Archive for the ‘Web’ Category


Attempted Facebook Suicide: Part Two

May 18, 2010

If you stare into the abyss long enough, teh abyzz stares bk @ u.

It is purely by accident that one of the books I began to read during my Facebook exile is the 20th anniversary edition of Amusing Ourselves to Death.

I’m only halfways through and it has already tied together many of Marshall McLuhan and Noam Chomsky’s ideas together for me, as though part of a missing triptych required to comprehend these counter-intuitive notions about media consumption. Written in 1985 it makes most of its arguments about the decline of informative, necessary public discourse being due to the advent of television. It’s remarkably eerie how prescient these ideas are in the Age of Internet.

To have these ideas bouncing around my mind while waiting for the clock to run down on my Facebook account for good is becoming a bizarre self-exploration to say the least.

What does this have to do with Facebook? Well, for one, I’m currently grappling with the admittedly trivial disconnect of not seeing familiar faces and trading witty one-liners on a daily basis. In a certain respect, Facebook has transcended being a social network and become the method by which we communicate, pushing other formats to the side. It has annexed email, photo sharing, online gaming and chat from the Internet; introduced a new platform for targeted advertising and helped organize partygoers and activists. Facebook is also in most pockets now that the smart phone revolution is in full swing. Data plans are quietly overtaking voice plans. Facebook wants to encompass everything and in many ways, it’s succeeding.

In a sense, this is what people without an account turn their backs on.

Tamagotchi Takeover

I remember when the Tamagotchis took over my summer camp. I was 11. To this day I can’t believe how many kids had one. For anyone who successfully repressed this bit of pop culture, Tamagotchis are little handheld sized, electronic pets that were huge in early 90s. The idea was you pressed a button to feed it a certain times throughout the day and it would smile; or you’d forget and it would die. The way I remember it, more tears were shed over these dead keychains than because of fights, heartbreak, camp-related injuries and homesickness combined. Even at 11, I thought it was absurd. (That didn’t stop me from trying to kill as many of them as I could by keeping their owners distracted).

This is the metaphor I’ve chosen for the Facebook profile page. Looking at mine for the last time, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the efforts I’d put into it over three years. I maintained it; put only the best pictures up, only the wittiest updates, de-tagged myself when necessary, posted only the funniest or most informative links, and joined only the best causes or trendiest groups. I put forward the best digital avatar I could and what kind of return did I get for all the Dennis Ryan personality-advertising?

Very, very little.

As a result of signing up for Twitter to fill the void, I’ve realized just how much narcissism drives me to use social media (I suspect must of us are driven similarly). I’m usually much more interested in seeing how many reactions my posts, pictures and updates are getting than in most things posted or expressed by my friends. I thrive on the little red notification icons at the top of the page. That’s not to say I’m above anything my friends’ put out there; only that Facebook has become my Tamagotchi. It exists primarily for me to post and get a reaction.

Post a picture. Tag friends. Wait for comments.

Update status. Wait for comments.

Post a link. Count how many likes.

See new comments. Start trolling to get more.

Even worse is now when I travel, I’m Facebook-conscious. That is, I plan and look forward to the comments I’ll generate. I either update-on-the-go or daydream about the day I get home and can post.  I should add that the nature of the reactions is almost always secondary, at best. Why is this? Because Facebook is not a venue for discussing anything of even remote substance. It’s a place for high fives. Who remembers high fives? I don’t, but I am addicted to them. Thanks Facebook!

What’s even more interesting is how many of my friendships seem to hinge on this scintilla of interaction. And yet, it may be this very form of connection to certain people that makes me log in and negate my suicide. I do like people after all.

To strengthen my resolve, I look to friends who have never signed up for Facebook. For three years I couldn’t imagine how they got by without it. The surprising part was whenever I confronted one of them about it; they always seemed completely unfazed, as if I’d been chiding them for not seeing a movie. Now I know it’s because they’re pure; untainted by Facebook’s promises of connectedness. They make it look easy because they don’t know otherwise. The new media hasn’t reformed their lifestyle…yet.

