Matt Marshall

 

15 Jun 2016, 07:44

Reflections on my Facebook use

It's long been a goal of mine to stop using Facebook for the majority of my social interaction on the web. The seminal blog post Get your loved ones off Facebook explains just some of the nefarious practices of the site, and since I've on a massive data ownership push lately I'm not overly comfortable with the notion of Facebook ad tracking (rant on ads coming soon). Do I also need to mention their dodgy newsfeed experiments?

Other than that, the centralising of the web into a commercial communications service frightens me to death; my socialist (cough communist cough) leanings already mean that the fact Facebook is a large corporation extracting profit from millions of workers who are essentially working for free (see Dmytri Kleiner) makes my skin crawl. On top of that, they're looking to launch their own web platform bundled into Messenger which will allow companies to use their services and develop apps/bots that interact with customers through Messenger. The principle is that if you're a start-up and can't really afford to invest in your own infrastructure, then you can use the service to reach your customer base digitally nontheless. I love the idea of commissioning platforms generally, but the corporate hegemonising of Messenger's app platform is sickening. A better approach to commissioning is (shameless plug for my lab) App Movement but I think even the centralised way that the platform operates doesn't make it a true grassroots approach.

Facebook recently also diversified its 'Like' function into 'Reactions', giving us a slightly less narrow range of ways to express our feelings at a post whilst still providing them with button clicks. This also provides them with an extra dimension of data to sell to advertisers, as people are now increasingly sharing links instead of status updates so the data they receive needs to be enrichened. In fact, the Belgian police force recently advised against using reactions for this reason.

I also feel that there is an obvious problem about a single large corporation owning what is arguably one of the most widely used communications platforms in the world :-/.

So this all adds up to me beginning to pull out of Facebook; or rather saying I will. No matter how much I complain and tell myself to just get out... I find myself browsing the site as consistently as ever. The next part of this post is largely a diary entry reflecting on my Facebook usage and trying to devise ways in which to get out.

What do I use Facebook for?

Upon reflection, I find that the main activity that I use Facebook for is actually semi-mindless browsing of news aggregate. This probably doesn't surprise most people, but it surprised me because I thought that I was a lot more involved than that. I'd say that the majority of my Facebook usage comes from mobile (browser, not app) whilst commuting, idling waiting for people to arrive etc. Of this, I'd say that most of my interactions with Facebook stories consist almost solely of either clicking to read, liking, or sharing. I'm not even sure why I like things tbh -- I don't look back on it. It's largely just a habit formed from liking friends' posts.

I do appreciate my friends' posts. Particularly a few closer friends who post interesting content, and share interesting articles I wouldn't normally read. I sometimes comment on statuses to show support or a more concrete form of appreciation than a Like. I also enjoy Facebook groups, the communities that arise from them, and actually I enjoy Page content quite a lot (again -- news for the most part).

I rarely post statuses. I'd argue that over the last year (and certainly over the last six months) the content I've submitted to Facebook has consisted by-and-large of sharing articles/news that makes me angry / happy / sad, and also posting images that form humble-brags of what I'm up to or have produced (like my sweet-ass Sushi plates) in attempt to validate my activities. I'm also tagged in quite a few photos from when I've visited others that I enjoy seeing

The messaging service is another one that I use a fair amount. There are those who I speak to largely through Messenger, and would miss out on conversations with them otherwise. They're relatively few and far between though, and the thing I'd miss out on is actually the group chats. I'd also probably miss out on random people contacting me, which is always fun.

So what do I do?

I think I can tackle the mindless browsing fairly simply. I've already begun the process of adding an RSS reader to my site, which will allow me to browse news aggregate here rather than visiting Facebook. I should actually start making a log of what I like to click on / find interesting in order to get a good map of what to start bringing in. Content discovery (ie new feeds / sources etc) might be tricky, since I won't be pulling in Facebook posts such as shares from friends. I might actually go back to using StumbleUpon, and then adding feeds as I discover them.

Friends' posts present a problem, although this forms a relatively small part of my Facebook interaction. I won't be pulling in Facebook content here, I'll need to keep up with them some other way (or sign into Facebook to see them specifically).

Posting statuses and sharing articles won't be a problem. Sometime in the future I might POSSE to Facebook (with an explicit request of course, unlike Twitter) when I want to share links to people. Posting photos also probably won't be an issue. It's on the books to integrate images and gallery functionality into Brimstone, and if I'm absolutely desperate for people to see my humble-brags then I can just POSSE a link to Facebook as a post. Tagging will just have to bugger off for now.

Messenger provides a trickier problem, as I do value the group chats and relatively random encounters a lot. Individuals that I'm serious about talking to, for the most part, are usually willing to contact me via Telegram. I might consider hooking up a notification over here to notify me of a message, or a new conversation but that is a lot of effort. For now I'd be satisfied just using messenger.com and avoiding the main Facebook site.

If you've read this, thanks for reading to the end. As mentioned this was largely a diary entry for reflection on my use of Facebook and the cognitive dissonance that I experience when browsing it.

diary facebook privacy capitalism