Two of my friends arguing just last weekend...
"I posted those holiday photos and got like thirty likes, but I didn't get any likes from you."
"I had to actually go into your account to see them. I don't know why they don't show up for me."
"You never like any of my stuff."
I get asked quite often why I dislike Facebook so much. Unfortunately there is no one reason, and there are in fact many. This is not meant to be a list of complaints about the social network, more just a means for me to articulate my own reasoning for when people keep asking me. The conversation above went on for a while longer, but I think you got the idea. In the small segment I quoted, two primary problems are identified - currency and misunderstanding. This blog post will also outline some other points like privacy, advertising and the general counterfeit nature of the social network.
Multiple people utilise their Facebook accounts as a supplement for their own wealth. The more friends you have the more popular and by extension, the more important you are. This is entirely untrue. Those that have a Facebook account with hundreds of friends will likely agree that many of their 'friends' are blocked, hidden or just plain ignored. The same can be said for the number of likes. If a picture or thought generates enough interest once to be shared multiple times, that person's sense of self-efficacy is artificially promoted, and usually to the extent that they can not cope when each subsequent thought or share is not received the same way. I tend to think of everything most people do on Facebook as a way to build their wealth, and this implies an increase in a value which I'll call Facebook Currency. This currency is worthless to people who are not on Facebook (fortunately this is still more than half the planet), but to those using the social network it seems to be of an almost equal worth to actual currency, and some might be willing to exchange between the two.
The misunderstanding evident from the second speaker was that even the people who use Facebook regularly, still don't fully understand how it works. Chances are a filter has been applied somewhere, but with all the changes to settings and the user interface over the years, the speaker had no idea why it wasn't performing correctly. As a software designer, the support you present to your users must always come first. It is no secret that Facebook's public face usually leaves a lot to be desired, but more often than not, the company avoids true customer support. As this is generally against one of the foundation principles of developing software, its hard to support a major tech company that seems to hold such little regard for its users.
A reason people often ask me why I don't use Facebook is because I don't live in a big city, and people wish to see pictures of my kids growing up. I accept this is a perfectly reasonable request. Since the technology exists, why not use it? The answer is simple, and for most people obvious, privacy. Everything a person does on Facebook, from posting images, sharing a link or commenting on a friends thought belongs to Facebook. It is hard to believe because they claim they'll never use it for anything bad; but really, who would give their wedding photos to a multimillion dollar company with no legally binding agreement to use them safely? More importantly why would you do it in the first place? Personally, I'd rather not travel overseas one day and see my two-year old on the side of bus in China or billboard in Russia. Some users are oblivious to this (again having users not fully understand the product is an example of the poor user support), but most I think weigh up the choice of sharing a great photo with friends against the long term risk of the privacy loss. The sad thing is there are several alternatives to sharing photos in particular that removes the problem entirely. One such example I use is to regularly update a Photobucket album for which all my friends and family have access, and the privacy settings on this site ensure that I retain the rights to the pictures - not them. Even the interface is better, I can silly upload the photos from the desktop without the needs for a web browser. Anyone can view it here so long as they have the password (which I'm happy to provide to people that I know).
I was doing a little surfing on why others dislike Facebook so much and I came across the YouTube video below. In it, the speaker outlines the financial aspects of Facebook, and how the company actually uses it's users to advertise. The more people get involved, the more money goes to Facebook's shareholders. It is particularly interesting how the speaker emphasises that all Facebook users are in fact creators, advertisers and the audience. And since the users are doing all the work, why does Faebook retain all the profits? There's something about that, that just seems wrong. I won't detail any more of this, other than to recommend the clip.
One of the final points I'll make regarding Facebook is just how fake it is. Almost everything users see is counterfeit. The least popular stuff is cast aside and the more popular stuff is pushed to the top. Eventually, all users are left with a group of people who would be little more than 'yes men' in the business world. How can a person, especially a young person, be expected to cope in the real world when they have instant access to an unlimited source of personal validation? Another video I've attached below brilliantly demonstrates how a person can appear to be living and how they are actually living their life, through the most basic features of Facebook. The tagline for the clip sums it up pretty well:
Facebook can be depressing because everyone else's lives are better than yours... But are they really?
Finally, I'll wrap up by pointing out that yes I did once have Facebook. A friend suckered me into it back in 2007. Eventually, I realised the error of my ways and have been Facebook free for almost three years now. My own dislike also has little to do with my online presence. If you've got this far, you've obviously noted that I have a personal portfolio website that I use as an open-source teaching resource, this reflective blog, a Photobucket account for my family, my personal learning network through Twitter (who coincidentally have similar privacy laws to Facebook), and several other online tools like Edmodo, Moodle, banking, government, insurance, eBay, Google and of course email. I encourage you to watch both videos and think carefully about the answer to this question - Should I be using Facebook?
A Computing teacher with a passion for collaboration and open source teaching.