Thursday, May 27, 2010


Facebook: Breaking up is Hard to Do

I mentioned my admiration for Danah Boyd's work in a previous post almost three years ago:
I usually don't say much about online social networks since Danah Boyd pretty much says everything that needs to be said.

With the extraordinary recent blowback against Facebook and her SXSW talk, I was curious to see if she had blogged about people quitting facebook, and indeed, she has: Quitting Facebook is pointless; challenging them to do better is not was a worthwhile read and I found myself agreeing with her for the most part.

However, consistent with pretty much everyone else I've seen explaining their decision to stay with Facebook, she unnecessarily creates imaginary straw men: people who are leaving just because they're unhappy. I don't know anyone who is leaving just because they're unhappy. I do know people departing because of Facebook behaving unethically.

Let's cut to the chase and get to the part where Facebook is the abusive boyfriend that everyone has to stand by. Boyd explains that we have to stand by Facebook because it has put its users in a vulnerable position:
I believe that a significant minority of users are at risk because of decisions Facebook has made and I think that those of us who aren’t owe it to those who are to work through these issues.

This is an honorable position that lets us preclude leaving facebook from having any meaning unless it changes the behavior of Facebook. However, many people are leaving exactly because they have learned that Facebook holds all the chips in the relationship and will not change. If they and people they care about can leave Facebook without damage, that is meaningful for them regardless of its effects on Facebook's behavior. Can you say cult?

If all this sounds strangely familiar, it is. Again, we have a case of a corporation privatizing profits while socializing costs (our time) and by sticking with facebook (and falling for a "bunch of mistakes" - predators do not mind being thought incompetent), we're bailing them out. Good luck with that.

Assuming Facebook won't change, the only answer for a problem like this is for people to leave. It's a world wide web last time I checked and this is a trainwreck we've been watching in slow-motion for four years that demands more and more of people's time. Time that people don't have to deal with this nonsense anymore. It's time to get radical about protecting our time.


Hey Tom -- Great post. Just when I'm waking up to Facebook as a paradigm shift, I'm learning I'm late to the party by about 4 years. :) But just like I said in my posts, one man's f&%$-up is another's opportunity. Since I haven't really even got going on Facebook yet, I'll be keeping an eye on Diaspora. Thanks for the pointer. Peter
How would one leave Facebook if they wanted to? Don't they keep all your info, photos etc?
you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. :) my limited understanding is that there's two ways to leave facebook. you can "deactivate" your account or you can "permanently delete" your account. maybe try these instructions to leave facebook?

facebook does not provide any service that can be better provided elsewhere. a blog account on is an easy way to establish online identity and adding links to other blogs. the only problem i've encountered is when an online event is planned solely on facebook and, in this case, the lack of a facebook account prohibits online participation associated with the event. you can still attend the event, of course, but exclusion from leaving feedback for others to see is unfortunate.
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