Changing Facebook

"Why the fuck do I have a Facebook account" is a question I regularly ask my self. It's not because Facebook is a poor site, but that I completely lost any patience I had with it probably around four years ago, and the longer I struggle along with it because of loads of reasons, like friends that use it, the radio station uses it as a area for it's presenters and producers, and there is an entire side of my family that I need to stay connected with (and some my local family too, I guess). I've moaned about it as much as I probably can.Ahem.

But... christ, it's difficult. I even chopped a load of friends a while back to try and reclaim a semblence of personal touch to the site, with my concept being that I'd use it more if it was more personal. That hasn't happened. In fact, the fewer people I have on my feed, obviously the fewer stories Facebook legitimately to hand me, so instead now it throughs utter garbage at me about stuff I don't care about.

In order, today, this is what Facebook is "feeding" to me on the News Feed:

  • Photos of a friend from 2011 that have recently been liked by someone I don't know.
  • A comment by a friend on a post on his wall... by someone I don't know.
  • A range of birthday messages to a friend, messages from folk I don't know

My biggest gripe with Facebook at the moment is the cross-feed bleed; stuff from other people's activities that appear in my feed about people I don't even care about. It's infuriating. And then there's another side - the Facebook will hide things I want to actually read. See, my page for my radio show has 60 odd likes, but only 10 of those a time will see what I post. This is because Facebook has decided to monetise this "outreach" to make money. As a content provider it's fucking nonsense, and as a consumer of content it's mind boggling.


The constant reposting of things from months and years ago is increasingly like a family friend passing round that email that you read three years ago that has a page on I don't care that friends Like things. Or post things on other people's pages. Or re-share those stupid fucking meme pages that are just like-bait pages that are later sold for advertising likes. It's batshit, and Facebook are to blame.

Anyway, Facebook has one other thing that I hate - they own what you post. Which, leads me onto a final point that will get it's own post soon... but that's another thing, for another time.

So, in a few months, I'm going to delete almost everyone not a family or close friend from Facebook, and then stop reading it. I need it for contact and the radio, but honestly, I hate it. I prefer the direct person to person contact of Twitter and this blog - you want to see my photos? Well, be a closer friend to me. And with the arrival of my child in a few weeks, this will be underlined.

(Don't) Like

Is it because people are idiots, because Facebook are just being persistent, or am have I finally lost patience with the social network? In the last few weeks and months, the amount of “likes” that have been appearing in my Facebook feed has become incredibly impossible to ignore. Each day someone’s liked photo, or page, or company, or status, or comment have appeared in amongst actual updates that my friends have posted. Not only is it the “XXX has liked a comment” but also the “XXX has liked Pepsi”. I know this isn’t just me seeing this, but is it just my friends? Are they so blithely stupid to just be liking everything they see, all the time, and as such am I being bombarded not with Facebook’s ways of monetising their BILLION users but instead, being awakened to the internet illiteracy of the majority of my peers?

I don’t know why people click “like”. Well, actually I did – I liked a whole bunch of stuff, because in the old Facebook it was a quick way to build your profile. Remember profiles? It was the thing that gave you the chance to write stuff about yourself. Now relegated to a separate page, your “profile” only exists as a hangover, with Facebook focusing on your “timeline”, or essentially “the place all the stuff you’d like to forget goes to rest”. Timeline is nice, in theory, but not when you can scroll back to 2007 and see you’re tentative first posts on the site. Before a BILLION people could see it. I locked my Facebook down – you can’t even search for me, I don’t exist, and to be honest, neither should you.

But even locking it down like I have done doesn’t stop you from a) liking something on a page and b) being exposed to other people’s likes. And the sheer amount of them is astonishing.

The worst offenders are pages which say “like this if you remember Button Moon!” or “you’re a child form the 1990s if you remember The Racoons!” which is strange. Because with the internet preserving everything (even TUGS) you don’t have nostalgia. You have a fabricated sense of belonging – like the reams of teenagers who profess to like the song Summer of ’69 each time it comes on in the Garage, who are only screaming and yelling because the older and more impression-forcing older generations of students remember their cyclical ritual too. Seeing 340k people liking Rainbow doesn’t mean anything. Is it the people who make the pages who are at fault? Is it the people who are liking it?

