A few weeks ago I announced I would be putting my Facebook profile into a neutral state; I wasn't going to post, wasn't going to look at others' posts, but would keep my profile up.
That announcement was met with mostly silence from the 800 humans I am allegedly connected to. One guy's leaving, the crowd declared with their silence – meh. There are a billion more where he came from.
It wasn't a play to get attention – if it had been it certainly was a fail.
This was an experiment in deviation from normal social media habits. I had been doing extensive academic research on Facebook's ever-changing algorithms and came to the conclusion that while still a place to find people we know (and used to know), the way the company wants to monetize its service is to basically make everybody an advertiser. If you want to be noticed by a wide group you have to pay for this recognition.
Certainly it's cool for a publicly traded company to try making a profit. Logic dictates a business page should not feel entitled to wide distribution of content without paying for it. I was just struck by the notion that media companies are supported largely with personal information they did not pay for. We give, artists give, they take, they profit from the data we deliver to them. There are server and infrastructure costs, but without our giving there is no data to store. Why was I saying so much? Why is everyone saying so much?
I had downloaded my data from Facebook before I suspended my account use. I reviewed the posts of the past few years and was a little embarrassed. All these location-based check ins were public invitations to have my home ransacked (research shows most burglars take a look at your page before they visit your house). There were examples of nonsensical ramblings, food porn, humble brags, and even a couple of instances of vague booking. Ugh.
I focused my attention on my existing LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
My behavior changed. LinkedIn was easy; I moderate groups and write articles about jobs and careers, so contributing and sharing this content was instinctual. But Twitter and Instagram were different experiences now. I was more deliberate in deciding what to post. The type and structure of conversations you have on these networks are a little different from Facebook, and as a result I was measured in my updates.
I spent less time staring at my phone too. No more News Feed to troll through for an hour.
But a part of me felt like the kid who moved out-of-town with his family and didn't leave a forwarding address, even though as a media teacher I'm on about 847 different social networks. Facebook is being abandoned by tweens, teens and some Millenials, but for adults 25+ it's still a reasonably good contact list and scrapbook.
My friend, who is a new father, didn't post his newborn's pictures on Twitter or Instagram. He put them on Facebook. I wouldn't have even known his partner was in labor had I not had a random meeting with a mutual friend on a San Francisco sidewalk.
I reluctantly threw up a favorite cover photo and profile picture on Facebook the other day. I restored some of the “about” information I had deleted earlier. But I'm searching for words now. Absolutely influenced by the old trail of status updates, I vowed to no longer look like the complete douchebag some of these old posts seemed to suggest I was. Is this more cautious approach phony? I haven't posted a word since returning.
I now don't know what to say, if it matters, and if anyone cares.
Another new behavior has surfaced. I've started punishing friends who put up noisy memes by clicking the button that says “I don't want to see this.” I never did that before.
Leaving Facebook temporarily, something I had played with regularly for 7 years, created a teachable moment, a reason to consider how we talk with each other and how I talk with the people in my world.
Maybe Paper will be a more refined, more useful Facebook experience. I respect their attempts to be more nimble that most fully mature organizations.
When it's available for Android, I might check it out…