This month I did something considered radical in my tech circle: I quit Facebook.
[Pause for collective gasp.]
What was once a great social network for me to stay in touch with friends and family had finally outgrown any usefulness it once had. Here’s the problem. Facebook is trying too hard to be too many things to too many people – most of them advertisers. Its user experience has devolved so drastically, that scrolling through my News Feed was not unlike the scene from Clockwork Orange in which Malcolm McDowell is tortured by a constant stream of the world’s atrocities blaring at his face.
In 2012, writer and author Nick Bilton humorously tweeted, “Going to Facebook has become the equivalent of opening the fridge & staring inside, even though you’re not hungry.” In 2015, it’s only gotten worse.
No matter how much I tweaked the infinite number of Facebook settings to reign in my News Feed – a big red flag that Facebook is an uncontrollable Frankenstein – I still couldn’t create an experience I wanted, or even liked.
I am finding I’m not alone in my opinion that Facebook is, at best, a mediocre social experience. Talking with friends and colleagues, a lot of them have lost their interest in Facebook as well but begrudgingly stick with it for the reason most people do – the friends and family connectivity and peer pressure. ‘Everyone else hates it too so…’
The pain points were more significant for people I talked with who have pages for their personal projects and small businesses. Their posts have little to no visibility unless they pay Facebook to have them promoted. And with new changes to Facebook’s algorithm, they’re actually reducing Promoted Page posts in News Feeds. Awesome! Usually these were the same posts I was most interested in seeing in my News Feed yet rarely ever did despite the fact I was following their pages and making lists including them. Facebook is a vicious circle of suck for a lot of us. But what to do? I quit Facebook.
I’m learning I’m not the only one who has recently quit in the New Year. In one week’s time, I spoke with nearly a dozen people who quit Facebook for various reasons. It had either outgrown any usefulness, was a waste of time (no revelation there), they were creeped out over Facebook’s mood manipulation experiment, or it had devolved into a nasty aggravation generator, particularly after the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths when divisive vitriol was at an all time high.
Did they miss Facebook? Actually, the opposite. Some people said they noticed they were in a better mood without it. Others, like myself, have streamlined their social media presence and are focusing on the one or two they enjoy the most or are seeking out new ones. For me that’s Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
I like Twitter because I can follow a ton of interests and easily organize them with lists. I produce a lot of written content and Twitter keeps me on the front line of what’s fresh and relevant in tech, media and news and, unlike Facebook, it’s in real-time. There’s no knee-jerk algorithm messing with my stream.
Pinterest is still somewhat of a mystery to most people because they haven’t done a great job demonstrating how it can be useful to a broad audience. I love Pinterest because it’s a great way to keep a visual archive of information. On any given week, I skim approximately 100 different websites doing research for things I’m writing about. I come across a lot of information, some of which I can use now, some I’ll use in the future. Pinterest is perfect to store this info. If I need to write a round-up on collaboration apps, or a listicle of artist’s studios, I have a Pinterest board full of them.
On Instagram I follow my close friends, family and brands that I think are doing some cool stuff on it. It’s basically where I go for ten minutes to catch up with people while I grab a coffee in the morning or settle in for the night.
All three of these social networks combined take up less time than Facebook did as a whole. And believe it or not, I haven’t lost touch with my friends or family. I still talk, text, Google Chat, and email my friends daily. For those who fear their business will lose customers, they’re not quitting Facebook in droves but some have decided to refocus on email marketing where they can have more direct, impactful connections with their clients.
I was giving advice to a friend recently and asked, “I don’t understand why you want to perpetuate such a mediocre situation?” Saying it out loud, I realized I wasn’t taking my own advice. I make it a habit to live my life as consciously as I can. To surround myself with solid people, do things that fulfill and charge me, and get rid of the stuff that drains – despite the perceived comfort of familiarity. For these reasons, I quit Facebook.