Why I Hate Facebook, The Anti-Social Network

4 02 2009

Like the Borg, resistance to Facebook seems futile.

In the early days, it was easy to ignore. After all, Facebook was only one of a growing crowd of 2.0 websites and services.  There was MySpace, Friendster LinkedIn and other emerging technologies competing for my limited bandwidth, not to mention IM, texting and even a seldom-used email listserve for my Burning Man campmates.  With so many options for communicating to my tribe, Facebook was the least interesting of the bunch.  But somewhere along the way, many of these other technologies either lost their relevance or settled into a specific functional niche and seemingly out of nowhere, Facebook took the lead as THE social network to join.  This digital Darwinism, coupled with the ever-growing number of requests to join in my inbox finally worn me down.

So join I did, figuring Facebook was now a required card in the online poker hand that is my professional career.  A few months ago I registered, uploaded a profile picture and started exploring the features.  Since then I have friended a mix of about 125 people – current friends, younger family members, old school chums, ex-girlfriends and a few professional contacts.  I launched a Facebook fan club for Gomi Style, my online DIY video series, as well as a second group, dedicated to robots and telepresence.   I joined groups too, with shared interests like video art, Sarah Palin bashing and DIY.  I uploaded videos of my new projects and links, I wrote pithy and frequent status updates, and commented on a very small number of daily friends updates – Its hard to reply to every flake when one is buried in snow – and tried to give Facebook an sincere spin by migrating the bulk of my online networking to this (alleged) network.   I had to draw the line at playing Mob Wars, trading green patches, and otherwise embracing the hundreds of 3rd party applications that promised to suck away every last bit of my attention.  Games and widgets aside though, I committed, installing the Facebook App on my iPhone, and methodically checking and updating my status many times a day in an effort to master this social network and gain a realtime pipeline to some of the most relevant people in my life.  What I experienced was the opposite of what I expected. 

A technological lifetime ago, sometime around 2007, prior to the convenience of Facebook and social networks in general; people had a natural buffer of time and space between themselves and their larger circle of friends and family.   Sure, we complained that keeping in touch was a chore, but most of us secretly relied on these hurdles to afford us some measure of control over our personal interactions.  Over the last decade, these barriers have slowly been eroding as we become more accustomed to the ease of social contact via the web – and Facebook has emerged as the leader of the bunch, recently estimated to have one out of every 50 people on earth as a member.  How could anyone not find Facebook a stunning example of technology’s ability to flatten the world and allow that old friend currently working in Shanghai and the guy in the cubicle next to you to both be a single democratizing click away?

Given these facts, why do I consider Facebook the antisocial network?  For one, I can see the updates, comments and activities of far too many friends and acquaintances.  By any measure, do I really need to know that some guy who I was in the Boy Scouts with 25 years ago is considering gum surgery, or look at yet another photo album of drunken partiers I don’t recognize? Sure, the onslaught of updates can be funny, informative, surreal, or heart-felt.  Or just plain self-indulgent.  How quickly the novelty of always-on knowledge wears thin.

Often these updates, notices and invites beg a response, or at least an acknowledgement.  While it is pretty straight forward, even on Facebook, to wish someone a happy birthday, it gets murkier knowing the correct response to an old classmate’s daily expression of ennui.  Worse, I now find myself updating my status, posting videos and roommate notices with the wide-eyed hope and expectation that my stream of personal activities will get the attention of my network and inspire enthusiastic replies. 

One reason this always disappoints me is a result of what I refer to as the Facebook Effect:  More than ever before, we are becoming comfortable NOT responding to the heartfelt announcements, confessions and daily updates from our friends and loved ones.  While glancing at, and essentially ignoring the chaos of daily life can be a healthy defense mechanism in real-life, having those traits on Facebook has a hardening quality that I don’t like, especially in myself.

The problem lies in the numbing effects of so much data from so many people.  Everyone knows that we all experience daily ups and downs, birthdays, professional milestones, etc… and we increasingly share these things on Facebook.  But in some ways, seeing the gigs of ex-classmates and birth announcements of old friends only reminds me that I am not really in touch with them any more with Facebook than I was before I joined. 

In fact, where previously it was easy to let old acquaintances fade away naturally, Facebook now serves as a daily reminder of just how far those relationships have faded from view.  But instead of inspiring me to get more active and involved with the 125+ people in my list, it has the opposite effect of turning up the heat on the guilt gumbo that I already had simmering on the back burner. 

Facebook makes me feel less connected, not more, yet I still check it throughout the day; looking, lurking, updating and occasionally commenting.   I can’t seem to stop, hoping I will start to click with it, not wanting to lose the zeitgeist.  I guess resistance really IS futile.  Maybe a Twitter account will help cure me…

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10 responses

5 02 2009
anthony

It does cause a reappraisal of the past 20 plus years, the high school reconnection, I related to the feeling of disinterestedness, not the guilt. maybe because a have tried to keep my friends list small and mostly professional acquaintances/ friends. Some moments have been delightful, finding lost friends etc. but mostly I think it falls far short of the bill of goods offered, community building, networking, I don’t see it replacing face to face. Now if they just had spell check…

5 02 2009
Zack Zack

Yes, i too finally succumbed (after spending a fair amount of time figuring out how i could remain true to my chosen nomenclature given FB’s constraints) and find the site/service intriguing for several reasons, but am also kind of annoyed with myself for opening up another channel of stuff that (i feel) i “have” to respond to, or at the very least, “interact” with. What i’ve found so far, however, is that there’s a balance of positives and negatives: FB has allowed me to connect with some folks i’d assumed had just faded into the woodwork, folks to whom i can now say “sorry i treated you like a jerk back in 1978” (for example) and finally be free of festering guilt (i think mine is more like ratatouille than gumbo, tho); this beats spending money on flying off to a high school or college (or even family!) reunion, and feels safer as i can retain control of who i choose to “see” or who “sees” me. in this way, FB functions like a selective time machine; one doesn’t have access to ALL that’s in the past; the technological involvement of others determines whether or not they’ll pass across one’s screen, for one thing.

