Eight and a Half Reasons Why Tomorrow Will See the End of My Facebook Account

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Summary: Tomorrow, I will delete my Facebook profile that I have increasingly used as an online persona for, man, I don't know. A while? The reasons are varied (partially, I just need to take a break) and I wanted to lay them all out since a few them might be eye opening.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

(15:13:09 CDT)

Eight and a Half Reasons Why Tomorrow Will See the End of My Facebook Account

Update For those who read this story when I first posted, I have included a series of links, below, in the updates and reasons 8/8.5 have been moved to 9/9.5 with a new reason 8, below.

I don't remember when I signed up for my Facebook account. 2006? 2007? I know I did not have it in 2005. I know I did have it in 2007. Let's split the difference. At any rate, like many people, what was once just an aspect of an online persona has grown and grown until a lot of my other accounts are routed through it: Twitter, Delicious, Picasaweb. I once even had my (i.e. this) blog's RSS feed set up to auto-post Notes to my profile. While Facebook has probaly only a dozen times matched the depth and enjoyment of discussions I have had on sources like Livejournal, and rarely invokes that more giddy sense of finding new friends and flailing out comments on their blogs that earlier Myspace had, it can't be beat, hands down, for convenience. Sure, the chat barely works and the Facebook mail/message system is laughably less advanced that 1990 era e-mail, and one can never tell if a friend is not posting or just not showing due to some compatibility algorithm: but, by God, Facebook is the swiss army knife of online accounts. It does a little bit of everything, and most of it mediocre, but for one stop shopping it, who wouldn't buy THAT for a dollar.

With some sadness, I am going to go ahead and let the sucker go. For now. Let's be honest, unless some strange comet sweeps through the sky and is taken, miraculously as an anti-Facebook omen, it's only going to get more important. I'd bet good money that before I finish grad school there will be a wdougbolden account with resume and such attached. And there will possibly be a "wyrmis" account with almost no personal information but snarky notes and status updates showing up, but I do not foresee those two personas ever matching up on Facebook again. I am twain upon that site.

There are reasons. Depending on your vehicle, your mileage may vary on any given one. I know in philosophical circles, this might be considered a shotgun argument, a spray of pellets meant to attack confidence rather than a killing stroke. I'm ok with that. Fact is, for most people, I'm sure most of these don't matter. I'm just a little disturbed is all.

#9.5 The needing a break beginning: It started out with me needing a break from online stuff. I do this at the end of every semester, take a week or so off from checking online stuff, at least quite so much. My last couple of tries petered out. I would take a day off, and then sneak on here or there to check things. This year, I got wise and set up a hosts file that redirect all attempts on facebook.com back to my own server. Once I did, I began noticing quite a few pages trying to connect to Facebook while I surfed them. Part of that was no doubt innocent, but not only it struck me as such, because of what happened in the next number.

#9 The Cracked.com incident (as representative of a class of incidents): About a day or two before I decided to take the break, I noticed the Cracked.com was connected to my Facebook account as an authorized application. Given the chance, I might have added it as a "fan of" page, but I did not authorize it as an application. Remember, in FB terms, applications can get a fair amount of personal information about you and your friends. Turns out, something I found thanks to the rerouting above, several sites have some varation of a FB social plugin. This connects to your Facebook content and shows things like recent activity of friends, and no doubt grants Cracked.com (and other sites like Pandora that use it) information about their users without resorting to the quickly deemed onerous Instant Personalization (notice the initials are IP and that has two other distinct meanings? I sure did). I was angry about this, at both FB and Cracked.com. [See UPDATE D, below] What's more, this kind of glitch/sudden-change-in-policy is indicative of an entire class of similar: allow people in on personal chats for a few whatevers, changing the policy that parts of your profile must be public (once started, when does that stop), exposing this or that at times. Maybe another issue of this sort will never happen again, but I no longer want to find out.

Cracked.com, showing the social app

#8 What they did to Sarah: Here's a bonus reason not included when I originally posted this. Sarah was following suit with deleting her account, but when she posted that she was leaving, and included a link to this article to explain why, it wouldn't post it to her friend's feed. As of now, about 4-5 hours later, those two posts haven't showed up while a more recent post did. The only thing is, the more recent post doesn't mention deleting Facebook. At least not until she commented to her own post.

#7 Related Posts: Then, a day or so later, I found out about "Related Posts". How they work is Facebook sniffs through new wall posts and, if their keywords somewhat match up with a Page (e.g. a business or social figure) then it will show up on that page as Related Posts. For instance, a friend posted about mattresses and I went and looked on the Mattress page (I don't know, people get bored?) and sure enough, his post was right there. While this makes sense in something like an information retrieval system, it nevertheless seems out of place on a site that people signed up for to talk amongst friends about stuff that they assume is as nearly private as e-mail (yes, I said it like that on purpose). Not only are unknown numbers of strangers reading your posts, and are granted some access to your profile because it shows up there, but it has really weird consequences. For instance, a message to your friends about a political figure suddenly shows up on their page and becomes at best data for their campaign at at worst a way to increase the chance that those against your point of view can find you and harass you.

Global related posts

#6 The unnecessary amount of latitude allowed applications and the stupid Page thing, as well as wheels within wheels of settings: This has been rehashed to death with all of the coverage that goes on, but I'll say it briefly and simply again. When you add an application, it gets authorization to your personal information and some of your friends personal information. What's more, it forces a lot of your connections, now, such as places of business and likes and dislikes to be public. Even if you tell it "Make my interests friends only" you can log out, go and look at your Facebook profile, and see all of them. If you tell it to make your Wall private but don't tell it to make, say, Twitter's application private that that defaults to Everyone. Etc. Etc.

