I have been using Facebook (in the following FB) for about three years. Not quite actively, but I had an account so I could access information. However, I did not like FB’s attitude with regard to user privacy and their ever-changing TOS. Since I did not use FB actively anyway, I sent a message with my contact details to my “friends” on FB and deleted the account. This has been almost exactly a year ago. Today I created an account again. What happened?
Nothing really changed. I still do not like FB and have no intents to become an active user of it. However, FB is spreading more and more into our society and it gets really difficult to not “be on Facebook”. Only within the last couple of weeks it happened several times that I got to know about some information or discussion that was relevant for me, but that I could not access because it solely took place on FB. And I do not even know what I completely “miss” because I do not have access to it. This phenomenon is not new and was indeed the reason why I initially joined FB more than 4 years ago. But it gets stronger and stronger.
It feels like it is not an option anymore to not be on FB. There are more and more people who just do not consider that there might be others who are (deliberately or because of other reasons) not a member of FB. This leads to a form of social exclusion for people who are not on FB. For me, this trend now reached a point where I decided to become a member of FB again.
You might ask yourself why I care so much about this. If so many people are using FB’s services it can’t be that bad, right? Of course I see the many advantages and conveniences that social networks provide and I am not an opponent of social networks in general. However, there are several things that I do not like about FB which could be different.
As I have written above, I dislike FB’s attitude towards user privacy (reflected in their TOS and the default privacy settings). This is also reflected in the way how FB makes the users believe that they are communicating within a small group of close friends, although most of the communication is visible for a quite large number of users. Furthermore, I do not like that FB forces its users into such a streamlined way of how to use their services. In that regard I prefer services such as Twitter, which more or less just provide a technical mean to communicate, but leave the details to its users.
Another main point is that all of this happens under control of a single profit-oriented company. If social networks are being used that much and are becoming so important for our society, why do we give the social networks into the hands of companies who want to make money based on our data? And this is not only about user privacy. I equally dislike the idea that I do not have any control over the data and communication channels that I use that much.
Maybe it is worth to take a closer look at distributed social networks such as Diaspora or Identica. The last time I had a look at them they did not look that promising to me. But even if distributed social networks could provide all of what FB and Co can provide, there is still the problem to motivate a sufficiently large group of people to make use of them.
For now, I simply give up on this “battle” and go the convenient way of joining Facebook.