Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Facebook-Free (A Bit of a Rant)

I love twitter.

I can check in or not.

I can follow the  news organizations I feel are on point, and not the others.

I can follow arts, writing and publishing organizations that are important to me.

I can see what my friends are up to - or I don't need to check in at all.

I can post quick updates about my work, or what's on this blog, or events.

I hate Facebook.

I have over 1500 friends on an account, but I repeatedly see the same 50 or so people over and over. These are not the people I have designated as "close friends." These seem to be the people FB wants to show me.

Repeatedly, I have asked not to see posts from certain people. Despite blocking their posts, they show up again and again, forcing me to reblock them, but in the meantime seeing the insensitive rants they choose to make public over and over.

On FB, each of your 1500+ friends treats your account as they would you; as if it were you. This means that your close friends from high school feel free to share information on your wall that you would never in a million years want friend 1462, who you met after a gig one night, or friend 279, an independent producer you sometimes work for, to know. In other words, you are giving everyone you know, as well as people in your network, access to all the sides of you, as a matter of public record.

Yes, you could spend three days adjusting your settings, privacy, making lists, etc. And then, when FB changes the interface, as it does frequently, you'd have to do it all again. Also, as aforementioned, none of these filters seem to work consistently. The design itself becomes more and more cluttered and cumbersome.

It feels like a tyrannosaurus rex to twitter's firefly.

Three months ago, I deactivated my wall and stopped logging into FB. The procedures for deactivating an account are lengthy and involved. The procedures for taking down the information are also lengthy and involved. Instead, I opted for dormancy.

I had come off an artists' residency where we had no internet. Returning to civilization, I found the levels of information and the scope of reactions necessary to process the information toxic. I decided to do something about it. Some people panicked, sending me messages like, "Oh my God - your wall isn't working!" In truth, my friends and colleagues know how to reach me always. And it's not exactly like I don't have a web presence for anyone else.

As an artist and promoter, I've created a network via Facebook that I no longer have reasonable access to as a result of the constant shifts in the interface and the choices they are making in order to monetize the site.  It fragments its users with algorithms, deciding who I want to see and who gets to see me. Sure, this works okay with Netflix recommendations, but it's a fail when it comes to people to people interaction.

Events and invites are now useless and go unseen. FB prefers we now pay to promote these, yet who wants to pay to promote events to the chronically overloaded feeds of their networks?

I don't use any apps, like Uber or Lyft, that require me to link to my Facebook account in order to be real. I am real - it's FB that's not real.

You do realize what is happening when you link app to app, right?

All of your data, by your permission, is synced in a way that allows companies to market at you better. If you think the Facebook experiment was manipulative, think about how your daily interaction with this site is manipulating you even without the heinous breach of conduct.

Since it began, FB has been using its members as Beta testers, data mines, and consumer experiments. It is constantly testing our adaptability, changing the interface in tiny ways without notice. Perhaps the line has never been clear for them. Yet it should be clear for us. They not only manipulated what we were able to see, it seems they actually edited content within individual posts for effect.

I can't help thinking about a hypothetical grad student, defending a thesis on a certain day in 2012, logging onto FB briefly and seeing a feed designed to get an emotional response from him or her - an inorganic feed of his or her friend list manipulated by FB. What if FB was testing for anger in that feed? Or self esteem? What if that grad student walked into his or her thesis defense with a lowered level of confidence as a result of the manipulations? It's possible. As are so many other scenarios.

The news that they treated users as lab subjects is not surprising, yet I think our expectation that they would manipulate us is creating a regrettable under-reaction.

I say enough.

Facebook is nothing without us.

It's not worth anything at all without its users.

It was fun while it lasted, but you know, I think it's time to break up.

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