Why I Don’t Do Facebook

I have a confession to make to people who count me as a “friend” on Facebook: I don’t “do” Facebook. Yes, you do see a lot of status updates from me on FB, but I don’t post them there directly. Truth is, I’m pathetically Twitter-obsessed, and use a pair of Facebook apps to funnel my Twitter posts (“Tweets”) and blog entries directly to FB. So while I do have a Facebook account, I never spend time surfing around on it, which means I may not see your updates unless you’re also on Twitter. Is that rude or uncongenial? It’s not that I’m trying to avoid you, but that I prefer to avoid the high noise-to-signal ratio on FB (I find Twitter much more focused).

In addition – and this may sound funny coming from a tech nerd like me – I find Facebook completely confusing. Am I posting to your wall or my wall? Wall-to-wall? Is that same as posting to your inbox? Is this a private message? I’m never quite clear whether what I’m writing on FB is going to be publicly visible or not. When installing a FB app, I’m never quite clear how much info I’m giving away, how much tracking I’m allowing. I recently replied to a group discussion on FB and ended up with a flood of content-free noise in my email inbox for the next two weeks. Every person replying on the thread generated an email to me, and there was no apparent way to unsubscribe from the thread.

Basically, Facebook seems like one big, nasty, unfocused clusterbomb to me. While Twitter has its own share of noise (depending on whom you follow), I find it much easier to dial in to my own work and conversation patterns, easier to distinguish public from private on, easier to find focused information, and just more pleasant to work with in general. See Guy Kawasaki on the Power of Twitter and Tim O’Reilly’s Why I Love Twitter.

If a bunch of you tell me that it’s rude of me to auto-post to Facebook without actually participating in it, I’ll stop. Just let me know.

Music: Cul De Sac :: Homunculus

22 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Do Facebook

  1. JIm Gaynor

    Amen. I’m exactly the same. I use Twitter regularly, and feel a twinge now and then for the Facebook friends who respond to my x-posted updates.

    But no. Facebook just doesn’t do it for me.

  2. David Drucker

    Use what you’re comfortable with.

    Me, I’m a Social Media experimenter. I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Flickr. All have advantages, disadvantages, and have at one point or another surprised and delighted me (or rather, friends and acquaintances on those services have). Also, my blog, Twitter and Flickr all plug into Facebook. Sometimes I see a Twitter update on the web site, sometimes on TweetDeck, and sometimes on TwitterFon or Twitterific on my iPhone, sometimes on LinkedIn, and sometimes on Facebook. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s all pretty much become a blur to me. Images, video, audio, text, all from friends, contacts and even myself all swim in a sort of ‘media cloud’ around me, and it doesn’t bother me. Yet.

  3. Dan

    S’funny, I find almost exactly the opposite. I do use Twitter (since you recommended it on Antiweb), and although I’m gradually starting to get to grips with & love it, I still don’t really “get it”. Plus Twitter seems so much more like a bunch of people shouting into their own individual voids – on Facebook, I know that my status updates will be read and often responded to, whereas Twitter looks to me a lot more like everyone just mumbles to themselves.

    My biggest problem with Twitter though is with signal to noise. I only follow a relatively small number of people (29), which is fine, but it seems to me that mast hardcore Tweeters will automatically follow anyone who starts following them… to the extent that they will be following hundreds or even thousands. Couple this with the fact that many tweet dozens of times a day, and I don’t see how anyone can keep up (I guess there are tools to help with this – have been meaning to look into them – and perhaps Guy Kawasaki will tell me more, but as yet I don’t get it). By contrast, on Facebook I have 475 friends, 75% of whom are genuine “real-world” friends, and (given the smaller volume of status updates on Facebook) I find it relatively easy to keep up-to-date with them all.

    One thing I’m in absolute agreement with you about is that Facebook is horrendously complicated: the new redesign has simplified some aspects, but made others even harder to understand (or forced users to re-learn from scratch). Fortunately the heyday of “applications” now seems to be over, so it’s just a case of keeping up with walls, updates, messages, photos and events, but even so Twitter is beautifully simple by comparison.

  4. Sean Graham

    I pretty much do the same thing… I have facebook wired up to all the sites I really use, but rarely care much for using FB itself… I do really appreciate, however, how FB has made it really easy to do this. I have lots of friends who use FB regularly, and FB has made it really easy for friends to get my updates even if they know nothing about Twitter, LJ, Flickr, or whatever…

  5. Craque

    To be honest, I may have never signed up for twitter if I didn’t have an iphone, in fact I’m posting this through twittlator’s built in browser. Twitter apps for the iPhone are more functional and usable than anything I’ve seen for the desktop!