On the other hand, FB can become a big time suck, which makes me think that Mark Zuckerberg and pals are secretly working for the same Japanese mafia that’s behind Sudoku, and trying to reduce American productivity with weapons of mass distraction. What to do? Perhaps treat it the same way as we deal with other seductions and addictions and enjoy the ride until the thrill is gone. i, for one (and i suspect this has to do with my age), treat my FB activity as research and reaching out to the younger generation(s) who just accept the ever-encroaching digitalization of all aspects of life as the norm. age has so much to do with it, i find. i hope i have a little more critical distance than all those youngsters about how FB is affecting me in “first life”. To help manage my own addiction, i’ve decided to look at FB only at the beginning and end of my day. We’ll see if i can hold to that…

For two good takes (con and then pro) on the impact of such technologies, esp. in regard to ‘democratization’ and the impact of such networks on political activity, you may want to check out Lee Siegel’s book “Against the Machine” and “Millenial Makeover” (two authors i can’t recall at the moment). that is, if books can still hold your attention 😉

Finally, two picky notes on your post (ever the editor/teacher): 1) There’s a Freudian Typo – “an sincere spin” – in paragraph two, perhaps revealing your bias (a subconscious desire to write ‘insincere’ spin?); 2) is knowledge the same as information (paragraph 4)? upon entering grad school 10 years ago, i was obsessed with how we were losing the ability to differentiate between knowledge, information, and wisdom. the research continues…

p.s. on the other hand, i still don’t own an Ipod or a cell phone…

25 02 2009
tgirl

good read – all the posts. I have just gotten a little active in Facebook after being layed off. Everyone at work was connecting. Then suddenly, people in my social scene started connecting. Previously, I too had two different social networking accounts. One for social. One for professional. I found myself worried about the two connecting…the news feeds constant. I turned off many of the options so only friends can see. I never write little updates now after my initial – “looking for work” note.

Maybe its paranoia- I work often with the public in virtual spaces. And every little detail of peoples days- who cares? Not enough bandwidth! Yet also, now that I do have more time its been fun to read a few.
I still keep many options turned off. Maybe I need everyone to only selectively know what I’m up to. It’s all on the billboard.

T

1 03 2009
Mike

Just passing by.Btw, your website have great content!

_________________________________
Making Money $150 An Hour

1 06 2010
29 11 2010
Hook

Great insight.

9 12 2010
austin

great stuff…

22 07 2011
Jesse

I couldn’t agree more! I realized when I did see people we had nothing to talk about, since it had all been hashed in a facebook posts in the previous weeks. Our social life has digressed not progressed! The art of conversation is lost in 140 characters or less. No surprises anymore! Every post is pre-conceived! I really miss the nostalgia of seeing an old friend and NOT knowing what has been going on in his/her life. I deleted facebook, and after enduring the first few days of netowrking cravings I feel 100 percent better. Get off of your computers and go meet people!! Face to face!!

How ironic, though, that this very site is laced with facebook and twitter references??

2 09 2013
HateFB

FB is one of the worse things that the internet could come up with. It’s a POS. Who in their right sense of mind would mindlessly share some of the most revealing information about themselves, including their birthday’s, hometown, overseas travel, jobs, friends and attended events? What happened to privacy nowadays? Has it become so worthless now that people are actually voluntarily offering it up to some complete strangers in the form of so called “friends” and FB, a company who has questionable underlying motives of using that information for advertising?

It saddens me to think that being so open with private information is going to be the norm for this generation of kids growing up, and for those who are more grown up, but foolish enough to be an open book on facebook. Idiots in real life can now be idiots on the internet! Really, that scares me, since idiots can now band together on FB and amplify their idiocy (planking anyone?)

As the author has stated, FB makes you more distant from your so called “friends”. It is of my opinion that when we go through periods of our life, there will be all sorts of people we encounter and interact with. Once that period of time is over, those people cease to be of any relevance (unless we choose to remain in contact with them, or wish to reconnect with them in a meaningful way ie not via FB!). Reconnecting with these irrelevant people is completely meaningless, since they will just be as irrelevant with or without facebook. Facebook just gives you the illusion that they are still relevant to you since you can see what they are doing. But the reality is, you couldn’t care less what they were doing, yet even say hello to some of these FB friends if you saw them on the street!

I find facebook to be utterly stupid. It is full of narcissists, and no-bodies who think they are somebody by making stupid status updates which have lots of comments. “Just had lunch at Starbucks today!” For real? Am I supposed to be interested and congratulate you? I couldn’t care less.

The last thing that pisses me off, has been nosy people. Some of my highschool friends have in the past, PM’d me “how are you mate?” I replied telling them about what’s been going on, and asked “and how are you lately?” Didn’t get a reply, and I know they read it, since it said “seen 25 Aug”. Wow, my so called “friend” couldn’t even be bothered to reply. Were they just that nosy? (My fb was pretty much empty – no updates for the past year). Seriously, I hate people that are that incredibly rude and disrespectful as to not even answer a reply.

Anyway, in summary, FB is a POS. Don’t use it, as it will shorten your life span, from the time you wasted on using such a POS.

4 03 2014
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