in Digital Web

Why you should dump Facebook in 2010

Let’s face it, Facebook just isn’t the tool it used to be.

The old networking tool that helped college students and young professionals stay connected to their peers and local networks has morphed into a full scale web utility that intends to help people maintain their connections and serve as the defacto business card of life.

Along the way, many have rued the day they ever signed up for the service. Everything imaginable from Facebook obituaries to mock job firings have occurred through the site, making it a very live part of our public culture. So why do I think people ought to give it up, cold turkey?

Here are a few reasons:

1. Facebook adds more people to your “friendship” docket than you can keep up with: Even if you go through the onerous process of setting up friend lists, the entire site is constructed around the notion that all of the people in your life deserve access to the same types of information. It makes it easier to maintain false relationships with lots of people you don’t really know. Maybe this works if you’re just using it as a networking tool, but as a social device, it’s unwieldy at best.

You could argue, “Well, don’t add those people. Know your limits.” Sounds good in theory, but not in practice. Adding one family over another, could make holiday chatter even more interesting than it would be anyway. And those high school or college friends that you selectively choose to show your “limited profile?” Yeah, that’s going to be a fun and somewhat awkward message that might transport you back to The Wonder Years faster than you ever intended.

2.Facebook induces friend stalking It starts off innocently enough. A peek to see if those two are still dating. Checking out that third-tier friend to see what they’re really up to. Before you know it, you’re irate that people haven’t invited to cool parties they’ve attended and wonder why that broke friend of yours went on a trip to Europe when she claims to have no money. Is any of this really your business? No. Is it easy to make assumptions that aren’t the truth? You betcha.

3. Facebook encourages you to hate your life What better way for people who’ve graduated college and are worried about their social standing, than a Facebook feed full of friends who all seem to be getting promotions, married to unusually hot people, having babies and going on trips to exotic places replete with a heavy dosage of smiles.

Chances are, it’s all in your head anyway. Not everyone is happy. Not everyone is living out their dreams and even if they are, you’re not there when the cameras get shut off. So stop worrying. But…logging in a lot can make it worse. Especially when you couple that with a lack of facebook love in the form of pokes, wall messages and other ways for people to let other people know that you are indeed well liked.

Look, no one makes us sign up for Facebook or any other social service. So you really can’t blame the messenger. But at the same time, the site has changed itself a lot and that’s really where the consternation is for a lot of people. For the college student with a profile centered around a school network, the tool was incredibly useful and generally safe. But now that it’s turned into some sort of strange Myspace/Craigslist collaboration featuring all of your Flickr pictures, Facebook is a social anchor weighing down and overly complicating the interactions of people who are likely to be better off staying in touch with only the people they remember to call, text or email.

So much of the consternation of our modern lives seems to be an endless need for attention and affirmation that we’re headed in the right direction, that we’re loved and that our lives have value. We get this from those close to us and it’s not a new human need. But a tool like Facebook gives the friendship equivalent of a sugar high; leading you to believe that there’s an entire world of people whose arms are stretched wide open and into your direction. When you find out that only a sliver of them really care, it can be a difficult adjustment and can otherwise distract you from what’s a pretty good life.

If you can’t completely give up Facebook, consider a Facebook holiday each month. Deactivate your profile and only reactivate it once a day each month. (For the weak among us, maybe you can settle for a week.) Inform your contacts ahead of time and magically, all of those people who added you randomly might be a lot more interesting when you reappear to get caught up on their lives each month.

You might find, however, that the people who managed to find and keep up with you anyway didn’t need your profile to keep you in their loop. That alone might make 2010 a bit better before it begins.

  1. Well, there are other people who dream to start social networking sites, so this isn’t the only one for college students. FreezeCrowd will be launching in 2010 for those with school email addresses, so please keep an eye out for it. Our concept is unique in the way you really connect with people in real life through photos. So, you can start a clean slate on a new tool. There’s nothing wrong with trying something new.

  2. I don’t think Facebook is going away that easily.
    I keep my Facebook profile strictly private.
    Of course when I joined Facebook, there were more business contacts than personal. Now that script is reversed. I put my professional contacts in once friend group and the personal in another, so that they don’t see the full profile.
    Now when my professional contacts ask to be my “friend” I suggest that they link up via Twitter or look for my fan page.

  3. Terrific points, Ron. I agree with Michael, too. Facebook is becoming more and more annoying. (Maybe I’m becoming more and more curmudgeonly.) On my Facebook site, I’ve deactivated my friends listing so people can’t stalk my Facebook friends or see whom I’m friends with. (A couple of female co-workers were contacted by one individual who claimed to be a friend of mine on Facebook but who actually just discovered them from my friends sidebar.) I’m planning to heavily scale back the information currently on the site, which was posted back when FB was fresh and new and available only to those with .edu addresses.

    So, I will have a Facebook presence, but it will be a shadow of its former self. I’ll pop on to wish some connections a happy birthday, but probably not much more than that.

    But I have a bigger problem in terms of the institutional presence on Facebook. Just as Facebook appears to be jumping the shark, a lot of admins on my campus are going gaga over getting into social media and want to “meet” with me to “bounce some ideas” yada yada. Go figure. Isn’t that just like us in higher ed, to chase after a trend just as it rides off into the sunset?

  4. Well I was going to, but because there are so many contacts I have who I wouldn’t call “socially savvy,” it seems easier to keep it. I do deactivate often though and I recently began testing out a new filter where I basically keep about 50 or so people in the loop and the rest of them just get a basic profile. We’ll see how that works for a bit.

  5. The more I get into Facebook, the more annoying it becomes. As if you can be “interactive” with several hundred friends. Give me a break. Glad to see that it’s not only (old) curmudgeons like me who feel this way.

  6. Ron, great post. So are you thinking about dumping Twitter too? Or do you consider it more of a genuine connecting force, since it’s fairly sparse with features and functionality?

  7. I forgot to add — and this might be an entire post — that it’s also a crutch for businesses. You spend all of this time and energy trying to cultivate this robust social media strategy, when most of the time your web site doesn’t do nearly as good a job of explaining what you do.

    So diverting all of that time and content to multiple channels when your main one isn’t getting it done, is probably a really bad use of internal resources.

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