In a fit of vague and undirected outrage over some issues I didn’t fully understand, which is more or less my default position when it comes to anything, I deleted my facebook account a few years ago.
I successfully resisted all attempts to get me back into facebook for a (very) good year, but it was inevitable that I’d come crawling back at some point. The way society works at the moment simply doesn’t allow most people my age to (a) have friends, and (b) not use facebook.
When, eventually, I gave up explaining to people that I wasn’t just fobbing them off, I genuinely didn’t have a facebook account, and to stop bothering the random bloke in Alabama who happened to have the same name as me, I reluctantly got back on facebook.
Straight away, one thing struck me about the ‘new’ facebook: nothing has changed. All of the most bizarre things about social networking, which I assumed would have been ironed out as people got more net-savvy over time, have if anything become exaggerated over time.
I enjoy facebook now, mostly because the people I know on it are more interesting than the people I knew last time around, but it still weirds me out, mostly because of things like…
Ridiculously Vague Status Updates
I get it, I do.
Your friend pissed you off, and you want to let them know, but you don’t want to look like a bastard when the whole thing blows over, and you certainly don’t want to get into a big old embarrassing argument on facebook.
But when all the updates consist of comments like “Don’t you just hate that feeling of total betrayal?”, or “Not talking to (X). They know why.”, I just get this feeling that maybe it’d be better to start actually talking to the person involved. I have no idea whatsoever what these people are talking about, consistently, and I don’t really need it. If I wanted a general sense of low-level negativity, passive-aggression and unhappiness, I’d eat at a Little Chef.
Luckily none of my friends do this sort of thing, but it’s very weird when you effectively get copied in on someone else’s dramatic arguments and have absolutely no idea why.
Too Much Information
Now, this isn’t even about the way people use Facebook. I have no problem with people sharing what kind of phone they have, or what they ate for lunch. I’m essentially a very boring person — I’m genuinely interested in the types of muffin that might be available at your local supermarket, and I’m even more interested in how delicious, or otherwise, they might be.
This is about Facebook itself.
Whenever the eyes of someone I know so much as alight upon a newspaper page they have found through facebook, I am informed of it automatically.
Why is this?
I know more about the reading habits of distant acquaintances than I do about my dear ma’ herself. What possible advantage could this confer to me as a user of facebook?
Meanwhile, the updates that I’ve actually requested, from bands and organisations that I actually want to keep track of, are nowhere to be found.
Total Lack Of Control
With most sites, you have some option to control how you are perceived, what data ends up where, and so on.
With facebook, things like the timeline update being implemented without your consent are commonplace. It’s a repeating pattern of total disregard for the user, and for whatever reason, everyone appears to end up fundamentally alright with it, barring a little impotent grumbling.
You can’t control what you see based on what your interests are without investing ridiculous amounts of time, and everything that you do on the site is carefully recorded and used to sell advertising. If someone uploads a photo of you, you’re basically boned if you don’t like it. If you have an odd name, even, facebook can delete your account without any argument and stop you from making a new one.
This is a really strange way to run a website. Yet it works.
More to the point, I don’t even care. Facebook could announce an update tomorrow that forced 20% of their users to post sexually explicit updates once every fortnight, and I’d probably just shrug and carry on as normal.
That’s probably the strangest thing of all about facebook: the way I interact with it. I don’t understand how I become so passive and accepting the second I see that soothing blue logo, and it freaks me right the hell out.
Image by Lawton Chiles. Look at this thing. No, over here. Wait, wait, wait, I mean here. This blog is not endorsed or approved by facebook in anyway. Now that’s a naturally-flowing post, no? No clumsily inserted disclaimer THERE.
Note: I’m planning to spin off the metal section of this blog into its own thing as soon as I have time, plus a few other changes.