No. In all likelihood, it’s me. Hi. I am annoyed at it because it’s so brainless. And I wouldn’t notice it if it weren’t for Facebook reminding me of it each time I log in. There should be a difference between sharing something and liking it – if I want to see what people want to show me, let them share it to me, not just throw up a list of stuff they’ve liked. I don’t blame Facebook though – if they suddenly have a way to catalogue what people like, they should emphasise this, because at some point they’ll sell that to an advertising man (if they haven’t already) and then use it to put (more) adverts into your feed. Which is something they’ve already started to do.

Intrusive advertising is also pissing me off – The “Pages you might like” feature, which uses 70% of my (iPhone 5, so larger) screen to tell me things I might like can piss off too – I do like Amazon. It’s great. I also like Audi. And Sega. And Cargo Publishing – but I don’t care to tell people that fact. 

Here's the biggest problem too - the BBC have been using Facebook a lot. So do several of the sites I like to read during the day. Facebook though, and it might surprise you, is their competitor. Facebook is the way people are supposed to find things, be recently has become the place to go to read things. The Guardian Facebook "app" which posts what you read onto your timeline is incredibly frustrating, and one I've actively avoided. And Facebook knows that for me to avoid it, it's more effort than to just click "Connect" - I did it with my Vimeo account and I instantly regret it because now I can't log into my Vimeo without having to use my Facebook account, which means I can't look at it in work (not that I would, of course). But once Facebook starts to really abuse this power, people won't be just reading your site via a link, but instead be bombarded with a Facebook advert before your own. Facebook could start asking you to pay to let your readers to your site. It's already started asking for payment to reach all the people who have brainlessly liked your pages, and it can only get worse.

The moment Facebook starts to use it's power as the global sharing network, sharing is broken.

You know what? The more I see this kind of thing on my Facebook account, the more I want to kill it. I’ve been close recently (deactivating for two weeks a while back) and not that it matters in the long term, but it actually felt liberating. And if it feels better to not have a service, then surely that's the site killing themselves.

Or are they? Am I just the minority? I don’t like the ubiquity of Facebook, it’s annoying and utterly asinine system, but obviously some people do like it – they like being able to comment on articles on websites without logging in, or having to sign up. So maybe it’s me – not you, or Facebook.

Why don’t we all just use Twitter? It’s much nicer.

The Long Walk Backwards - Leaving Facebook

I have said in the past that I would like to leve Facebook. In fact, in one post I even said that I would start retreating from the behemoth, but I never really wanted to. I think that Facebook served a purpose – you know, reconnecting me with Connie and giving my future wife. So I can’t be too harsh on the place, really. Though, despite this incredible gift Facebook has eroded all things that make it likeable, and slowly and surely it’s became a waste of time and space.

The first thing that Facebook did wrong was become so powerful. Successful websites come and go, but I feel that Facebook has reached a critical mass – it is so big it can’t really fall down now. It’s unlikely to go the way of Myspace and Lycos if they keep doing what they are doing right now, which is pervading all aspects of someone’s life before putting it into monetary terms. Like the Open Graph sharing aspect, or the ability to link almost all types of media using Facebook (but with an interspatial link that registers with Facebook anytime someone goes through it).  Then there are the games that million of people play that will keep people coming back to Facebook and keep companies developing games for that.

The funny thing is that this is exactly the problem I have with Facebook – on my feed there are people sharing nonsense and fluff, apps adding updates about things I have no interest in, and even worse the site has started to look so dreadful and bloated it might be impossible to find things that you want to do on it.

In a roundabout way – I am over Facebook. And slowly, over time, I am going to delete it. I am firstly going to cull a lot of my “friends”. There are four types of people on my Facebook friends list: my close friends and family, my colleagues and people I worked with, my “internet” friends from Twitter and message boards, and people I used to be in contact with but now I don’t.  Back when I used to get regular requests from people finding Facebook for the first time if they didn’t contact me within 72 hours of friending me they were deleted. I stopped doing this because I don’t use Facebook enough to be on it all the time.

The first thing that I am going to do is start removing people that I don’t want to have on there. It feels hard to delete friends (clever Facebook) but it shouldn’t be – just because I am not keeping you on my internet profile doesn’t mean I hate you. Indeed, if we are friends you already have my other methods of contact, either on my phone, email or even on the other social network Twitter (more on that below). This will mean that the network of people that I am getting information from and giving information to is limited and personal.

