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Giving up on Facebook

facebook_logoFacebook has been good to me.  Really good.  But today, I deleted my Facebook account, and I feel great about it.

There was always an upside and a downside to Facebook.  For someone like me who has spent his adult life joining a succession of amazing communities that were always — sadly — time-limited and unstable,  Facebook was a godsend.  The routine usually went like this: I would go somewhere, usually for school but sometimes for a job (Alaska!), and I would meet a lot of great people.  For the three or four years that we were together as classmates or co-workers, these people made up my daily life.  They became my good friends.  But then, predictably, we’d graduate and each of us would pursue whichever option seemed best to us at the time, which usually meant that we scattered ourselves all over the country and the world, attending different graduate schools or taking jobs in different cities.  Like most of my friends, I would go somewhere new, and the cycle would begin again: another great group of people, more great friends, another scattering and another losing touch.

Facebook was great because it let me reconnect with my friends.  Amazingly, I even reconnected with people I knew from high school.  It was amazing.

But I said there was a downside to Facebook as well, and the downside was always privacy.  Actually, I should really say “privacy” with scare quotes.  No one with a blog ought to delude themselves that anything on the internet is private.  I don’t do anything online “anonymously” because I don’t believe such a thing exists.  But even if privacy isn’t something you can expect on the internet, there is such a thing as exercising control over one’s online persona.  I’ve got pictures of my doggie that I’ve posted in one place, but not in another.  The point is, I think I ought to be the one to decide what to do, say, or show to other people online.  Facebook made that difficult.

The latest privacy glitch from Facebook isn’t the problem.  Instead, it’s that Facebook repeatedly changes the rules about what gets shown to whom.  Sure, they always give you the ability to restrict information; the problem is that they keep requiring you to restate how you want your information to be handled.  Every six months, they send another notice that says “unless you tell us not to, we’re going to publicize all this information in ways that six months ago, you told us not to.”

That kind of behavior isn’t evil, but it is annoying.  All of the information on my Facebook page could be made public tomorrow and it wouldn’t hurt me, but I’d like to be the one to decide to do that.  I’m tired of having to fight with Facebook over the control of what I’ve placed online.  I’ve already decided what I want posted where; when I change my mind about that I’ll change it.  I don’t like having to constantly watch out for Facebook’s efforts to make those decisions for me.

So I’m deleting my Facebook account because the downsides finally started outweighing the upsides.  It’s nice knowing that I’m pretty easy to find online.  My friends can always find me without too much effort.  I am going to miss parts of Facebook, but I won’t miss constantly telling them the same thing again and again.

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