Why I’m Leaving Facebook

They are not my parents, we met on Facebook
They are not my parents, we met on Facebook

My friend, The Best Judge has very strong feelings about a range of things.

We sometimes disagree, because he tends to see things in fairly black and white terms. He sometimes gets angry about things I couldn’t care less about, as I tend to see the world as fairly “grey”.

And yet on the issue of Facebook, it’s the issue of the “greyness” of it all, that’s causing me some concern at the moment, and which has made me decide, finally, this week to close down my Facebook account.

On the issue of Facebook, The Best Judge recently wrote…

After about a week and the thirty-seventh “virtual beer”, “virtual pet” and “virtual gift” I received, I wanted to rip my friends apart limb from limb. I’d started to despise people I genuinely cared about in real life. After the twentieth time I’d been asked to do a quiz and then send it on to “20 of your friends,” I thought “why are you people torturing me?!?!”

I don’t really care about the poking and the gifts and all the virtual things, because I know you can turn that stuff off.

But yeah, I’m going to close down my Facebook account, nonetheless.

Nothing’s happened. No dramas. No late night drunken status update that I’ve come to regret.

I’ve just come to a conclusion it’s not the right social network for me. Good for many people, but not for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really grateful for many things that Facebook has allowed to occur. I love, for example, the way in which it’s allowed me to make contact with people from my past, and the way in which it’s allowed me to keep up to date with people both intimately on the periphery of my day to day existence. I love knowing about when someone has a cough or a cold. Or when someone has had a relationship bust-up. I also often use it to contact people for work purposes.

My feelings have always been that it’s a much “deeper” social media experience than many of the others on offer. You get to share photographs, ideas, and connect with others who you know and (perhaps) feel strongly for. It’s not about your job (Linked In), and it’s not about the witty riposte (Twitter).

But I’m increasingly concerned about the way in which the lines between public and private information have been blurred.

I’ve concluded I like the privacy of email, and the openness of a blog, Twitter and Buzz. I like the way in which you know how much information you’re sharing with the world.

Sharing information isn’t an issue for me. For many years I was on the radio, and was always sharing bits and pieces of my life with those listening. I also share an awful lot of information about myself with the world through my blog. Every day I write something about my life. That said, I almost never write about work, and I never talk about friends except in a fairly general sense.

The sharing I do via my blog, though, is always on my terms. I think fairly carefully about how much I want the world to know.

Facebook on the other hand is more grey. What exactly is Facebook? Is it email? Is it a web-page? Is it both things and more? Or is it something new?

I have a nervous feeling about Facebook. I worry they’re sharing information I don’t want shared. I never write anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t want the rest of the world to see. I never write anything I feel like I would regret.

Rather, it’s the connections with friends, family and workmates. I don’t like the idea Facebook will misuse these connections to advertise and direct-market, and thus, to exploit those connections. It’s a philosophical concern, more than a personal one.

I admit, when arguments have been put forward about privacy issues and so on, I’ve always been quite a defender of Facebook, arguing you only share as much as you want to.

Even though I think Google has its own set of “issues”, I actually trust them a little more with the information I’ve shared with them. It’s kinda irrational, I know, because Google has access, via gmail, to far more intimate information including passwords, emails to family and friends and so on.

Sure, they kinda stuffed up the early days of Buzz with the default being to share information with everyone. They quickly learned from that experience and the default is now to share only with people you choose to. Facebook, on the other hand, seems to have gone with sharing information to a few, to sharing information with many.

I’m not going to do it overnight. I’m going to give my friends a few days notice, so that if our main point of contact is Facebook, we find an alternative means of communication. So if we’re Facebook friends, from now on, please contact me via Buzz, Twitter and my blog (where I’m sharing information knowingly with the world), or via email (where I’m choosing to keep it private).

So if we’re Facebook friends, and you want to stay in touch, please do so via http://www.twitter.com/JamesOBrienAU or jamesobrien.id.au

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