    I too update FB from twitter, but in addition to staying in touch with family, for me it also serves as a way of marketing my music and presence on the Internet, since I don’t go any of the ‘regular’ label routes. Not that it’s a great marketing tool, but that it is another facet of personality that I think enriches what I do as an artist whose sole distribution is online networks.

  6. Dan

    That’s another aspect of Facebook that I like: since a lot of what I do online revolves around photography, it’s great that I can tie in my status updates with a little bit of marketing my photos. The fact that I can tag people in them makes this even stronger.

  7. shacker Post author

    Great comments everyone. David, I like your term “media cloud” – that’s right on. In a way it’s weird — for years this blog was my “media cloud,” and everything online happened here. But its’ an echo chamber, and doesn’t tap the “network effect” at nearly the scale of FB or Twitter. Which is part of the reason this blog has been updated so seldom over the past six months. But I miss it.

    Dan: Plus Twitter seems so much more like a bunch of people shouting into their own individual voids

    Interesting. I guess I can see why you’d see it that way, though I’m more charitable towards it. It’s a micro-blogging system, and no more “shouting into a void” than any blogging system is. Except that it’s a lot more convenient and do-able for busy people. Have a quick thought or observation and out it goes – no need to take out half an hour to put something together (that’s both good and bad of course).

    I definitely don’t automatically follow anyone who follows me – I make that decision based on whether they seem to post interesting content. Following too many people is a problem if you feel some commitment to “read it all.” I don’t. I read what flows through when it makes sense in the scope of my day – usually five minutes here or there on the iPhone while drinking coffee or waiting for a bus, etc. If I miss some stuff, no big whoop. I’d rather miss some stuff than not subscribe to interesting people.

    I hadn’t really begun to explore the “marketing” aspect of Twitter until starting up the Stuck Between Stations channel, but am already finding it a very different animal than the person channel.

  8. Milan Andric

    Scot, I do a similar thing and I’m quite happy with it, using the twitter app to repost my tweets as fb statuses. Occasionally I get a comment or two on my fb status and I get notified in email. That’s pretty much the most interactive I get in facebook. But I really like it, it’s fun. It lets me keep in touch with folks on facebook and twitter. I get more response on my tweets from facebook than I do on twitter … that’s just me.

    I didn’t read through all the comments, forgive me if this post is of little value.

  9. Dan

    I called it “shouting into the void” for the reason that Milan mentions: people tend to reply on Facebook, less so on Twitter. Of course, not replying doesn’t mean not paying attention to: in the last 3 months I’ve had 3 incidents of people (who I’d not seen in ages – in fact, one whom I’d never met) twittering that they’d dreamt about me, the day after I’d posted particularly vivid/interesting/salacious tweets, even though they didn’t respond to me directly, and one of the things which keeps me posting to Facebook is that whenever I meet friends whom I haven’t seen in a while they are now always up-to-date with what I’m doing, and we can jump into conversations without too much small-talk.

    I’m still using both systems, and the subtle differences between them is something which keeps me fascinated and keeps me mining them to learn more.

  10. David Drucker

    Dan’s comment:

    > one of the things which keeps me posting to Facebook is
    > that whenever I meet friends whom I haven’t seen in a
    > while they are now always up-to-date with what I’m doing,
    > and we can jump into conversations without too much
    > small-talk.

    … really rang true for me as well. I find the most interesting thing about a lot of this social media is that it extends the venues of conversation. My social interactions now can lead from face-to-face, to blog comments (like these), to twitter repartee, to Facebook comments on status, back to face-to-face. The fact that one medium can pick up where the other left off, as well as take the place of it, when time and distance make face-to-face impossible, make all of the ‘hype’ about this stuff ‘worth it’ to me.

    I used to call out interesting news tidbits to my wife: “Palin did a news conference while they slaughtered turkeys behind her!” “Malia Obama is going to do her homework on the same desk that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation!”

    Now I also find myself calling out bits and pieces of other people’s status: “Tania’s running in the Diabetes Marathon!” “Jonathon is having a bunch of folks over to watch the hockey game.” etc.

    So finally, the news and musings of my friends and acquaintances are on par with headlines FARK and CNN.com.

  11. shacker Post author

    David – I can totally relate. In our family, it’s now as likely that I’m sharing something with Amy read from Twitter as it is I’m sharing something from the daily paper.

    Y’all make me realize how common this social media cross-pollination has become, as well as the friction points for their different modes of communicating / organizing threads. I think the fact that you see fewer replies on Twitter has everything to do with the mechanism, not the audience (i.e. it’s not because of ego, but because replies on Twitter are just a different kind of animal).