This step will be done and then tested – if it makes a dramatic change on the relevancy of my Facebook page then it might be enough to change my mind. If not, however (and this is where my suspicions lie) then the following will be followed.

Secondly I will stop posting to Facebook. I rarely do this anyway (bar the occasional self promoting message or the loving cross-post from Instagram) but the other things, like photos, are easier to stop. See, Facebook doesn’t have any copyright control on photos, whereas Flickr does and I prefer that one – if people want to see my photos, I’ll given them the ability to see them in High Quality with proper information about them.

Thirdly... I will stop going to Facebook. I did this a few years ago in the Exile but have already deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I don’t miss looking at no more than my hands would miss hold a cigarette – the motion of opening Facebook is more tantalising than the actual moment of opening it.

If I do the entire of the above and still feel disconnected from the site there is only one further option; deletion.

Note: many reading this will wonder a few things:

The first is surely to be “this can’t be that big a deal! Just do it already!” Well, I actually do like Facebook for contacting friends. It’s good – I just think that it’s losing its focus and I want to rein back my control to see if it makes a difference.

The second is likely to be “you have Twitter! You cried when it was deleted last year! Why not get rid of it too?”  I answer this query by simply saying that I control what happens on Twitter more, who feeds into my feed, and more importantly it’s not full of bollocks just yet. Indeed, it’s got scope for breaking this in the future, but the limitation of 140 characters ensures no games or applications fill my feed with nonsense.

Facebook and Me

Of course I have a Facebook profile – it’s linked to over there on the right hand side just below my Twitter account. I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with Facebook, exiled and even considering how to get rid of it and pointing out that even if I wanted to I couldn’t thanks to Facebook’s policy of deactivation versus deletion. Only recently have I fully started to trust Facebook and that coincided with my ability to remove my profile from the listings of anyone other than friends. So, if you want to find me, you have to find me through my friends or that link on the right. It makes me feel a little more secure.

Let me change that usage of the word “trust” though – I don’t trust them with my information and friends, as I think that it’s a clever recruiting tool for the collection of everything I do, but mostly I also think that the only reason I feel safe now is that I know that my information is “secure” in that only people I know can see it for now. Sure, Facebook in it’s big brother capacity, knows what I am doing, but I don’t mind that. If I think about it, and the other 500 million people that are on the site, I realise that I am a miniscule person in that massive pool of folk – folk that are probably in varying degrees easier to scope out information for. I wonder what percentage of those users has their profile set up to be “public”.

It’s an impressive milestone, 500 million people. The number is so big it’s almost out of our area of understanding. Consider that it’s approximately 7.6% of everyone in the world. Or, as far as we know, it’s 7.6% of every intelligent being in the universe. It’s a scary number for anything, even a country – the United States of America isn’t even that populous. It is worse when you think that these people are signed up not to a charity but to a private company that wants to make money from those 500 million people. I guess it wouldn’t be hard to make money from that number of people would it?

At any rate, I’ve been a Facebook member since 6th March 2007. In fact I remember that day decidedly well considering – it was a night out for my flat mate’s birthday and I didn’t know what Facebook was. My first Facebook message came a month later when my friend Colin asked me “Is this some sort of dating website?”… How little did he know what it was to become. At that time it had round 18 million people on it. That was, at the time, 4 and half times the population of Scotland. Now the site has 125 times the population of Scotland. Maybe the next major World War won’t be between nations but between groups of people on the internet? The idea of a World without international borders doesn’t remove the notion of countries, it just re-imagines them as defined by what shoes they wear, what movies they like, or if the have read the Lord of the Rings novels. Who can tell?

I can’t see me getting rid of my Facebook, even more so now that I am leaving. It’s a invaluable tool to keep in touch, share and chat to friends that you might not see enough and in that respect Facebook is great. But the more it becomes like a country in it’s own right it needs to start acting democratically I guess. Or maybe not – the difference with the internet is that it takes almost no time to get up and leave in protest and there will always be someone ready to make a quick buck from the internet.

Maybe we shouldn’t be scare of Facebook, but Facebook should be scared of us – what we give we can take away. And maybe that’s why I am more trusting now.