#5 The failure to punished Zynga for their crimes against Net-manity: Last year, the people behind Zynga (i.e. Mafia Wars, FarmVille) admitted to scams and abusing the Facebook TOS. Some might say "bragged". Despite Facebook's policies being violated, they took a very laissez-faire approach. Not only is this bad form, in my opinion, but this means you essentially cannot trust any app on their system and, if you do, and it turns bad for you, oh well.

#4 Bleeding wall posts: I've complained about this for a while, while continuing to use it like every other good stalker. Let's say you make your profile air-tight. Then a friend of yours makes a comment on your photo. Now, not only that photo, but the album the photo is in, is up for viewing. Facebook is working tightening this, I've noticed, with a lot of the more egregious cases seemingly stopped, but who knows when the next wave of privacy changes will sweep through FB and suddenly that information will be easier to access again? After all, it does support FB's serendipitous friend finding mission. In fact, I've noticed that wall-to-wall stuff between friends is showing up more and more, and the other day some wall posts made by non-friends showed up after friends commented on them. That stopped after a couple of days, but again, it just seems to be getting worse.

#3 The mood has changed: In 2007, if I had a mission on Facebook, it was to "poke" my wife and friend (Becca *wink* *wink* heh), play Scrabble with them, give them "free gifts", and make chortle comments over their photos. We tagged one another in notes, linked items to one another, and had a good old time. For the past, say, dozen weeks, over half of my FB friends' feed has been a mixture of repetitious political debate, almost nonsensical non-sequiturs, brain droppings of the most brain dropping quality, links to numerous other sites, stuff I've already read on Twitter, and did I mention personal attacks over the slightest thing? The other half, by the way, is largely a mixture of who liked what, who friended whom, and what 1,000,000 strong group others have joined today. I want my Scrabble back, dammit, and the feeling that came from taunting Becca after I scored a seven letter word and got fifty bonus points. I want to log in and see three photo comments and they are from good friends joking about about my new haircut, or where the only comment left on a Note is "*giggle*". If I even try to post something serious, one of my "friends" will call another a douche or something worse. It is tiring. A site full of friends and there is so little happiness. I think part of it is a change in mission. Over the past three years, I have seen it change from the sort of place you needed an e-mail address with a certain domain in order to sign up an account to the sort of place where grandmothers chide grandchildren for inappropriate pics. Now that's Internet prestige. It also means that a person on Facebook is talking to their church group, their high school class, their coworkers, their college class, their family, and people they met in a bar all at the same time. Screw that. That's unnatural.

#2 The Intellectual Property stipulation from the TOS: Without much elaboration, I'll quote directly from Facebook's Terms of Service. "For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos ("IP content"), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook ("IP License"). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it." Sure it mentions "privacy settings", but then it says, on the same page, that applications have to tell you which information they are using and when it is the last one you've seen do that? Also notice that if you "share with others" and they don't also delete, then Facebook retains the IP issues above. "Shared with others" is a very ambiguous term to use when it comes to Social Networking.

#1 I don't see it getting better: And that's just it. FB has only gotten a dozen times worse over the past couple of years. It hangs up when I try deleting some content. It "forgets" some privacy settings. It is actively trying to expand its chat, mail, and application prowess around the net and many are welcoming it (despite things like FB's past censorship of its messages). Screw it. I don't like it now. I haven't liked its policies since probably 2008 or mid-2009. I have hated the continuous changes to the friends' feed and the way that any work around I find to make it palatable gets broken in a few months. Notice the way they are already colluding the different types of "Likes", though they have different functions (some grant the things you like the ability to get to your profile information) because people liked Liking things but not necessarily becoming a fan. That's nearly the path of evil right there, changing what well excepted terms mean and in a meaningful way without meaningful explanation*. I cannot see myself liking it in 2011 or 2012. With all that, my old FB profile is going away. Whatever takes it place will be a different sort of thing with all the above taken into account. I think that's ok. Nothing on the Net lasts forever, except personal information and that embarrassing pic of you taken at that one party.

For those thinking that I am overreacting, and I am sure there are those that do, then you can also read this recent Wired article: "Facebook's Gone Rogue; It's Time for an Open Alternative". It mentions a lot of the same things I do, and some other things. In fact, I recommend just about everyone read it. Just as an FYI, I am not judging anyone for having an account. I am just saying it is no longer for me.

UPDATE A: I know the URL says "seven" instead of "eight". Somewhere in the process of writing, I added 1.5 reasons.

UPDATE B: Note that there is a difference between deleting and deactivating your account. If you "deactivate it", which is relatively easy, it retains everything. Deleting it supposedly causes them to flush your IP, but some hold that in doubt. If you are wanting to delete it, here are steps. Here is another version of the steps.

UPDATE C: Anyone wanting to stay in touch just needs to keep in mind one of the many ways to contact me is all.

UPDATE D: This article explains the Cracked.com thing.

UPDATE E: This is apparently zeitgeist, because this came out today on the NYTimes: Facebook Executive Answers Reader Questions. This explains the FB stance to some of the same things I am complaining about now. Most come down to "We believe these things make for a better experience" and "Most users don't seem to mind". And the kind of smarmy spin doctoring you would expect. But it does show some of the big points in their game plan and some might appreciate the very things I dislike more after reading them.

UPDATE E++: I'm just going to start collecting all of the "Why you should delete" or "I am deleting" or "Why Facebook is/n't Bad" and such posts I find or that were sent to me, here:

Si Vales, Valeo

*: Scroll down in this article until you get to the "Getting Worse" section for more on this.


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