I’ve never really liked Facebook, as regular readers of the blog will be all too aware of, but I’ve been a user of it in the last couple of years, mostly at the cajoling of friends. During this same period of time I also started using Twitter, a service which I was also skeptical about initially. Previously, I’d always relied on my blog, forums and official sites to do my interacting, and I wasn’t sure I needed anything else.
What’s happened in the last couple of years is that Twitter has risen inexorably in my daily usage due to being genuinely useful as a networking aid, while Facebook has not fared that well at all. I tried posting updates to it from Twitter for a while via Selective Tweets, which led to a considerable blip in my Facebook usage (even though I wasn’t using the site) but honestly I can’t be bothered with it anymore. And not just because of the rubbish that sloshes around Facebook.
Facebook is ‘sold’ on the idea that you can realistically make / be friends with people, or even keep in meaningful personal touch with people you do genuinely know, via short messages and photos on an online service. My personal opinion after trying to use it as such for a while, is that this is a massive crock of elephant dung. Relationships are built on meaningful contact, and Facebook provides - is only capable of providing - only meaningless, trivial contact. Of all the ways you can keep in touch with people, it’s about the very worst you could possibly use, IMHO. It’s convenient, sure, but convenience doesn’t make for good personal contact. Honestly, if you can’t be bothered to make the effort to meet someone in person or talk on the phone (and home video calls aren’t that hard in the 21st century), then really you’re not that bothered about keeping in genuine contact with them. It’s better just to be honest - you’re kinda interested in knowing what’s up in their life, but not interested enough to have coffee with them, or otherwise make any genuine time for them.
In this context, Facebook is a fallacy. The whole point of Facebook versus Twitter or any other public internet medium is that Facebook is ‘private’ (barring any changes in rules they might feel like making to make a buck on your data of course). But if you don’t care enough to speak to someone other than in Facebook, and vis-a-vis you’re not really that much of a friend, then why would you want them to know things you wouldn’t post publicly? This is behind many the Facebook fo-pahs that seem to crop up with increasing regularity. Twitter is honest about the level of interaction you’re having with people. Facebook tries to make you think it’s more significant than it is.
Maybe you’re a highly gregarious person who genuinely has over 100 real friends that you’d share your private information with. Maybe you feel that personal relationships are upheld and maintained by Facebook messages. I don’t, and I’m going to stop pretending that it’s serving a useful purpose in my life. I have a small collection of friends and family with whom I exchange information by meeting and speaking to them - these are the only people I’d consider exchanging genuinely personal information with. There’s a second much larger collection of people whom I don’t meet personally but who I’m interested in keeping in contact with, and by and large they’re all on Twitter - which also does a far better job of delivering that information without bombarding me with all kinds of other nonsense. There’s really no useful middle ground for Facebook to fill, for me. And using Facebook as a supplement with people I already know? Frankly it’s far more entertaining to talk to them about their week’s exploits than read about them on Facebook - in fact Facebook can take the wind out of a good anecdote 😀
Really, you should never post anything on the Internet that you wouldn’t mind being public, since Facebook hardly has an unblemished record for actual privacy (whether that’s via Facebook themselves, or friends or friends-of-friends). I think that a lot of people use Facebook like I use Twitter, except there’s far more scope for dangerous misunderstandings about what is appropriate to post. I think non-digital social protocols dealt with sensitive & private information much better, and that online services are best used only for non-private things. From now on, that’s what I’m going to do, and I’m not the only one.