Nine months ago I did something that, looking back now, was both a brilliant and educational moment in my life.
No, not “that!” Instead, I quit Facebook.
What did you say Mike, quit “the” social network” Yes, I did. I had thought about it for a while, and when I heard of other smart people I know also getting out of the closed ecosystem like my good friends Jen Hanen and CT Moore, I decided it was time for me to stop the madness myself.
And you read that correctly – I had been thinking about quitting Facebook for a while. Why? The reasons below are many. Blended together, they got me to cancel once and for all.
Quitting Facebook had nothing to do with any specific person, people or event. I did not do it in retaliation to anyone for any specific act. Rather, my decision was based on trends around how and what people communicate, actions that were moving in a direction by just about everyone who was using Facebook that I was connected with (and others who were friends of friends) that I did not like. I also count myself in with that grouping of people.
Even though I had amassed quite a large group of “friends” over the years, the quality of communications was not there, only the mass quantity of it. The fact I disconnected from them on Facebook doesn’t mean that I don’t like them, it was the pool we were all swimming in that I didn’t want to be in.
Too Much Information All The Time
Social media is all about sharing. But when everyone is sharing as much as they are, all the time, it can get overwhelming. I was getting drawn into Facebook and was spending too much time separating the wheat from the shaft to find relevant or useful information or engage in somewhat meaningful conversation. A visit to Facebook.com or the app on my mobile device was a time suck, as I was compelled to keep scrolling through until I found something of interest, even though many times I didn’t.
What I was sorting through was another matter altogether. They say that kids say the darnest things, well adults on Facebook are even worse. Just when I thought I had seen and read it all, I would read more and more detail that one wouldn’t normally post to the world, let along share in a whisper. Yet there it is, posted for all to see on Facebook.
One Hot UX Mess
To make matters worse, when Facebook went to the 2-column format, it became far too much for me. It was completely unusable, and compound that with the aforementioned volume of content and it makes for something I found very difficult to read and enjoy. Why subject myself to a (user) experience I did not like? I don’t visit some Web sites because of design and functionality flaws, so why should Facebook be any different.
One thing positive I will say about Facebook is the powerful engine behind that user experience. How often do you get a real error on Facebook? Years ago I attended a local conference and some developers from Facebook were there talking about the architecture of the site, and afterwards I had the opportunity to talk with them one-on-one. I was extremely impressed with their background, experience and the technology behind the site. How it was presented, at least to me, did not live up to what was powering it.
Living McLuhan’s Words
To me, Facebook lived to the letter of the words of Marshall McLuhan in that “the medium is the message.” I had written about this a couple of years ago in a post here on the Hot Iron titled Streaming Awareness By how I lamented about missing the birth of friends’ kids that were only announced over social media, and I never saw the original post. Needless to say, it continued. There were more I missed, though each time I did bring it to the parents’ attention my dismay – once it even compelled someone to send old-fashioned birth announcements by postal mail!
This changing of how we communicate feels almost like a cheapening of the interaction between people. Miss a small couple of word post on someone’s wall and you could miss out on seeing someone visiting town, and then the person who posted those few words thinks you are ignoring them. Yes, that happened to me once. Now I am not saying we all need to grab our quill pens, ink reservoirs and parchment paper and write long letters. Any tool of communication can be used wisely or poorly. Where changing your relationship status to “single” can inform the world of a divorce or major break-up, there are certainly classier, more tasteful ways to do so.
There was at least one time when Facebook put in a chance to only display the posts of people you recently communicated with. Huh? Yes, so if I was communicating a lot with 20 people, I would predominantly see the posts from them, and anyone else I may not see at all. When I heard about this I was shocked and undid the setting, and low and behold I was hearing from everybody, as I should be. It’s one thing if I make such a setting change, but I certainly don’t want someone telling me what I read and do not read.
And Now A Word From Our Investors
I will certainly not say that I predicted the snooping and tapping of electronic messaging on networks and social media sites by the US government. When I read the article in Time magazine when Mark Zuckerberg was named Person of the year in 2010, there is a direct mention about US FBI Director Robert Mueller walking in on the interview -. Why was the FBI Director at Facebook headquarters? I’ll leave it at that – read the article for yourself.
Nobody Seemed To Notice
Over the last 9 months, I have only heard from 3 people who said they tried to reach me on Facebook but could not find me. There were some that I told about my decision, and I certainly mentioned it more than once on Twitter. I had changed my Facebook picture and banner to the image at the top of this post, but once thing I did not do was inform people through Facebook that I was going to quit. Why? More so out of curiosity if anyone would realize I was no longer in their “stream” of consciousness. This experiment in social media was correct, but sad in its own right.
Don’t Call Me Anti-Social (Media)
Though I am not on Facebook, I am not shying away from social media. I am on Twitter @thehotiron, and this blog is my primary channel for longer form writing, longer than 140 characters anyway.
I have been drawn to Twitter because of its simplicity and binary nature – what I put out there is out there, and what I send as a direct message, which I use infrequently, is not. I find it easy to have conversations with individuals and on occasion with groups, though I don’t often participate in Twitter chats which are commonly driven by a unique hashtag. I also find it easy to pickup on a conversation and continue it later with the medium. My Twitter client of choice is HootSuite on the PC, though I am using the Twitter.com Web interface more and more as it has evolved tremendously. Twitter for me is like the water cooler or barstool in the local pub.
Blogging is something I enjoy and don’t do nearly as much as I used to and not as much as I would like to. In one regard it is an outlet for the things in my head, and in another it is a way to share and start a conversation. Where my tweets tend to be forgotten over time, my blog posts are still out there, and older ones still draw comments (even real, legit ones too!) and are shared by others. The Hot Iron is like a fireside chat or sitting down with a scotch and cigar among friends.
Looking Ahead And Always Evaluating
Facebook is not the only game in town. If you quit Facebook it should not be the end of your social media activity or identity. I have written before here at The Hot Iron about managing your online presence and I will continue to do so. But at the end of the day, what you do online should be only a part of who you are. So whether you call, tweet or write longhand, you are greater than the tools you use to communicate.
Your comments, as always, are welcome and encouraged!
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
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Yes, the dreaded scrolling and scrolling through the stream. I can find myself scrolling on and on without liking or commenting on items. I found it helps tremendously to make a list of the handful of people I truly do want to engage with on a regular basis (close family and friends).
I like your daring approach to quitting Facebook. Funny, how that is considered daring these days. I’m happy you continue to blog.
Comment by spudart
on 09/17/13 at 10:12 PM
@spudart - When I first pondered the thought of quitting Facebook, I had a hard time digesting it, but the more I thought of it, the more it made sense.
And thanks for reading - that’s what motivates me to keep writing!
Comment by Mike Maddaloni
on 09/18/13 at 06:22 AM
I’ve been gone from FB over a year. There are things I miss—but I don’t miss FB constantly messing with my communications and trying to figure out how the next change effects who sees my posts… It was maddening.
But then something else happened. I found that I was much happier without Facebook. I have less envy, jealousy, I gossip less. I think I’m generally more positive.
I still hang out on Twitter and G+—like you, I’m not “anti-social” just can’t stand FB!
Comment by Brad Farris
on 09/23/13 at 07:06 AM
@Brad - Thanks for your comments… and yes, I do feel happier too with less negativity!
Comment by Mike Maddaloni
on 09/23/13 at 08:02 AM
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