Taking a month off from the social networks

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I spent June and part of July experimenting with my use of social media. The widely reported Facebook privacy issues left me questioning how I was using these things, so I decided to stop for a month and get a feel for what that was like.

Turns out I didn’t much notice, or at least not to the extent I expected to.

Granted, I didn’t 100% withdraw from all these services I’ve been using. Partly this is because as part of my job I have to use and understand these tools. Partly this is because it’s harder to disentangle oneself than it ought to be. And partly, it’s because I was occasionally too lazy to take care of the details.

While I’ve really enjoyed reconnecting with old friends on Facebook, particularly friends from my college years, the number of interactions I have with them are an infinitesimally small part of the activity that Facebook generates, and much of that activity is just a distracting cacophony – alerts from crummy webgame and silly apps, mentions of sports results, good and bad meals, and what the weather’s like. I get that even this shallow stuff can help me keep my finger on the pulse of my friends’ lives, and there are also plentiful examples of meaningful and poignant events that I get clued into via all of this, but when I balance it against the amount of time it’s taking, and against my conclusion that basically Facebook is not a company I trust or want to do business with, I conclude that I’m better off disengaging.

This doesn’t mean I’m deleting my Facebook account. What I’ve done is disconnect all third party tools from Facebook, including my twitter account. I’m going to begin routing all content to facebook via my website, because I control it and I can be sure I’m not sharing my friends contact or other information with third parties should they decide to click through on something I’ve posted.

This does mean my Facebook wall will be a lot quieter than in the past, mostly because of the absence of the twitter feed. I’m not going to connect it to my website. I am going to try and return to my previous writing habits over on my site to try and make up for the difference but I’ve had mixed success with that in the past, so who knows how it will go. It shouldn’t make much of  a difference to most folks one way or another is the bottom line, and it leaves me with the peace of mind that I’m not an unwitting marketing accomplice for Facebook.

It also means I’ll be a little less likely to respond to stuff that happens on Facebook, because by and large I’m not going to log into the site using a web browser. Instead I’ll use my phone. The iphone facebook app is pretty good, but has some bugs, especially related to photos, meaning sometimes even when I want to look at a photo someone has posted, I can’t. It’s also more awkward to type on, a disincentive to participate in comment threads.

Anyway, that’s the story for now. I’m going to try this for several months and see how it goes.

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