Why I Hate Facebook

facebook-logo2There have been a slew of articles in recent days by various people explaining why they’re leaving Facebook and you should, too. While most of them center on Facebook’s ever-shifting privacy policy, which basically mean that anything you’ve ever shared with Facebook is fair game for them to sell to anyone they choose, my frustration with the site is more fundamental.

My problem is twofold.

First, Facebook itself is constantly changing and its interface is exceedingly frustrating to use.  And, while I’m no technical genius, it’s fair to say that I’m a power user of the Internet, having spent upwards of twelve hours a day utilizing the Web for going on a decade.   Initially, it was the wave of applications, which were opened up weeks after I joined Facebook.   No, damn it, I don’t want to engage in a vampire war with you and, no, I don’t want to take a quiz to see how my movie preferences stack up with someone whose friend request I accepted because I vaguely knew who they were and didn’t want to hurt their feelings.   And it seems that, just as I’ve figured out how to do something on the site, they change the layout.

Second, though, is a problem of my own creation that Laura McGann actually captures:

In the ensuing years it also became about rekindling old friendships or feeling smug about avoiding the same, promoting my work as a journalist, and showing loyalty to media outlets, causes, and yes, even brands. But somewhere in that transition from a social site meant to deepen interpersonal relationships to a self promotional, commercial tool, Facebook lost its appeal. The various facets of my life merged into a web of connectivity where I could no longer clearly create distinct relationships with friends, foes, and fast food — either because I can’t figure out how or because Facebook is preventing me outright. For me, the overwhelming connectivity to everyone and everything, without much control over those ties, feels like I’m no longer connected to anything, and meanwhile, outside groups benefit.

Those of us with a strong online presence have to figure out what we want out of the site and have tended to either not do so at all, never develop a consistent pattern of behavior, or figured out too late. I started out on Facebook using it mostly as a network for promoting OTB and interacting with people associated in some way with the site — co-bloggers, commenters, bloggers at other sites, and the like.  Almost immediately, though, people I knew in “real life” also initiated friend requests and I likewise and, before I knew it, the personal and professional blurred in a way that was destructive to both.

I’ve got 657 Facebook “friends” and would have perhaps twice that number if I accepted all the requests.  Maybe 100 of those people are actual friends, or at least people I know fairly well.  Others are long-lost high school and college classmates.  The lion’s share are either other bloggers, people I’ve met through blogging, or people with whom I have a vague business networking relationship.   The remainder are an odd assortment of celebrities that I’ve “friended” for one reason or another, people who I accepted during periods when I was taking all comers, and people who I’ve met once and approved their request shortly after said meeting.

Now, obviously, I care about these “friends” to much different degrees.  For my closest friends, I’m happy to see their latest photos and interested in updates about their life.  For the most remotely connected of my “friends,” I’m happy to share mutual access to our profiles and the ability to send the occasional message but, otherwise, I don’t want a feed of information.   Those in between are, well, in between those extremes.

Were I starting out on Facebook now, I’d probably have just a personal profile for close friends and family — perhaps also including former classmates and work associates with whom I haven’t remained close — and either simply a “page” for OTB or a separate profile (say, “JamesOTB”) altogether for that purpose.   But, not having done it that way, I mostly don’t use Facebook.  Indeed, my Facebook messages have, for quite some time, simply gone directly into a Gmail folder that I seldom look at.

Again, this is mostly my fault rather than Facebook’s.  But they do their best to make fixing any of it next to impossible.  They’ve given me the ability to create “lists” but, as with McGann, that’s not only unwieldy but socially awkward.  More importantly, the bizarre interface of the site is such that I can’t figure out how to limit the news feed I get from my “friends” come only from the list of my closest friends.   (Yes, I’ve Googled.  The site changes so often that the instructions are no longer applicable.)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. It is designed for teenagers and their social networking idiosyncracies. Hard to square that with your professional needs.

    A hammer is a very effective tool, but it cannot be used very well to extract a screw.

  2. I have made it work for me by luckily deciding to limit the number of “friends” that I have to mostly being actual friends/family, although not entirely (which has it drawbacks).

    Interestingly, FB has been a big deal for Colombian politics, which has given me a professional interest as well.

  3. J.W. Hamner says:

    As someone who shares my thoughts with anybody who cares to read them on my own blog, I’ve not found much utility in posting stuff on Facebook. If a didn’t have I blog I’d probably feel differently, and certainly people on my friends list seem to use it as “blogging lite” or whatever.

    The one nice thing about it is that it meshes very well with my Android phone… consolidating e-mail addresses and whatever contact information they provide there (including profile pictures) with the info I have in my phone into my Google Contacts, which is handy.

    I ignore the feeds of people who spam various game stuff and the like, because somebody told me they don’t get informed of that… but I have no idea if that’s really true. Hopefully I haven’t offended too many people that way.

  4. G.A.Phillips says:

    Farmville is life!!!!!!

  5. Mark says:

    You can’t make FB work the way you want? Seriously?

    sheesh, maybe I should start a blog then. apparently I’m smarter than I thought.

  6. Andy says:

    I think Bill Sweetman would agree with you.

  7. Brian says:

    Re: only close friends update:

    With over 600 friends it’ll take a while, but every time you see an update on the front page, or whatever the Hell it’s called, there’ll be a ‘hide’ button on the left. Click it, and you’ll get the option to Hide the sender, or the particular thing being updated, i.e. you can block JOHN SMITH or JOHN SMITH’S Vampire updates.

    O’course, w/600+ friends you’re talking a lot of clicking. I’ve limited myself to only 50 or so. Maybe I’m just not that popular…

  8. UlyssesUnbound says:

    You know what else I hate about facebook? When kids walk on my lawn.

  9. Triumph says:

    657 Facebook “friends” and would have perhaps twice that number if I accepted all the requests

    Yeah, Facebook is incredibly lame–mostly because you rejected my friendship request!

    That’s why I prefer twitter–my idols can not reject me!

  10. James Joyner says:

    Yeah, Facebook is incredibly lame–mostly because you rejected my friendship request!

    I can never tell when your friendship requests are serious.

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    I can never tell when your friendship requests are serious.

    Why do you got to make fun of Triumph James? Just because he is a real conservative?!?!?!

  12. anjin-san says:

    I don’t find Facebook difficult to use, but I am pretty troubled by their lack of regard for user privacy. They recently added a feature that shared user info with third parties, there was no notification that I saw. It was auto-enabled to allow Facebook to share your information, you could go into your preferences and disable it, but I only knew it existed because one of my friends told me about. A very nasty trick to play on your users – 180 degrees from a best practice.