Julia Angwin is unfriending everyone she knows on Facebook. I hope she’s got a spare week. Facebook doesn’t make unfriending people quick. Or removing anything. For all Mark Zuckerberg’s talk of ‘frictionless sharing’, there’s a hell of a lot of friction if you want to take anything back out. Facebook’s a one-way street. Give it everything you like, it’ll help you do it quickly. Take it back, well, that’s another matter.
I’ve been on Facebook for at least six years. My timeline stretched back to a year spent in Cambodia. Half my friends in fact had some kind of connection to Cambodia. I spent a long time feeling that I wanted to spring clean old posts, photos, tags. But Facebook made it a chore. Start, three or four clicks to remove a piece of information, no way to do it in batches. You give up… well, I did. Several times, after hours spent trying to control my information.
Facebook keeps pulling you back. From the blue-tinted emotional blackmail of “Your friends will miss you” when you go to deactivate your account to giving you the cuddly feeling of a shared history by offering everything you’ve ever done on a timeline stretching back to birth, to the sheer weight of numbers – how can I leave Facebook when all my friends are here? Facebook makes it so difficult to leave because you’re made to believe that you’re leaving your friends behind. Facebook makes it difficult to leave because you sign in to half the web with Facebook. Facebook makes it difficult to leave because it is your phone book now. Facebook makes it difficult to leave because it has set itself up as not just the chronicler of your life but the chronicler of the life you share with your friends. My marriage is recorded on Facebook. Deaths. Births. It’s all there.
But here’s the problem. Facebook. Is. Just. Awful.
From the constant ads for dating, weight loss and gambling to the ‘suggested posts’ that take up your whole mobile screen and offer no means of blocking them to the terrible pages with terrible names and the terrible graphics and the constant suggestions to connect with people you don’t know, Facebook is a needy, annoying hanger-on. If your friendship with someone is company, Facebook is there, making it a crowd. And Facebook is unnecessary. The closest relationships I have don’t need Facebook – we use text, email, phone or a pub chair. The most tenuous relationships I have don’t need Facebook because I don’t need to remain acquainted to someone I met backpacking in 2005 and haven’t spoken to since. People can still fall out of touch, friendships wither and die, even when they’re connected on Facebook and possibly because they’re connected on Facebook – because being friends on Facebook is one of the single best excuses for not bothering to do anything at all to maintain a friendship. The nail in the coffin for me is that Facebook makes it so difficult to control what you’ve already posted or what is directed at you.
So I’ve deleted my account. You’ll find me elsewhere, or on the phone, like I always was before Facebook came between us. I still have my photos, I still remember why we met and why we’re friends. Assuming we are.
I have a new account for managing pages and apps, to support friends, clients and organisations with their Facebook presence. I won’t be using it for anything else any time soon.