Dear Friends on Facebook

Dear Friends on Facebook,

As a misanthropic curmudgeon and hater of most things, some of you might expect me to join you in your discontent and occasional insurrections against Facebook.

Facebook does indeed have many faults.

I don't really care about privacy, but stories about people getting arrested for "terroristic threats" they made in a rant on Facebook does make you think twice and then engage your Political Correctness filter before posting. I do recognize that the user demographic has changed from university-students-only back when I started, to one billion moms and uncles today. That does kind of suck. There are a lot of baby pictures. There are a lot of listicles, cat pictures, navel gazing, and LOLs. There are a lot of ads, games, and sponsored posts. I'm not one of those people who believes in culling the friend's list for the weak, the sick, and the distant either, so I do have a lot of people on Facebook whom I barely knew five years ago, and don't remember at all today.

But for all its problems, Facebook essentially does what it's supposed to do, and it does it fairly well. There are surely better-designed alternatives; Path and Google+ are both superior to Facebook in some ways and I'm sure anyone who reads this can think of at least another small social network that is too. But the value of a social network is its... network; surprise, surprise. It's the same reason why I didn't buy a Mac in the 90s and I refuse to buy a Windows Phone today; they were/are both great network devices that suffer/ed from a lack of... network.

But not a day goes by when I don't hear someone threatening to leave our fat mistress, Facebook. Not having a Facebook account is almost as popular as not having a TV in certain circles, and at the very least, no hipster will tell you he's on Facebook without a little gleam of shame in his eyes. One billion users is the epitome of mainstream. I can empathize. But cheer up; Facebook won't be around forever. Someday we'll all be on something else and then we can complain about that.

Not using Facebook is one thing, but deleting your Facebook profile is one of the most senseless things I've ever heard of. The rationale for this ranges from "I spend too much time on Facebook," to "the NSA is spying on me," to "The content sucks." Usually the deleter comes wandering back sheepishly into the fold several months later after realizing nobody wants to sign into Google + just to invite them to Ethan's white party, and I'm only going to e-mail you pictures of the fifteen-foot-tall snowman we made so many times before I give up on sharing pictures of my life with you. In the meantime, you've decreased the utility of my social experience because you didn't just delete your account- you deleted all the pictures, groups, pages, etc. associated with your account. You poked a hole in my social web.

The NSA really does collect data on you, so I guess the old adage, "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you," applies here. But they already have the data you've already entered, so deleting your account does nothing except inconvenience your friends. If you're really worried about federal eavesdroppers, stop putting NEW information onto Facebook. And then stop putting information anywhere, because the NSA is also crawling all over Google's cloud, Apple's services, Microsoft's software, etc. And does anyone really believe that ВКонтакте or Baidu are free of government snooping? There's no logical reason to stop at Facebook. If you delete your Facebook profile for privacy reasons, then you need to keep going until you've burned your computer, cut up your credit cards, turned off your electricity, and are living out in the woods with an aluminum hat searching your body feverishly for THAT CHIP. GODDAMN IT I KNOW THEY IMPLANTED IT HERE SOMEWHERE WHILE I WAS SLEEPING LAST NIGHT.

The other charges leveled at Facebook can all be boiled down to content and user experience. I've got one hot tip for you that should clear everything up.

Stop looking at your News Feed.

The News Feed was never intended for human consumption. It's an open stream of raw sewage, and it always has been. Even in the golden days back in 2005? Yep. Even then. Back in 2005 it was wall-to-wall underexposed pictures of freshman in frat house basements with dumb smiles and glazed-over eyes holding up red cups and giving the middle finger while hanging around someone else's neck to hold their weaving bodies upright. These pictures were typically accompanied by such revelations as, "ToTALlY WaStED lAst NIGht!" or "this is wat happens when you play thiteen rounds of beer pong lol :)"

Everyone step away from the News Feed, and everything will be OK. It was never good, and it never will be if the social network has more than five members. The vast majority of people have very little interesting to say. They have no consideration for their audience or objective feel for what is entertaining and what is not. Intelligent, creative, or funny people are usually content creators on social networks, not content consumers. The only exception to this rule is for those of you who are willing to invest the hours of time it takes to tweak your feed filters to a point where the posts coming out the other side are actually palatable. But let's be honest here, for most of us that would be like trying to suck the entire contents of London's waste treatment plants through a single LifeStraw ®.

For those of us who have abandoned the News Feed back to its native population- new mothers and your cousin Dave who likes to take selfies at the gym, Facebook's value is in the Wall, the Pages, the Groups, and direct messaging. If you only get on Facebook when someone interacts with you directly, or to directly interact with someone else, you'll find you've decreased your time on Facebook by about three-quarters, and your eyes will bleed less often from having witnessed the dull humor and dim joys of the simplistic, unwashed masses.

If you're still spending two hours a day on Facebook sans News Feed then I don't know what to do for you, but deleting Facebook will probably just result in you spending that same two hours stalking around somewhere else, whether it's Twitter or Instagram or Tumblr.

Sebastian Braff


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