Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Is It Time to Abandon Facebook?

BY Joshua Levy | Friday, May 7 2010

Yesterday a friend of mine suggested I start a petition to get a large group of people to commit to leaving Facebook. So I started one.

The request didn’t come out of nowhere. This week, a few early adopter-types — the kind of people who took up Facebook years before your mom did — decided they’d had enough of Facebook’s evolving terms of use and privacy issues and hit delete on their accounts (take a look at EFF's overview of Facebook's eroding privacy policy for more). This might not yet qualify as a trend, but something’s definitely brewing among the techno-scenti.

The problem starts and ends with privacy. It seems that every few months, the itchy folks at Facebook launch yet another iteration of the site — er, platform — exposing even more of your private information to the world, and making it harder to keep your personal life close to your chest (or at least limit it to a few hundred friends).

The latest incursion was announced at last month’s F8 Facebook developer’s conference. The social-connector technology Facebook had introduced with Connect, which added a social layer to the web connecting non-Facebook sites to your profile, was exploded. The goal: A “Like” button on every site and an even deeper integration between sites like Yelp and your Facebook profile.

As with the launch of Connect’s predecessor, Beacon, this new layer freaked some people out. Now, when you go to Yelp, you’re shown how many of your friends have joined the site. “Wait, how do they know that?” your mother asks. “A little Facebook cookie told them,” you reply. A blue Facebook banner appears at the top of the site as well, inviting you to make a deeper connection, but I’ve found that just as freaky. But don’t worry, if you like Yelp or any other site, just click on the “Like” button to tell the world about it.

In addition, Facebook recently changed its terms of service to make your information — pics of your kids, employment history, wacky responses to this week’s episode of Glee — public by default. You have to selectively choose what information will be made private. That is, if you can navigate Facebook’s byzantine settings structure.

To be clear, the social graph-like technology introduced last month is very cool, and it’s open; non-Facebook developers are hard at work building a more open, and reasonable, social layer that taps into the technology. But the fact remains that for many, Facebook’s implementation feels like a violation. We didn’t ask to be automatically connected to everyone, everywhere, yet now we are.

Even if we’ve somehow managed to strike a perfect balance between public and private, we’re still stuck with a social network that has become deeply annoying. Messages that have nothing to do with me, from people I’ve never met, clog up my inbox. The apps craze has died down, but not completely. And even though I’m the staunchest defender of the power of social networks to help people organize, connect and just live their lives, I admit that the level of quotidian chatter can be too much.

Meanwhile, there’s Twitter. Simple, elegant and useful. It, too, is full of chatter, but for some reason I enjoy it. It’s like entering a cacophonous debate hall full of interesting people and tossing around helpful links and bits of information, rather than walking into someone’s living room and hearing your entire extended family and friends from high school rattle on and on.

There’s a reason why most of my friends on Twitter simply feed their status updates to Facebook. Twitter is where they want to be; Facebook is where they have to be.

Here’s the thing: I kind of have to be on Facebook. My work as an online organizer depends on it. My desire to stay on top of online culture depends on it. And much of my family expects me to post pictures and videos of my son there. So leaving it would feel like giving up on crucial online connections.

For me, Facebook is like a car. I don’t want to drive it, I don’t like its effect on the environment, but it’s a necessity.

But if 10,000 people around me decided to give up their cars and bike to work, I just might join them for the sake of integrity. The same goes for Facebook. So if you think the time has come, take the plunge and abandon Facebook.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.


wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.


friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO