few days later I uploaded a new profile picture that was all black and deleted my old one. A few days after that I changed a few of my personal details, and so on… over the course of a couple weeks, I changed a few things every day or so. I reasoned that although I knew Facebook would keep a history on each person, I hoped it wouldn’t go back more than a few generations of change sets. Eventually, after about three months of randomly changing my profile data and removing friends, I then asked for the account to be deleted.
All the while this was happening, the news sites kept posting more articles about Facebook. It used to be once a week or so, then it was once every few days. Now, I’m pretty sure that not a damn day goes by without the word Facebook entering my brain. That in itself is annoying enough. However, it gets worse. Now there are friends of mine who are Facebook addicts. I don’t think I’m applying that label incorrectly. So the only way that they are in touch with people now is through Facebook. That would be just fine if they would only stop asking me to re-join. No, I don’t want to re-join. Stop asking. Just fucking stop asking, or I’m going to need to vent some frustration.
I also don’t feel obligated to justify my lack of participation with them, although they do ask. They are curious – why would anyone want to abstain from using Facebook? Talk to the people who have lost their job, had their life made into a living hell and gave up their own life, or lost their spouse to Facebook – they or their relatives have already learned the hard way.
I have my reasons, and they go back to the George Orwell novel 1984 that I read about three decades ago, and also Cory Doctorow’s aptly named Little Brother and Marshall Brain’s Robotic Nation. But to lay those reasons out to many people these days makes me sound like a lunatic, overly concerned about “privacy” (the buzzword du jour) when it’s actually much more than that, surveillance being a larger concern than simple privacy. Just mentioning the word surveillance is enough to make some people ask “who would be after you?” Well, nobody that I know of right now. “Then why are you so concerned?” Aargh! I can’t even being to imagine being a celebrity these days, when truly there are people whose purpose in life seems to be following (stalking) others.
I’m not actually looking forward to the day when I get to say “I told you so” to my Facebook loving acquantainces, because I don’t want to be right about how bad the digital future is for the individual person.