While I've come to be a big fan of Twitter and, of course, blogs, I've never found a reason to relinquish my suspicion of Facebook. Even before the privacy controversies, it always seemed to me that Facebook only gave the illusion of privacy, leaving you with limited control of your identity and none of the advantages of total openness that you get with blogs and Twitter (which is of course simply microblogging).
I also find the "friend" relation on Facebook, frankly, creepy. Facebook requires that this relation be symmetrical; it actively tries to dissolve the distinctions between acquaintances, colleagues, family, and friends. This contrasts with Twitter and RSS feeds (and Zotero), in which you control whom you follow but not who follows you.
Asymmetrical relationships encourage professional connections; I follow my friends and they often follow me back, but I also follow some scholars who have no idea who I am (and that's fine). Some people follow me and I have no idea who they are; that's fine too, because we're not "friends." Twitter is largely for sharing links, so people who subscribe to my Twitter feed generally do so because they want the kinds of things I find interesting to come across their radar. It is, in other words, an intellectual relation. A Twitter connection is primarily formal, not emotional, and that's a good thing.
What a difference between Twitter's asymmetrical "following" and the ways Facebook tries to guilt you into being "friends" with everybody you've ever known or could plausibly know. The classic example is being Facebook "friends" with your parents--always an awkward thing, even if you get along well with your parents, because after all, a parent is something other than and beyond a friend. A whole bunch of French Canadian Cécires, charming people but of no known relation to me, have tried to friend me on Facebook. Of course! That's how Facebook works; that's how "friending" works. Nobody would ever follow my Twitter feed on the basis of a surname. On the basis of tweet contents (limerick, a mention of Marianne Moore, the use of a conference hashtag), yes. A possible genealogical connection, no.
I never posted much of anything on Facebook (I think I made two status updates: one to post a CFP and one to say that I was deactivating my account). I deactivated my account a few weeks ago, which isn't the same as deleting the account. I think my short and apathetic tenure on Facebook has me fairly safe, although of course I could be kidding myself (Byzantine instructions for actually deleting an account are linked below).
Typical of its penchant for confusing the personal with business, Facebook attempts some pretty funny emotional manipulation when you deactivate an account. Below, I'm told that a friend from college; my best friend from second grade, now an actor in L.A.; a good local friend; my sister-in-law; and my youngest brother are going to miss me. They won't be able to keep in touch with me.
It could be just me, but it strikes me that if the only thing keeping me in touch with someone is Facebook, then that person is not going to miss me, and I'm not going to miss them either. I think my friends and family and I are going to manage.
Some recent Facebook-related links:
- Ryan Singel at wired.com: "Facebook's Gone Rogue" (via Julia)
- The always insightful danah boyd: "Facebook and Radical Transparency," and her follow-up "Facebook is a utility; utilities get regulated"
- Aaron's smart post on the privilege of demanding that others be unveiled: "The Soul of Mark Zuckerberg"
- Melissa at Geek Feminism Blog: "Facebook is a Feminist Issue"
- Tracy Clark-Flory: "Facebook predicts your relationship is over" (not informative so much as hilarious)
- How to permanently delete your Facebook account