  12. Dan

    The thing which most annoys me about media commentators who don’t “get it” is when they say, for example, “don’t these people have social lives?” There is a common perception that if you’re spending time chatting online, it somehow detracts from any face-to-face encounters you have (or no longer have), whereas in fact quite the opposite is true. It’s a bit like saying “the reading of newspapers kills public debate”. NO!

  13. rinchen

    well, after emerging from long retreat in the mountains, i feel a little like someone returned from space travel to a brave new world where everyone communicates through a keyboard.

    It’s strange and somewhat mystifying, but since i have chosen to be in the world, and not to be a hermit, i’m totally willing to go w/ the flow, as it were.

    Someone invited me to facebook, and i responded happily, not knowing the pandora’s box i was opening. however, so far it’s been a genteel pandora’s box, and i’ve appreciated the opportunity to reconnect w/ friends, after living so long away.

    Facebook has not appeared as “one big, nasty, unfocused clusterbomb” yet. Rather, it seems like an enormous group-hug w/o the benefit of body-contact. It seems like people are really giddy to be able to connect in a ‘new’ way, and because of the giddiness and emphasis on play (e.g. gifts, photos) it can seem a little juvenile sometimes.

    I read a column today by Mark Morford, Swiftian and hilarious (at least to a cyber-retard like me), which highlighted a lot of the craziness of all the new communication media.

  14. shacker Post author

    @rinchen: No doubt Facebook is da bomb when it comes to connecting with people you know or used to know. Wonderful wooly group hug, as you say.

    It’s all the other stuff that bugs the crap out of me. “Your friend rinchen is downloading [insert name of adware crap-package here]. Wouldn’t you like to too?

    All the “Which Lip Plumpers Really Work?” ads. The whole Beacon fiasco. All of the stupid “gifts” and never-fun “games”.

    Seems like every time I log in someone is trying to chat with me (hello? can i have your attention right now rather than when it makes sense for you to give it?”). Email still rules for communication but many FB’ers want to use FB for all communications, supremely annoying.

    And it’s a horribly confusing interface. If I do wall-to-wall with you, is that a public or private response? Who can see what I’m writing?

    If you get an email telling you someone has left a comment, and click the link in the email, the comment is nowhere to be found and there’s no obvious way to find it – UI madness.

    FB is a clusterbomb alright. Twitter has none of this crap – just streamlined, purified asynchronous communication. Way more pleasant and gratifying (though it doesn’t have the “connect with old friends” thing to it).

  15. rinchen

    scot, all of criticisms seem apt; i’ve only used it for a few days and i’m feeling a little weary, especially by the level of idle chatter.

    Tho’ i realize internet etiquette is more accepting of basically ignoring what you’re not interested in, i find it difficult to ingore a friend’s message no matter how seemingly mundane and/or inane.

  16. How to Hack Facebook

    Has anyone else noticed the increased spam on Facebook?

    I don’t mean updates (if you don’t want them – just filter or don’t friend the person) I mean those group/page invites and random websites wanting to post through your facebook. I recently bought a book and the site decided it was ok to post on my Facebook. First time I knew about it, it had already updated my profile (I was already logged in).

  17. Jason

    Not a FB fan either and I am their prime target, a 20 year old university student. I gave it a go but found it to be an incredibly superficial world and something I did not have the time for. My friends are happy to email me or give me a call when required, otherwise we are out having fun together. The amount of time people spend on there is unbelievable, what is the fascination? A real friend will keep in contact on a regular basis via other means, and do you really need to follow their every move on a daily basis via FB?

  18. shacker Post author

    Jason, my feelings about FB have changed a lot since I originally posted this. Like you, I also have little patience for minutia of what friends are doing. BUT I’ve found that FB is very good at rising the best stuff to the top after you use it for a while. If you interact with the meatier content you find there, FB will automagically put that kind of content at the top of your stream. It actually does a very good job of helping to raise the signal and lower the noise, and I find it almost as useful as Twitter or Google+ these days.

  19. Dan Sumption

    Heh, Scot: I’d noticed that your Facebook posts have, over a period of time, gone from being duplicates of tweets to being originals, making much more use of Facebook’s features.

  20. shacker Post author

    It’s true – I used to have all my tweets auto-posted to FB, but that really doesn’t work – the syntax of hashtags and @ replies doesn’t translate at all.

    I still post to multiple networks sometimes, but when I do it’s via copy/paste, modifying slightly for each network if necessary.

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