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                   Monday, January 30, 2012 - 11:01AM CST

Leaving Facebook

By DAN ROBINSON
Editor/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Observing
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NOTE: The stormhighway.com Facebook page/feed will remain active - this post is about my personal presence on Facebook.

I finally dropped Facebook this past weekend after a near 3-year presence there. I've had an increasingly sour experience and growing disdain for that site, for many reasons - two of the biggest of which I'll outline below.

Facebook is a popularity contest, a return to high school social hierarchy:

It's obvious that when you post something on Facebook, not everyone on your friends list sees it. There is evidence that the number of friends that even see your Facebook posts at all is related to how 'popular' you have been in the past. The more people consistently 'like' and/or comment on your posts, the more of your friends will see future posts. The less overall response your posts get, the more worthless Facebook sees you as a whole, and the less people will see what you're posting in the future.

It appears that when you make a post, only the people you interact with the most will see it. Those you rarely interact with, won't. The less popular your posts are overall, the less of your friends will see future posts. If your posts are consistently unpopular, only a handful of your closest friends may end up seeing them. Facebook's algorithm is ultimately a return to a 'high school' social playing field - only the 'cool' get the most out of the site, the 'uncool' get buried and forgotten. Ultimately, the people who rarely interact with you might as well just not be Facebook friends with you at all - the end result is the same: either way, you're not going to see much of each other's posts.

I've never been popular or 'cool', something that stopped mattering to me after I graduated from high school. But even so, I really don't like being constantly reminded of it on a daily in-your-face basis like I do on Facebook. For an unpopular guy like me, using Facebook is like talking to a wall. It's the same feeling as speaking up at a high school party (that no one there really wants you to be at) and being ignored completely. But in this case, it's not so much that you're being ignored - it's that you're blindfolded and shuffled off into a back room. You're made to believe you have friends listening, when really, you're just in an empty room talking to yourself.

Even if everyone on my friends list *was* seeing my posts, the overall lack of feedback gives me the same impression nonetheless. And yeah, I know - on the internet, lack of response doesn't always mean lack of appreciation. I don't comment on every post *I* see on my feed. But all I have to do is look at the other comment-filled posts on my feed by others, and it's hard to not compare the glaring lack of the same on mine. Facebook, for me, is basically a confirmation that adult life is still clandestinely operating on high school rules. Even though it shouldn't, being 'cool' still matters in the real world. And yep, thanks to Facebook, I know that I'm no more popular/relevant to others today than I was in high school. Fine, I can live with it - but now that I've figured that out (again), there's no need to have the daily reminder in my face.

Facebook is forcing conformity to standards of their choosing:

Options for personalization and setting the site up the way you prefer keep disappearing. The recent Timeline imposition is the latest example. The list of friends is now randomly jumbled instead of alphabetized. If you switch your newsfeed to 'sort posts by date' (the way I preferred it), Facebook will just switch it back the next morning - every day. Everything from font size to page layouts is dictated to the user. Businesses can now use your status updates as semi-permanent advertisements to your friends, implying an official endorsement that you may or may not have intended - and you can't opt out. Thanks to Google, there is evidence that posts complaining about these issues are simply deleted from the support site rather than being answered.

You have no 'rights' on Facebook. You never will, because they're not a public entity. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but the power and reach that Facebook has developed over the past few years is not only mind-bogglingly impressive, but troubling. There has never been anything like Facebook in human history - an international platform with more users than most *countries* have combined: all controlled by a single corporation. Can you think of any historical parallel to that, ever? Increasing facets of peoples' lives are migrating onto the Facebook platform, with the site moving rapidly toward becoming a hub for communication and interaction more so than the internet itself. I've become increasingly uncomfortable giving a single corporation so much of my life, especially when they show a capability for no restraint when it comes to undemocratically imposing their will on users. The world has simply never seen anything like Facebook before, and the potential for things to go down questionable paths seems more likely than not.

I know being off of Facebook will cost me in some ways. It will cause me to be out of the loop on important things happening with close friends and family, deprive me with an easy way to communicate and share results of expeditions/photos/videos, and cause me to miss or be uprepared for some events (news, weather, social/church events) that I may have been tipped off to otherwise. But, it's a cost I'm willing to live with. Furthermore, I'm still able to manage my Facebook feeds for this site and icyroadsafety.com without having to use the site on a personal level.

So as far as my online presence is concerned, I say long live blogs, web sites and RSS/XML feeds! Completely user-controlled, infinitely customizable and ultimately free for growth and innovation in whatever direction we, as users, choose.

I'll miss seeing your comments but understand completely
- Posted by Mom
I'm thinking about getting rid of it too, the problem is people who are hooked on using facebook as a chat tool and wont use anything else.
- Posted by jeremy
I'm not too thrilled with Facebook either. The only reason I joined was to support a local museum in my area.
- Posted by John Citron from Haverhill, MA

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