I have just taken a rare step and deactivated my Facebook account, which was strange. Realising you have no friends is not a particularly nice experience, especially not helped by having Norah Jones’ ‘Back to Manhattan’* playing whilst I did it. At first I began by deleting all ‘Friends’ I hadn’t engaged with in any way since we connected. It started easy but got difficult as I started deleting people I respect, but reminding myself being called Eric Schmidt with a profile picture of Mark Zuckerberg isn’t going to help them work out who I am if I did communicate in any way. Eventually I decided to just delete the whole Facebook account. But after, I wondered if I should extend the sentiment to Twitter, a service I still use, and all the social web.
*A song about a relationship ending.
R.I.P. Facebook, 2006 – 2010
Waving goodbye to ‘Friends’ is a bit strange, even if 90% of them were there for the friend count. But there was a time before Facebook where life was just as good. And to be honest, the few people I respected most had shutdown in spirit too.
My Facebook timeline starts with all my friends consisting of people I respected and currently knew in 2006. Back then there wasn’t much of a culture of shout it and shout it loud. That is apart from the short statuses that not everybody did – OK, I accept it was mainly me spearheading the trend of annoying others with pointless updates, that would later become the reason for signing up to Twitter. Over the years Facebook changed as more and more old friends reconnected and reminded you why you disconnected in the first place. 120 picture albums of some slag’s night out, and racist jokes from people you couldn’t tolerate brought Facebook to unbearable levels. You wouldn’t delete these friends either, not because you may offend them but because you wanted a high friend count. Sadly as more and more people became unbearable, the privacy issue of Facebook caught the attention of those who cared about their reputation online and the whole platform became a personal data nightmare. Quite quickly the people I liked disappeared or took a backseat from Facebook, which left me with the idiots
About January 2010 I purged all my old statuses and wall notifications and left Facebook, keeping the account active just in case I needed to get in touch with people whom I had no alternative contact method, mainly people I had met travelling that had said “are you on Facebook?” instead of the then obsolete “what’s your email?”. Anyway, 10 months have passed and I have had little use for Facebook other than to spy on other people’s lives when I was bored. In May-ish time I posted quite a lengthy note for all my Facebook friends asking them to please go out of their way to actually answer to this one post how Facebook was useful for them and if they understood the privacy implications. Not one person responded, which taught me quite a lot.
Today as I began deleting friends it dawned on me I was doing much more than just that. I was moving on into a new era, the so-called Social Shutdown.
I first heard of this term by the British internet/tech writer Paul Carr on Techcrunch in August (which I suggest you should read if the rest of this post doesn’t make sense). Paul asserted that he had enough of the me, me, me culture on Twitter and decided to cut it out his life. At first I disagreed with him, passing him off as someone who didn’t get Twitter, and didn’t interact. Today I agree with him as I see how Twitter has begun, for me, to follow a similar path as to how Facebook went.
Twitter; Drawing Its Pension
When I first joined Twitter it was a definite social network, you could Tweet and get a reply. You could join in with hashtag games such as #foodfilms or something daft and engage in communication and make friends. You could get retweets too! I remember live tweeting events like the Eurovision Song Contest or F1 races, and I particularly remember the excitement of the Iranian Elections where we Tweeters first overpowered the world’s media corporations to essentially, report the news in a social, viral way. Nothing has happened like that for a while, unless you live in Ecuador of course.
Today I could tweet that my house was on fire and nobody would bat an eyelid. Nobody new has followed me for about 6 months except for products, businesses and auto-accounts. 19 out of 20 open questions asked go unanswered whereas they used to get a hint of help from somebody. I do, no – did, follow people based on a #followfriday recommendation, but that is now a pointless tweet made on a Friday. Mentioning a trending topic won’t get you a conversation or an enjoyable argument like it did in the old days. I can only attribute this to too many users, too many sponsored links, promotions and tweets that have just ruined it all.
Back to Social Shutdown
The difference between me and Paul Carr is that I engaged in Twitter whereas he admittedly was selfishly using Twitter to promote his writings. He didn’t contribute to the community like I do, but as I have noticed I have come to the point where I can’t be bothered anymore. Everybody is, like he says, ‘Me Me Me’. And the problem with tweeting something, is you cannot prove it has been read. I spoke in a previous post that Conan O’Brien might as well be tweeting to a brick wall; that is true of most of us because people don’t respond anymore – I’ll bet the username ShirleyValentine is a really self satisfying tweeter. I have 1500 tweets in my back catalogue, about 50 can be proven as having been read.
My Social Shutdown Plan
As Twitter and perhaps Tumblr are now the only social networks I use proper, I think I might evaluate Social Shutdown, and keep the accounts active for selfish promotional reasons. Unlike with Facebook where I had 10 months to evaluate its usefulness, I have only recently arrived at this idea of total Social Shutdown, and am having to force myself for my own good to take some precautionary trial steps. For all people I follow on Twitter/Tumblr, do not fear for I will still check in and keep up with your (!pointless) updates. This is a trial for me to envision the future of my web usage, though I would understand if you unfollowed me because I’m not playing. Having said that, if you are on Twitter, you have ADD and thus have not read this far down (joke). If you feel like proving me wrong, tweet a link to this post ;).
For the near future I will continue all selfish posts from The Anphicle Review. If I do tweet at all I will only do so if it adds value to anybody’s life. I am certainly going to cut out completely all inane status updates, opinions and general horseplay. I will unfollow anybody who doesn’t follow me and has no value to add to my feed. I will transfer all news-feed accounts into my RSS reader.
If this leads me to delete my Twitter, it can only be a good thing. If it leads to Total Social Shutdown, i.e keeping my personal life away from the internet – then there will be an interesting change in the future for me and my use of the Internet, perhaps a future post here maybe “The Social Web; 2004 – 2010″.