Facebook’s Flaws

After minimising my Facebook presence and deleting all my Instagram photos I wanted to explain a bit more why I’ve done those things. I’m finding it quite hard to articulate succinctly, but I’ll give it a go anyway.

I know that Instagram have backtracked on their new terms and conditions around what they will do with user’s photos but the Instagram terms outrage was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the truth is that winding down my Facebook presence has been on the cards for a while.

What’s wrong with Facebook?

Let’s get one thing clear: I understand the free service model where I am the product, where my data and usage patterns are used to send me adverts, and I understand that online services need a royalty-free license to publish some of my data in order to work. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Google, all work like this. I accept these as things that need to be for social networks to exist.

My objection is more about how the services operate. And I think this falls into two categories: usefulness, and trust.

Usefulness

The most obvious thing is that I just don’t find Facebook very useful. Or at least, its usefulness is obscured or hampered by clutter.

Facebook does so much, you can like so many pages and be member of so many groups, and use so many apps that it just gets full of stuff. Notifications get out of control and get ignored as a result. And then they chuck in adverts and promoted posts which further obscure the content that you really want to see.

And the content…the content! Facebook have algorithms that determine ‘importance’ of posts. That ‘importance’ is used to decide what I see. But the whole system is flawed.

One reason importance is flawed is that people can pay Facebook to promote posts to me, which means I’m seeing what other people deem is important, not what I deem important.

But also, it seems that Facebook prioritises content with images, media or links, popular content, and content from people that post a lot. But what about the one, short, text-only post from a friend who only posts twice a year telling me that they’re engaged? That’s one of the most important things! And I fear it is lost.

Facebook also continue to insist that I want to see things ordered by its own weird idea of importance, rather than chronologically. Which I don’t!

I don’t even see every post from every page that I follow, which kinda makes following pages, and posting as pages, a bit pointless.

And then there’s all the information passed my way that I simply don’t want: the app requests; the suggested people and pages; the high volume of junk and low value content (you know – the things that used to be circular emails).

Facebook can be used to communicate, but, as I’ve said before, it’s primarily an advertising tool, not a communications tool. (See this very recent article for more on this)

Trust

Facebook has a bad reputation around privacy. They’ve changed the settings on numerous occasions and, to be honest, the privacy settings are so complicated that its hard to know who can see what.

They recently decided that all profiles would be searchable too.

But also, I feel like Facebook takes advantage of me and, worse, of people who pay far less attention to their activities than I do.

The Instagram outrage was a prime example of this. It’s not like they tried to sneak the new conditions through – they were very open about the changes. But I did feel like they hoped that people wouldn’t really read them and would accept them regardless. Maybe there’s truth in that, or maybe that’s my own perception formed through my existing mistrust of them.

I also feel like Facebook sneak lots of things past me: advertising and promoted posts, privacy and terms changes, user interface changes, collection and use of huge amounts of information about me as I browse the web.

I even feel like the whole nature of Facebook carries a certain risk. Because you share with people you have ‘friended’, it feels like a closed, almost private system. And that lures you into this sense of security. And so you feel like you can post more personal things, without necessarily considering the consequences. It’s easy to forget who is your friend on Facebook: who’s going to see that photo, read that status, or spot that action you took in the ’ticker’.

And it’s easy to grant permissions to an app that it doesn’t really need. Spotify was a prime example when, for a time, it required a Facebook account. I just don’t want Facebook knowing my listening habits!

I will write more about the privacy around photos specifically in another post, but photos, specifically, feel more personal. That’s why I’ve deleted them.

Alternatives

People will say: ’But you still use Twitter, your blog, Google+, aren’t they as bad?’

Possibly. But remember that I accept the terms of use. And, for the time being, their services are more useful (dare I say ’better’?); their data collection and advertising isn’t as intrusive; and I feel I trust them more.

Twitter, in particular, which I continue to use a lot, feels different. It’s open. Anyone can read what I post, so I think harder about what I post and am more careful. Twitter has some issues too, which I’ll also write about another time, but I just feel like I know what I’m getting with Twitter.

And so…

So Facebook, that’s why I’m cutting down on how I use you. I do fear that I’ll miss out. Man people I know use Facebook as their main communications tool. I could miss out on real world events, real messages, really interesting updates about people’s lives. But you’re just not a tool that’s suited to communicating with my friends.

It’s not quite goodbye: I’ll still post sometimes, like, comment and converse. But it’s certainly a step away.

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