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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Why I abolished my Facebook account…

“If you’re not paying for it; You’re the Product”

In a little more than ten years, everyday life of almost every middle class adolescent and adult person under fifty in the Western Hemisphere has been partially taken over by the social media. Twitter, Whatsapp, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it. Oh yeah, and of course Facebook…

It hardly matters at which moment of the day or at which location one meets strangers. There is always a well above average chance that these people are totally absorbed by their mobile phones, iPads and Notebooks. In the bus, in the metro, just before or during meetings, during lunch or during a cigarette break and even in the discotheque... people are staring at their cellphones and iPads.

And no, people are probably not watching their phones or other wireless appliances to read their business emails, to make some last minute changes to their university paper or to send an invitation to their colleagues to let them visit an important meeting.
No, most people use their cellphones mostly for fun and leisure, by reading and posting items on the social media of their choice.

I understand that very well… Personally, I am an avid user of Twitter (for fun and hobby) and LinkedIn (for business).

For me it is much fun to react to the opinions of politicians, experts, journalists and pundits on Twitter or to share my own thoughts regarding things that happened on the news or in real life. Twitter is always topical, and a “short, sharp shock” when it comes to opinions and events. Some of the people there come close to being a ´kind of friend´, without ever really becoming one.

Twitter is a very volatile medium and that’s what I like about it. Last week´s discussions are “old news from the dark ages” and today’s hypes and scandals are the hottest thing around. If you ever watched a national football match or a talent show with Twitter comments on, you know what I mean.

And while many users use Twitter to spill their guts about almost anything, it are the quality of numerous discussions and the interaction with the real experts and with some of the dearer twitter users that keeps me hooked to it, And that, in spite of all the negative stories about the ´content being vulgar´ and the general chances for survival of this medium.

And LinkedIn? While this social medium bored me “beyond belief” in its early days, it has evolved into a darn good tool for networking and finding new assignments (always important for freelance professionals), as well as a service-hatch for very interesting stories from people that I respect – including my own stories. And while LinkedIn is not exactly something that I visit for fun, it nevertheless proved its quality to me.

That brings me to Facebook. From all the aforementioned social media, Facebook is by far the most popular (except perhaps for Whatsapp in sheer numbers of users) and the most successful social medium. Period!

Personally, I did not and I still don’t like it! I even disliked it so much that a few weeks ago I decided to abolish my profile on Facebook and make this medium something of the past for me.

Let’s begin with Facebook’s slogan. I take here the translated Dutch slogan, as it is so much more direct than the quite disguised English slogan:

With Facebook you are connected and you share everything with everybody in your life” (in Dutch: “Met Facebook ben je verbonden en deel je alles met iedereen in je leven” )

Isn’t that the creepiest slogan ever? That you are cursed to “share EVERYTHING with EVERYBODY in your life”?

The heck, I won’t!

When I share information and things through social media, I do it out of my own free will and in the possession of my full mental powers.

Although I always hope to do something good with my blogs and tweets and try to make people laugh, enjoy something, (dis)agree with me and make them think about certain subjects or wonder about some marvelous things, I don’t want to receive report marks (i.e. the ‘like’ or future ‘dislike’ button) for my writings. If you like my tweets and articles, it is appreciated and if you hate my guts... be my guest! I love getting a letter from my readers, especially when they felt aided or comforted by some of my articles or want to have information about particular subjects, but that is neither my intention for writing nor my ultimate goal.

With Blogger, Twitter and LinkedIn, this is OK, but it is not with Facebook seemingly.

Facebook wants indeed to know everything from all its users and it wants its users to put their whole life on Facebook: 
  • When you do something or when something happens to you, you put this on Facebook, where it in fact acts as a source for positive or negative assessments by others;
  • When you get new lovers, friends or business relations, Facebook wants to turn them into its own relations and friends and disclose the network that is emerging behind it;
  • When you write a tweet, you often put it on Facebook at the same time, sometimes without realizing that;
  • When you post a picture on it, Facebook immediately considers that to be its own picture, which it can use for its own purposes, without further consent;
  • Facebook wants you to be online as long as possible (24/7) and it wants to make you share, share, share…
  • Facebook bombards you with long, long lists of remote acquaintances and far relatives, hoping that it can push you to expand your own (and in the process their) network;
  • And when you react to somebody else’s posts or adverts through the ‘like’-button or through your comments, you start a whole machinery, trying to make you hand over even more personal information or buy advertized stuff eventually;
  • Facebook wants you to use its instant messaging services, its fixed telephony and its cellphone services, so it can gather even more personal information about you, without you realizing that;
  • And please remember that Facebook never ever forgets.

