Updated: July 9, 2010
In the last several weeks, Facebook has undergone massive privacy-related changes that seemed to have triggered a wave of shock, outrage and, most importantly, blog posts worldwide. While most Facebook users are largely ignorant of the changes and most bloggers foam at the mouth and panic away at this blatant misuse of users' privacy, I think that both groups are in the wrong.
Facebook should not be used, period. Not because of privacy changes or deliberate experiments done by the company in an attempt to see how naughty they can get before getting spanked on their e-tush. There is a number of far simpler, more fundamental reasons. Now, let me tell you why you should not be using Facebook.
You don't want to be a mindless borg. Being average is the worst curse that can befall a thinking man. Unless you wish to wear Crocs all your life and pay off the mortgage for your dream home, you should rethink your habits vis-a-vis what the plebes are doing. If everyone else is using Facebook, you have an opportunity to be unique and not use it. This automatically makes you special and unique. Just like running Linux.
Just like momentum and energy, friendship is a finite quantity. According to unshakable rules of physics, the more friends you have, the less of friends they are. It is physically impossible to have many friends. By definition, the number of friends you ought to have is equal or less than the number of kidneys you are willing to donate to save someone else's life, in this case, the above-mentioned friends - family and spouses excluded.
Note: Image taken from Wikipedia, licensed under GNU FDL 1.2.
Having 3,422 friends on Facebook means you have approx. 3,420 would-be friends too many. This also means that you treat relationships as a mouse click, which is, well, kind of sad. Furthermore, think about the energy you invested approving friend requests from those 3,420 people. Even if you wasted as little as 10 seconds going through each one, you have still spent approx. 10 hours of your life on bureaucracy. Oh, humanity.
90% of all mail is spam. Not because someone is deliberately trying to poison the wires with fraud and junk, but because people by nature generate 90% waste for whatever they might be doing. The same applies for any human effort. 90% of workforce in any one place is surplus and the real work is done by the remaining few heroes. Similarly, 90% of whatever you are doing on Facebook, at the very least, is going to be a pure waste, equal to mail spam in every way. Wall messages, stupid games, e-presents, quizzes, tagging photos, it's all a horrible waste of effort. Instead, you could spend the time doing sports and meeting real people.
I must admit I did have a Facebook account for a brief time. I opened the account with a clear purpose of finding my elementary school friends, some 20 years after we've lost all touch with one another. It worked. I managed to find pretty much everyone.
At first, there was great joy, lots of nostalgia and enthusiasm. But after a few weeks, things got back to normal, that is we forgot about one another, more or less. As is the way of all things in life bounded by physics, things gravitate toward their natural minimal state of energy. There was a reason why these friendships did not last beyond what they lasted. Because they were not meant to, and even Facebook could not change that. Forcing friendships works as well as using castor oil to gain weight.
After these few weeks, I realized that there was no point in my Facebook account and deleted it. End of story. If anything, I learned that people cannot step out of their microcosmos, even when goaded with technology and wonders of the Internet.
Now, you may say that my personal example is not relevant for every Facebook user. Possibly. But for a vast majority of people, Facebook contacts are nothing more than an outlet to boredom. In the long run, beyond the initial excitement of rediscovering friendships, which probably will not last long, you are creating a shallow, superficial, un-candid world of cheesy scripted blogonography, with Facebook as your portal.
Reason 5 is the extended, more radical version of reason 4. Writing every little thing you do on your Wall is what girls aged 13 do with their pink diary. Playing online quizzes to discover your inner personality, as opposed to your outer personality, your favorite goat cheese and how unsuccessful you are in a relationship means you have serious life issues so far unresolved by parental crowbar and social rejection. Furthermore, it may be cheaper than going to a certified psychologist, but there's a reason why people have to go to school for a few years before being allowed to play Freud.
Every minute spent co-blogging with your artificial friends on Facebook is a minute you could spend doing real stuff, like reading a book, hiking, volunteering in an animal shelter, etc. Or maybe learning PHP so you could one day become a programmer that writes this kind of stuff and makes big money from other people's vapid existence.
There used to be a social beast called MySpace, although it suffered from AOL syndrome of GUI design and was intended for people with an odd number of chromosomes and/or IQ less than 100 and/or MTV fans. It used to be immensely popular. It was the thing. If you did not have a MySpace account, you were nobody. And where's MySpace now? Gone with the wind, just like any new hype invented lately.
Facebook people have learned from MySpace and redid the GUI to suit more normal, but not necessarily normal, people, including those above the age of 11. But like MySpace, Facebook is a social fad doomed to fad-e away. In a few months or years, another monster will come and take everyone for a spin. Someone will cash in their new exciting social startup and that the hourglass will turn one more time. So what's the big deal and excitement. A social network, ok. And? There'll be another.
Do you really want to be using a technology that has a lowercase logo? I can understand UNIX/Linux tools using lowercase, since typing on the command line can be frustrating with too many caps or alphanumeric characters, but a logo of a social networking? Well, it must be kewl, right?
By the way, the privacy thingie, is, as usual, overplayed. Pure, simple sensational media. No one forces you to write down the name of your high-school or use a real one. It's a virtual, fictitious world, so what's the big deal? Oh, there are all kinds of options in the menu settings, but no one reads those, it's too complicated. We can accuse Facebook of being the evil overlord of data harvesting, now that Google is no longer chic. In fact, I'm kind of excited to see what everyone will do. Most likely moan a little and then get to being addicted to growing e-tomatoes, chatting to their e-friends and complaining about how their lives are exposed wide to the public without realizing the cruel paradox in their words. You can setup your account to be private and anonymous and whatever. So what's the big deal? Too challenging for the average Facebook user to perform no less than three mouse clicks to get their old settings back?
As you see, it has nothing to do with privacy, identity theft, security, or anything like that. It's about what Facebook offers you, in the short and long term. If you think carefully, there's a page that displays your life stats and scores from a handful of Flash games, plus a collection of badly spelled, semi-rant, semi-lunatic writings by your e-friends, who won't be there when you need the transplant. They might send you an e-kidney, but that won't really do any good, now, will it? Not really exciting, is it?
Social is all about society. And society is not online, despite the best efforts by media to depict the revolution of broadband into a sort of an exciting, less harsh alternative to real life. If I unplug your network cord from the wall, your e-friends are gone. No more FarmVille, no more Wall. It's as simple as that. There you go. The real reasons why not to use Facebook. Well, that would be all. Take care. And remember the kidney rule! Thanks to Bobbi for providing the screenshots.