This is Not an “I’m Quitting Facebook” Post

by Christopher Paul on January 10, 2013

I joined Twitter before I was able to join Facebook. My profile says I joined in 2007 but I have emails from Biz and Ev dating back to 2006. I had an older handle that I retired which got lost in the mix. Anyway, at the time I didn’t get much out of Twitter. It was harder since there wasn’t so many people on it, then. Besides, it was open and Facebook was closed, exclusive.

When Facebook became open to non-students, I quickly signed up and loved it. It was the way I wanted to reconnect with lost friends and strenghten existing ones. It was clean and much simpler then. Recall that even though it was just opened to the general public, privacy was it’s selling point. The media was starting to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about MySpace and other open networks like Twitter. Facebook offered scared netizens the chance to be cool without too much concern for who could get to your personal data.

Boy have times changed.

Now, Facebook’s privacy settings are a mess. It’s default settings are open. It changes things without notice (like your listed email address from whatever it is to one ending with It forces a lot of poorly thought change on a group of people not known for flexibility. It’s also showing more and more ads.

As far as I can recall, Facebook has always had ads on the site; off to the sides where they didn’t bother many. While still on the side, it feels as if there are much more of them. In an effort to promote pages, Facebook includes ‘Likes’ from your friends in your feed. That’s an ad, too. Someone likes Nike and it shows they did.

This is most obvious in the mobile app. For the longest time, Facebook had no ads on their iOS app and it was great. Once again, I could enjoy a less cluttered stream of my friends’ activities and not worry about irrelevant posts/news/likes showing up. However, mobile usage is quickly becoming the dominant way to communicate; desktop ads aren’t what they used to be and Facebook, a public company, needed a way to beef up their profits for unforgiving investors who are pissed off their shares are half of what they used to be.

Now, Facebook practically jams ads and sponsored posts down your mobile throat. They have it down to a science, too. Two to three status updates, links, or photos before a recently ‘Liked’ page shows up with a huge ‘Like Page’ button underneath. After three more posts, the app displays the ‘Pages You Might Like’ section. Each page lists one friend that also likes this page, the category, and (last but not least) a message saying it’s “Sponsored.” And on the right is a giant thumb sticking out suggestively saying that’s what Facebook is doing to you.

It’s bad enough that ‘Likes’ show up in my feed – because you can like anything (link, page, photo, status, etc.) the discontinuity of the feed’s layout is very apparent to me. Worse, the ads completely break that layout and and force me to think about what I’m looking at to make sure I’m not missing something from a friend – someone I place more importance on than some company hawking a humungous phablet (that’s tablet/phone for you non-tech people).

The desktop interface lets me control what I see on Facebook. I can block ads using scripting extensions, DNS redirects, or other tools. But I can’t do it on iOS (Android users can, however, but they have to use Android so it’s not a net positive for them… kidding! Sort of). Anyway, because I also use mobile Facebook more than the desktop, the broken experience is enough to reduce my usage.

It’s yet another reason why I find myself using Twitter more. Not only do they have fewer sponsored posts, they fit nicely in their steam’s UI. Aside from the yellow arrow and dimmed text signaling the ad, you’d almost not realize it was there – and that’s actually a good thing. It’s an ad that looks like a Tweet without being distracting; I can process it with ease. I’ve actually clicked on Twitter ads where I haven’t touched a single Facebook ad or sponsored story ever.

And so long as Twitter doesn’t spam my feed too much, I’m more likely to accept ads delivered in my stream. Facebook, I feel, is spamming me. And it ruins my experience.

Now, the press is rather famous for highlighting people who post long diatribes about why they’re quitting something. Usually it’s Facebook but occasionally Twitter or Google. This is not one of those posts. I’m not quitting Facebook at all. Not Google or Twitter, either. Doing so is stupidly shortsighted. Not only do you deprive yourself of a service where you don’t pay any cash (you’re the product), you’ve wasted all that time building up your friends or whatever and throw them all away. And what happens when you change your mind? Start over?

That’s not to say I like Facebook as much as I used to. I don’t. I interact with it (usually) twice a day where I used to be interested in what’s going on four or five times. I spend less time on it when I’m checking things, too. I comment less. I don’t ‘Like’ things as much. But I wish it were different.

So this isn’t a quitting post. This is an “I’m using it less because I find the product less appealing as I used to” post. That is Facebook’s risk – that it becomes the next MySpace and loses it’s relevance to a more appealing network. No one thought MySpace could be beaten and look what happened. Facebook is not immune to the same usage atrophy as is happening with me already.

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