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Facebook status

A couple of months ago I posted that I was unplugging from Facebook. At the time I was somewhat concerned that no one was visiting this blog if I didn’t post links to it from Facebook, but decided that was a fair trade-off for staying away from a seriously problematic platform (for all the reasons I mentioned in that post). But eventually I decided to compromise, and created a page for the sole purpose of linking to this blog, while ceasing to post to or from my personal page altogether.

Trying to stay away from Facebook wasn’t easy when I was constantly bombarded with e-mail notifications. While I chose to keep getting a select few, I had to unsubscribe from over twenty separate notifications of everything from upcoming birthdays to page maintenance “suggestions,” and I’ve had to turn some of these notifications off more than once:

Checkbook list of Facebook notifications[Image: Screenshot with the header of “Notifications you’ve turned off” and a list of 21 separate notifications, with a “Turn On” button next to each one.]

I’ve also removed myself as co-admin of several pages and groups, notifying the other admins that I’m restricting my Facebook moderation duties to pages where I’m solely responsible for the content. I don’t want anyone to assume I’ve endorsed a post or action taken by another admin.

I also really don’t like the limited moderation options for discussion threads. Holding comments for moderation, closing threads, and disabling comments altogether are really basic features, and the fact that Facebook refuses to support them is worrisome. The best one can do on a personal page is limit comments to people on one’s friendslist:Facebook comment settings for public posts[Image: Screenshot from Facebook showing a drop-down menu of who can comment on public posts: Everybody, Friends of Friends, or Friends.]

And on a public page, you can only choose to block people from posting altogether, or block specific words from appearing in comments:

Facebook page moderation - blocking keywords[Image: Screenshot from Facebook page moderation screen explaining how to add blocked keywords to “cut down on inappropriate content.”]

Some people have employed a workaround by entering a number of really common words into the filter, but this is kludgy and shouldn’t be required. Ironically, Facebook’s own Help Center has moderation features that are lacking on user-run pages:

Facebook Help Center discussion on group moderation[Image: Screenshot of a Facebook Help Center discussion thread on “How can I close a thread on a group page ?”]

I’m guessing that allowing more comments to remain publicly visible is in Facebook’s best interest, as that means more eyeballs on their ads. They might spin this policy decision as in the best interest of their users, to be more “engaged” with their friends and followers, but really it’s an economic decision. Fair enough; I don’t pay anything for using Facebook, and they aren’t obligated to include whatever features I demand.

But I’m not obligated to use Facebook either. And frankly, I’m probably contributing to the problem by not taking a firm stand and leaving that network altogether, permanently. I’ve seen a number of people announce, sometimes with great fanfare, that they are leaving Facebook, only to come back a few weeks or months later, which is awkward. This is why I said in my original post that I fully expected to return eventually.

Regardless, I realize that for some people, Facebook is a lifeline, and deleting their account isn’t a reasonable option. The same goes for people who are required to use Facebook for their jobs. This is one of the many reasons why the “real names” policy that’s gotten people unjustly locked out of their accounts is so harmful. Violet Blue has a good post on that subject.

Independent of all the Facebook policy problems, another reason I’m reluctant to post anything besides links to this blog is that I’ve seen a blatant disregard for privacy, with screenshots and extended quotes from private messages and closed and “secret” groups posted publicly on numerous occasions. This is not a Facebook-specific issue, and in some cases the publication was arguably justified. But at this point I honestly don’t know who to trust.

So for now, I’ll continue, reluctantly, with my limited use of Facebook to promote this blog. It’s an imperfect compromise, but that’s social networking for you.

Unplugging from Facebook

I’ve been avoiding Facebook for about ten days now, and am in no hurry to go back. In that week and a half, I’ve been continually prodded by Facebook to return. When the system first realized I’d been inactive for more than a day, it e-mailed me status updates from people on my friendslist. Then it sent me a list of “people I may know.” There was at least one other similar, unsolicited notification.

I opted out of those lists, but chose to keep having event invitations and messages sent to my e-mail in case anything really important came up. Though I posted publicly on September 23 that I was going to be away from Facebook for a bit and that people could e-mail me with anything urgent, I realized that most people would assume I’m still checking my Facebook messages.

I really don’t like how ubiquitous Facebook has become, replacing e-mail and text messaging for so many people. E-mail has been my preferred form of communication since I first started using it back in 1989 or thereabouts. I’ve never felt good about trusting something so important to me to a “free” service, especially one like Facebook.  I do use Google’s services for my calendar and contact list, I’ll admit, as I enjoy the seamless syncing to my Android phone. But my e-mail and web sites have been hosted by pair Networks, a company I’ve found very trustworthy and reliable, since 2003.

As for text messaging, I use that primarily for very short communications with my spouse, along the lines of “on my way home” or “do you need anything from the store.” I definitely prefer texting and e-mails over phone calls, but neither need nor want any Facebook apps installed on my phone for these purposes. I have a great plan with Ting where I only pay for the texts, data, and minutes that I actually use. If I became unable to afford the ~$20-$30/month I’ve been paying for Ting, I’d be more likely to turn to Google Voice than Facebook for my texts and voice calling needs.

This isn’t to say that I think Google is the harmless company they’ve advertised themselves to be either. I’ve been avoiding Google Plus for much longer than Facebook; I really don’t like Google’s forced integration of that site into their other products. I’ve also been using DuckDuckGo rather than Google for most of my web searching. But at least Google doesn’t enforce a “real names” policy like Facebook continues to do.

In any case, I’d been spending entirely too much time on Facebook, getting into long discussions  that were sometimes productive and enlightening, but too often contentious and stressful. I started this blog specifically because I prefer longer-form writing rather than the quick blurbs that Facebook encourages. I’ve found Medium to be a better fit in that regard, but I still prefer my own blog, as I am solely responsible for the content here.

Unfortunately, since I haven’t been posting new blog entries to my Facebook profile, my visitors here have dropped off. I expected this, and while disappointing, it’s OK, because I am not depending on this blog for my livelihood (though I do accept tips). I’ve resisted making a dedicated Facebook page for this blog specifically because I am a person, not a product or brand. I’m co-manager of several Facebook pages that are in various stages of dereliction, and I’m constantly getting prompted to update them and to buy ads. I realize that’s just part of the deal for getting unlimited use of a “free” service, but I don’t have to buy it.

I’m not deleting my Facebook account, and I fully expect to resume posting there eventually. But not yet. This unplugging is a good thing. Facebook does not own me or my content; I work only for myself.