Odds of beating Facebook: Gonna give myself a solid 70% today. Miss the high fives. Like having extra time to cook and read and think. Oh, and there’s still the privacy issues that have gone unanswered despite some “emergency meetings.”

Speaking of which, anyone who wants to learn more about their privacy or just jump on the bandwagon, here’s a few sites:

See ya in a few days…


Attempted Facebook Suicide: Part One

May 15, 2010

I wouldn’t call this a cry for help. Or my way of seeing if anyone will miss me when I’m gone. The truth is I’m still not sure why I decided to give up my Facebook account.

I suppose it could be a case of bandwagoning, with the current media circus showcasing the company and its cringe-inducing founder Mark Zuckerberg’s mercurial privacy record and the fact that user data is increasingly being used to generate profits through targeted ads.

More than simple backlash though, I think the novel challenge of attempting to quit the crack of the internet cold turkey had something to do with it.

Facebook’s account deletion process invites just such a social experiment. If you’re Google-savvy enough to even figure out how to delete (and not simply de-activate) your account, the final condition the company imposes is that you not log back in for 14 days.

They practically dare us to stay away…Challenge accepted!

First Impressions

I sat staring at my Facebook profile for the last time(?) at 8:45AM on May 13, 2010. I quietly reassured myself of several things:

1) Of the 149 Facebook ‘friends’ staring at me from cyberspace, maybe 30 represented people I regularly saw or spoke to and most of the site’s third-party functions were intelligence-draining wastes of time.

2) If I disagreed with the policies of Facebook, the only action I could take was to delete my account and NOT as instinct insisted, use my Facebook status update to spout off about how corrupt Facebook had become. Money, meet mouth.

3) I could find alternatives to maintain an online identity if I wanted to. (Exciting upstart Diaspora, branding itself as the anti-facebook, is scheduled to launch in September).

I jotted down a few phone numbers and email addresses I didn’t have saved elsewhere, squinted awkwardly at the final CAPTCHA I had to fill out and said goodbye to my digital representation.

My first craving hit an hour later. I wanted to check up on a friend of mine who had moved to Edmonton and was planning on coming to Toronto for a visit. All correspondence to do with the trip had been done on Facebook. It certainly wasn’t the type of exchange that couldn’t continue over email, but seeing my friends in photos in the same place I corresponded with them had always been nice and was the first thing I missed.

*It was at this point that I decided to record my experience.

To help things along, I cleared all my browser history and caches so I wouldn’t be auto-suggested Facebook while using the internet. After that, I wrote emails with the same nostalgic pride people who save dead languages must feel.

I became extra productive that first day so I could tell myself later it was because I had abandoned Facebook. It worked quite well until that evening when my fingers twice managed to type “facebo” into Chrome before I could stop them. Facebook had revealed another symptom of its unexpected powers.

Most of the soapboxing that goes on within Facebook was another factor in my deciding to leave. Too much grammatically horrifying bluster and rhetoric, not enough intelligent opinion or ideas. One friend who makes an effort joined the military a few months ago and was maintaining quite an interesting first-person account of the intense training via collective Facebook messages. It was the new format of a soldier’s letter that relayed hilarious anecdotes of absurdity and frustration while keeping me up to date on what was happening with a friend.

Another colleague of mine has the wonderful habit of collecting the strangest photos he can find and photoshopping himself into the action and then coming up with a perfectly hilarious caption. It may not sound like much, but believe me when I say his efforts are better than any single-panel comic to the people who know him (and probably many that don’t). It’s hard to weigh the value of a system that creates so much useless content for every interesting or unique perspective it offers.

On the evening of Day Three I signed up for Twitter. I would reclaim my beloved status update. After twenty minutes of setting up my profile, browsing for friends or corporations I liked, relearning basic punctuation again (RT, @, #!) and downloading Tweetdeck, I logged off. Too much rebuilding to do in one sitting.

Odds of successfully defeating the mighty Facebook: Even. Still not a fan of Zuckerberg & Co’s general disdain for their users but can’t help but admit that their network is still the most convenient place for communicating with a large number of acquaintances.