"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

i'm quitting facebook

as loyal readers would know, i have a problem with facebook. in fact, i was so steadfastly adamant about not joining it that my eventual giving-in was seen as weakness, hypocrisy and a sign of the apocalypse by some. in retrospect, i was grievously nostalgic and afraid of losing touch with college classmates when i made the decision to jump my happy ship and enter into the facebook-enabled abyss. but now, i'm considering quitting, FOR GOOD.

as i write this, i am afraid Facebook is watching (yes, i capitalized the F because it has now become an Entity). i've been doing a lot of reading this week, esp. concerning the topic of Facebook and its thinning privacy policy, and it's making me feel like i have no choice. i know, Facebook and its success are based on the gratuitous overshare of information; but holy geez, i only want to share what i want to and choose to share. it can't have all of me!

as the years of Facebook use have gone on, it's changed the way people see themselves, each other, and the right to people's personal information. The Age of Facebook has been one of oversharing and a gross sense of entitlement to people's personal business. Facebook has rendered us incapable as friends, and made us better voyeurs.

i've seen it in my own use of Facebook: i started out with little information, just my name and college, one profile picture that obscured my face, and a limited list of friends that had to be real friends (people i actually talk to and have spent qual. time with). but then it grew into adding a list of interests, joining a few groups, starting photo albums and tagging people in them, adding applications, and adding friends, from ppl i maybe talked to once in college or contacts i made thru different organizations, to now adding people i've never even met and even actually dislike in real life because i was just interested in seeing what they are up to nowadays. in short, i went from being Facebook-aloof to being a Facebook junkie. and i think it's burgeoning into a big problem:

now, every time i get on the internet, i check facebook. i check my notifications, check friends' statuses, comment on photos, etc. and by the time i emerge from my Facebook-sustained coma, an hour, two hours, a whole afternoon has passed! coming to work is such a productivity-fest because the acceptable use policy strictly bans Facebook, and thank god! i can actually get work done!

Facebook almost ruined my family! (not really, but it has hurt my relationships with people i actually care about in a genuine, real-life way.)

and now, i am finding out that Mark Zuckerberg, that King of A-holes, is making himself the youngest billionaire ever, by selling our information to advertisers and third parties. i'm not sure how it works (and that's part of the evil plan, to make it as confusing as possible), but i guess when you log on to Facebook, when you give it your email address, it keeps a record of all the websites you visit to determine your interests and catalog personal data on you, so it can sell your interests to advertisers who can better exploit you.

this article sums up the history of Facebook's privacy policy quite nicely, but this was the part that most alarmed me:
"If you are uncomfortable with [information] being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not providing) the information."
so basically, Facebook has no responsibility to protect our information, because we forfeit that right the moment we decide to use it. and protecting information is the user's responsibility, despite the ever-changing and ever-eroding privacy policies. this website does a nice job of graphically representing the growing circle of information now available to users and abusers of Facebook.

furthermore, Facebook invites you to tailor your own "ad experience," choosing how your information should be exploited best. is this what i joined Facebook for?

the point is, i'm getting sick of this information age. it's the wrong kind of information we are increasingly exposed to. i want demand to know how the BP oil spill happened and what the government is going to do to stop it and future oil spills from happening. i want to know how we're going to fix public education and restore civic health. i don't need to know all the microscopic details of all my friends' lives the very second they occur. i would like life to resume the way it was, when some things were better left up to the imagination, and ppl lived their lives in private and shared really important things with one another in secret conversations.

my initial gripe with Facebook and its antecedents has always been that i believe it ruins people's ability to communicate with one another: people are constantly on their smart phones on Facebook chatting in traffic – this is the new experience. and i honestly believe it is ruining our society (a whole generation of tweens raised on the iPod and iPhone, incapable of functioning in a real-time social situation with unpredictable and erratic individuals – this is the failure of our modern age manifest in a classroom on any given day).

and now i am learning that the dissolution of our relationships, our communicability, is simultaneously eroding our privacy, and that we're all complicit in this, because we are oblivious, or worse, because we choose to continue using it anyway. has it gotten to the point in American history when we will wage a war on terror in the name of defending our civil liberties, but willingly give up our right to privacy for the sake of social networking? i tell you, we are choosing a sad fate for ourselves: death by distraction.

the group QuitFacebookDay.com is urging ppl to quit Facebook on May 31, and in the three or four days since i had the window up and first started reading articles in preparation for this post, they have gained membership, from a little over three thousand a few days ago, to over eleven thousand this morning when i checked again. impressive growth, but considering the number of Facebook users/ potential quitters, i am sad they are not doing better.

for me, it's a matter of respect. Facebook doesn't care if it abuses its privilege to our information, and it will continue helping itself to more and more of it because it has proven profitable. Facebook users should not have to choose between keeping in touch with their friends or keeping their information private/ not being harassed by advertisers. there are plenty of other sites (flickr, twitter, tumblr, blogger, gmail, etc) that can do the same things as facebook but without the creepy prying. i'm tired of the idea of my information being fed to third parties so they can learn how to better manipulate and exploit me.

so, i'm quitting facebook. if you're a real friend, you'll know where to find me.

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