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Site updates for August 2014; leaving Facebook for good
If you've been a regular reader, first off I'd like to say a heartfelt thanks! I consider this blog to be my 'front porch' in the online world, and visitors are as appreciated here as they'd be if I actually had a real-world porch. Moving forward, I intend to spend more time here in the realm of interaction rather than social media - more on that later.
Anyway, if you're a regular here, you've seen some big changes happening to the layout of the site. This was due to finally realizing that I needed to concede to the reality of the mobile device takeover: my web stats show that mobile viewership is now accounting for 50% to 70% of all traffic here! So, I needed to design a layout to accommodate screens both large and small. If you are reading this on a phone, you've probably noticed this change right away, as the pages and images now all shrink down to fit your screen (while the text stays the same size). Hopefully this eliminates all side-to-side scrolling and makes the whole experience much better for those on small smartphones. I opted to do this 'adaptive design', rather than a second mobile version (that would essentially involve maintaining two web sites).
The complete roll-out of the new layout is basically finished now, after about a month of going through thousands of old pages and updating all tables/images to adapt to smaller screens. The main design was a simple global change, but many individual pages needed custom treatment to work correctly on phones. This site is 19 years old next month, which means there was a LOT of content to go back through. I spent two whole evenings just going through and applying the updates to the old-format chase reports from 1993 to 2003. All in all, at least everything is ready for the mobile takeover to continue (even though I still don't use a smartphone myself yet - that may be a while).
Goodbye to Facebook - and good riddance?
As of Wednesday, I will be ditching my personal Facebook account permanently (the Storm Highway page will remain and stay updated). If you've been a friend or reader for years, you know I've tried doing this a couple of times in the past, yet still came back. So what's different about this time, you ask? Well, I've increasingly been thinking about where I spend my time, and how that time benefits me and others. My main conclusion is that Facebook is bad for me, and probably is bad for society/humanity. I think it's a little like cigarette smoking or drinking sugary soda - you don't realize what it's really doing to you until you stop and look/think (or develop a medical problem from it). Here are some of my thoughts:
Facebook is a frighteningly efficient time drain.
I considered myself to be a moderate Facebook user, intentionally limiting my posts to once every few days so as to not annoy my friends. However, when I actually made a deliberate effort to track how much time I was actually spending on there, I realized that it was simply too much. I would venture to say the same is probably true for most Facebook users, but like the frog-in-boiling-water effect, most probably don't even realize how much they've developed their habit.
The numbers don't lie - Facebook leads in just about every internet-use metric. How is that affecting our economy and more importantly, our real-world relationships? Think about it. How did you spend your time before Facebook? Wasn't that a better way to live?
It is unnatural to stay connected 24/7/365 with all of your friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances. Think about that, really. How did anyone think that this would be a good idea: being mutually connected to every unfiltered thought and whim of everyone you've ever been acquainted with - all day, every day, 365 days a year. Facebook is essentially a little like living with someone - hearing their thoughts and seeing what they are doing, all the time. I wouldn't even want that with my closest friends and family, as I'm sure likewise they wouldn't want of me! How then, did we all accept that very thing not only with our friends, but people we barely associate with in real life?
Facebook breeds misinformation rather than knowledge. The rate at which hoaxes, urban legends, inaccurate news details, bad science, and general misinformation spread on Facebook rivals nothing else humanity has ever seen. The false always outpaces the true. Case in point, a recent weather hoax spread like wildfire, with the corrective counter-efforts paling in terms of shares. Unvetted news stories spread literally around the world in a matter of hours, and then the 'momentum' of public opinion doesn't seem to change when the real facts begin coming in. Facebook turns the clock back on any advances in critical thinking and knowledge that modern society has enjoyed in the last 100 years. It exploits the mob mentality tendency inherent in every person, bringing out the worst in us.
Facebook interaction has replaced real interaction. This one is huge. Look at what has happened to how you interact with friends and even family. I know I've personally seen this, and it is partly my fault too, I know. But when you see everything that goes on in your friends' lives all day, there's not as much motivation to get together, and not as much to talk about when you actually see each other in real life or talk on the phone.
Society's reliance and dependence on Facebook makes us all vulnerable. Facebook has proven that they call the shots, and will undemocratically assert their will over what the user community wants. That includes issues of privacy, usability, interaction, features and more. I understand that they are a business, and are completely entitled to monetize whatever they can. But they've become too big. That's not good for you, me or anyone.
Look, I'm all for staying connected with people. I'm not saying Facebook brings nothing useful to the table. What I do assert is that Facebook's detriments are far more weighty than their benefits, and that should concern everyone. I'm already looking forward to my 'detoxing' of Facebook's influence over my everyday life. Although I'm not trying to start a movement, I really hope others will join me. My 'front porch' here is open!