The Day the Facebook Died

Today I deleted my Facebook account. I have to wait 14 days to REALLY be deleted and even then I don’t entirely trust the Zuckerberg empire to remove my data completely. I’m sure my ‘favourite books’ and ‘quotes’ will be knocking around their databanks for a few years yet.

“Why did you delete it, do you hate people?”

People are great, but online they act odd. Facebook allowed me to see into the lives of two sets of people; people I see regularly, and people who should have been lost to time many years ago. The people I see regularly, I like them, but sometimes too much information can be a bad thing. I have insights into the lives of everyday acquaintances  that I wouldn’t have without FB and feel voyeuristic. It seems to me that, going against expectation, people share more online than they would in person. The mediation of the computer provides a false bubble of safety and comfort, meaning the general anxiety of bodily cues that would normally kick in when you were about to announce to a room of people your latest embarrassing factoid, don’t. I would rather engage with the persona that an individual willingly projects, rather than the one they have been lured into revealing.

Then there are the people that I never see in person. The vague acquaintances that, having met them once, forever-on populate my newsfeed. The people from school that, fifteen years ago never said a word to me, and now out of perverse curiosity or an odd networking OCD are now classified as ‘Friends’. They are ‘Facebook friends’ not actual friends. In a bygone age I would have completely left them behind, know nothing about them and have lost nothing in my ignorance. I’m sure they’re all nice people, nothing wrong with them at all, but I’m a firm believer that as time passes, you leave the majority of acquaintances behind so that you can retain the connections that really matter: FB was messing with that mojo.

Does it Hurt? How Do you Feel?

Just before I pressed the button to delete my account, I must admit to feeling that this occasion was incredibly momentous and much hung in the balance. Then I reminded myself that it’s a social networking site, not a newborn child and promptly pushed the button. Afterwards I had a mind rush of all the people that I would still like to keep in touch with, but don’t see them regularly, what will become of them? Have I consigned myself to a life of isolation, an offline existence without laughter, joy and companionship. Will I be left behind in my career now I am severed from those people that I met at conferences, swiftly friended and then never spoke to again? Probably not.

So you hate technology and the future now?

This is not a ‘technology is ruining my life’ statement of action, it’s a ‘Facebook, I don’t like you’ statement of action. Im still on other networks (Twitter, Linkedin, Google+) and that may seem hypocritical if you thought my actions were of an anti-social network crusader. I’m not anti-social-network, but I think they should be used for certain purposes. Twitter is great for tech-news and professional contacts. It’s a communications platform not a social aid. Linkedin is good for careers, it’s an employment tool, not a social aid. Google Plus is… well I don’t think anyone knows what G+ is yet but if I do find a use for it, I’ll make sure it’s not as a social aid. Facebook was beyond my purposes, it had come to supplant my relationships rather than enhance them and had made me socially lazy.

So goodbye Facebook, you shall not be missed.

**If you would like to join me and help work out what Google+ is for you can click this link for access to the restricted Beta.

Advertisements

Marketing in Twitter: Applicants Must Have 250 Bots or More

It seems I can’t post anything to Twitter recently without suddenly gaining a follower. “What a braggart!” you might say (brilliant word braggart) but this really isn’t a boast. These apparent followers are nothing more than bots, trawling the twitterverse for keywords and automatically following people that use them.

This isn’t that new in Twitter but its frequency – at least anecdotally for me – is becoming much more prominent. For example I recently posted a reply to a follower about books and how they should all have a digital equivalent. Searching for a quote in a book is much quicker when its digital. It appears simply this use of the word ‘Book’ got me a new follower. Hurrah, new found internet fame!

In actuality the follower was simply a bot for a user that was attempting to get individuals to talk about their favourite book. A worthwhile pursuit perhaps, but not exactly an individual interested in me. However I have also gathered other less altruistic followers , law firms simply from discussing IP law, book publishers who picked up on my complaints about the publishing industry and even a brooklyn wedding DJ after tweeting about visiting a wedding venue (which is about 3,445 miles from Brooklyn).

In all honesty (probably killing my internet cred here) I’d say about 85% of my followers on Twitter followed me not because they think I have something interesting to say, but simply because I used the right words and their bot picked me up as a potential customer

The capitalist urge to market and profit has obviously found its way into Twitter, and there are already seminars and courses on how to utilise Twitter for your business. US electronics retailer Best Buy even makes 250 Twitter followers a requirement of their applicants to marketing jobs, whether they count bots or not is unknown. What I find primarily interesting about this is the cycle of innovation and capitalist co-option. I’m sure many were drawn to Twitter for its open nature, the simplicity to talk with people you’d never meet otherwise. This however is also what brought marketing to it, and in a way it’s perhaps making Twitter a little less appealing to some. MySpace appears to be dying off since the News Corp purchase, the primary mainstay being bands using it as a marketing platform. Facebook, already swamped with applications has now reached a massive audience but with audience comes adverts and third party marketing which may be chasing off the early adopters.

This of course is not meant to be an anti-capitalist rant, these services need financial support in some way or another and it appears that advertising has become the primary source for supporting net services. According to the OECD, advertising agencies worldwide pulled in $445 billion USD in 2007 from selling internet advertising slots. These were primarily search based pay-per click and placement such as banner and sidebar ads. However the OECD also noted a rise in ‘behavioural advertising’, what could also be called taste targeted or algorithmic. This was two years ago (20 in internet time) so we’re forced to simply imagine how this has changed by now. However with so many ‘recommendation’ systems (iTunes, Last.fm, Amazon, Facebook ads etc) it has become apparent that we should perhaps get used to paying for these services with information about ourselves… oh I just got another bot.