We both know you haven’t been the only Web 2.1 media-rich socially-enabled website in my life, and I appreciate that you’ve been so cool with that. Before you, there was sixdegrees, friendster, and myspace. You also know there’ve been some other sites I’ve had some dalliances with over the seven years you and I have been an item. The exhibitionist Instagram. That bird-brain Twitter. That quick little fling with self-destructive Google Buzz. In the face of my less than perfect faith, you’ve been patient, and you’ve always been there for me to come back to. You have been devoted, and you were always willing to listen, whether I wanted to talk about what kind of waffles I just had, post some pics of my new computer, or if I just wanted to share another youtube link. You were there for me, there’s no denying that.
But, I’m sorry, Facebook, it’s just not working. You know it, I know it, and I think we just need to stop trying to make it work. It’s true, our relationship got a shot in the arm in 2009, when you met all my friends and you all got along so well. But neither of us is the same person we were when we first met in 2004, back before the movie and the fame, and now I just think we’ve grown too far apart. I still like you, and I still like all our friends, and maybe some day we can have a different kind of relationship, one that works, but right now there are just too many things that simply don’t feel right to me:
– always asking if I want to make Facebook my homepage when I log in;
– needing an engineering degree to control who sees what;
– my personal information is datamined in ways I can’t imagine or dream of;
– your iPhone app sucks harder than any other app I own;
– your news feed algorithm is weird: I always feel like it’s more designed for your benefit than mine;
– your pages, features, and tools are poorly designed and sometimes seem even deliberately obscure;
– you recently made it impossible to send people links to individual photographs;
– Beacon and other dodgy privacy practices;
– dodgy security;
– dodgy business practices;
– you have a special portal just for government agencies to use to track me and my friends;
– people reposting stuff I share without giving me credit;
– you help destroy marriages, including two that I know of;
– you say you don’t allow children under 13 to join… just an exclusive set of 7.5 million;
– fucking Farmville
That’s the short list, Facebook, sparing you all the gory details (and completely ignoring the fact that Wikipedia even has an entire page just on your “issues”). The point is, FB, you’re a completely different FB than the one I met when I created my account in December of 2004. When I signed up with you then, you were just a way to keep in touch with some of the students I worked with. Now you’re… a completely different kind of beast. You’re doing your level best to control all mindshare in all markets, and to penetrate ordinary people’s lives in as many ways as you can, but you don’t have the will, expertise, or technology to keep those same people safe from all the hazards to which they’re exposed just by interacting with you. You have some good ideas, but your conscience, diligence and technology just aren’t equal to them yet.
We tried the “taking some time off from each other” thing. We gave each other some space. I deleted most of my history and personal information from you. That was about three months ago, and in the intervening time, do you know what? I’ve found that I don’t trust you to have truly deleted any of that information. I’ve also become aware that some of my friends don’t even have Facebook accounts, and it’s not like their lives are exactly poorer for it. I’ve also been reading up more on your various malfeasances and shortcomings, and I can’t help but conclude that our relationship is doing me more harm than good.
What I’m saying is, I don’t think half measures are going to work. I think we need a clean break. I don’t like what you’ve become, and what you’re becoming even less. Staying with you, even in a minimally engaged sort of way, still feeds your all-consuming hunger: you know about me through my friends, and that means governments and advertisers know about me. No, I don’t have anything to hide, but I do care about my privacy, and the thing is, I can’t trust you to do the same.
Yeah, I’ll miss the good times. I’ll miss the narcissistic rush every time someone Likes something I put on my wall, and I’ll miss some of the updates from some of my friends. I’ll miss the convenience, both received and offered, of having one place on the web where me and my friends can share what’s going on in our lives. I’ll miss that a lot. But see above. That’s a long list of Cons to the three Pros of narcissism, keeping up with friends, and convenience.
So… goodbye, Facebook. It took a long time to come to this decision, but now that I have, I know it’s the right one. You know how I know? Because as soon as I made it, I had the same realization I’ve had every time I’ve left a bad relationship: all along the question hasn’t been “Should I leave you?” but “Why on earth would I want to stick around?”