In its ways to comfort you as a user and make life easier for you – seemingly for free – Facebook seems a benevolent organization, that is created to help the human race and bring it on a higher level of interconnectedness.

Yet you have to remember that YOU are indeed the product for Facebook and that EVERYTHING you do is closely monitored by Facebook, in order to generate more information and thus eventually more cash in the process.

And in my humble opinion, Facebook has proven in the past that European and national privacy laws are nothing more than an annoying obstacle on its road towards total control of information. An obstacle that can be defeated and/or ignored.

In its modus operandi, Facebook sometimes reminds me of Hedra Carlson, the scary tenant in the film “Single White Female”, so intensely played by actress Jennifer Jason Leigh.

At first, Hedra seems to be the perfect companion and “Best Friend Forever” of landlady Allison Jones (Bridget Fonda), until she notices that Hedra is more and more involved in taking over Allison’s total life, at the expense of Allison herself. The end of this movie is very discomforting, even though the heroine of the story survives in the end…

At this moment I don’t have any tangible reasons to accuse Facebook of having more suspicious goals than earning loads of money at my and other people’s expense, through the collection of as much information as possible. Nevertheless, it is exactly this intrusive ‘nature of the beast’ and this relentless pushing to become an indispensable ‘Best Friends Forever’ that bother me very much about Facebook.

Through my writings and tweets, I chose to be a ‘public person’ and I am aware of the consequences that such things can have; positively or negatively.

However, my wife did not choose to become a public person through things that I do on the internet. And especially my three children do not own the luxury of having a real, well-considered choice yet, as they are simply too young for such a choice.

Still, Facebook would probably “die” to know everything about me, my wife and children and all my friends. Not because we are interesting as persons, but because we are interesting as marketing instruments.

I initially created my Facebook profile about three or four years ago in order to look up some data of an old school friend who I had not seen for years. Initially, it offered me a chance to look up some old acquaintances, but those Facebook contacts did hardly lead to something more interesting in real life. Since then, I just left my profile hanging on, as I was further not really interested in the contents on Facebook. Every now and then I watched my profile and pending messages – perhaps about every three months – and sometimes I posted a comment to some event. And every time when I wrote a Blogger article, I posted it on Facebook, as yet another medium to post links to my articles.

A few weeks ago, at one particular moment, I had simply had it with Facebook. I had it because Facebook still published all my tweets unasked, without me standing still with that. And I had it, because it came up with the remotest of acquaintances, gathered from all my email and other social media contacts, asking me to become friends with those people and further build up my network on Facebook’s behalf. And for no particular reason, I simply wanted to get out…

Then I was confronted with the fact that Facebook does not make it easy on a person, when he wants to get out of it. After I looked in vain for half an hour within the tool, to find a way to really abolish my profile (instead of just disabling it), I managed to do so with the help of one dedicated site. Afterwards, I found out that Facebook granted me an involuntary cool-down period of two weeks. A period, in which a person cannot make use of Facebook anymore per accident or else... (he will be reconnected again).

And now I am in the final days of my Facebook membership. Everybody who thinks that I will feel sorry for my decision to stop using it, does not know me really well.

Even though I have my public life on Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogger and some of the other social networks, I want to spend the other parts of my life in the privacy to which I am entitled. And that privacy especially stretches to my loved ones and other family.

I will not discourage people to use Facebook, when they have a good time with it and enjoy its possibilities, while taking the drawbacks for granted. I just wanted to tell you my motivation to abolish it for good. 

Do with that and think about that what you want, as I am not really interested in your opinions about my acts and motivation in such matters. However, if you need my help for a good and righteous cause, you know where to find me... 

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