I’m going on a Facebook diet

Before I say anything else, let me make it clear that I think that Facebook is a very interesting social and technological phenomenon which will continue to impact our society (for better or for worse) for years to come. However, on a personal level I have come to the conclusion that I need to go on a Facebook diet.

By lowering the barrier to instant, informal communication Facebook has made it very easy to get in touch with your ‘friends’ on the network, whether or not they want such a connection to exist. While this is a good thing in some cases, I have found that in my case at least, it encourages patterns of communication that I would otherwise avoid. At the same time, I found it difficult to use Facebook as more broadcast-oriented medium which in turn means that the ratio of time spent to people reached is rather small (especially in relation to my blog and proper forums). The net result is is that I spend an inordinate amount of time on activities that are, simply put, worthless.

Facebook has an almost unique ability to encourage short, but often pointed and intense discussions. But this is not its main purpose and there are far less fruitful things to do. In particular, the Chat application can be quite distracting and very irritating for users on both ends, especially since you often sign on and make yourself available without actually wanting to do so. From a technological perspective Facebook Chat is the perfect example of being just good enough and can become succesful because it is simply more insidiuous than existing IM applications. But from a personal productivity perspective, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Finally there is the fact that Facebook blurs the line between private and public like almost nothing else before it. While it can be very empowering and interesting if you consciously decide to put parts of your life on public display, it can also be very disconcerting and disturbing if you are someone who places a higher value on privacy and would prefer to be left alone. While I personally don’t mind placing significant aspects of my life on display (and am quite careful about what I do and don’t put online), I know that other people don’t feel the same way, and I continually find myself questioning whether or not I should engage in some conversation or the other.  I would rather not have to think about this. I would love to live in a world where everyone is conscious of their privacy and properly sets their privacy settings. But lacking such awareness, there are ample opportunities for misunderstanding and confusion which makes communication all that much more difficult. Once again, dealing with those difficulties is not a good use of my time.

Keeping all the above in mind: I can’t help but come to the conclusion that in many ways it’s best if I go on a Facebook diet, hopefully resulting in more productivity on my part and less intrusion on others’ activities. In particular, I’m completely giving up on Facebook chat, most applications (including all games), messages (which are an adhoc, half-assed, proprietary reimplementation of email anyway) and photos. I’ll also be commenting only if I know the person really well and might even start removing people who I don’t really know all that well. I started mirroring my blog on Facebook Notes a few months ago, hoping it would spark more conversation, but that has not been the case and so I’m going to stop that as well. I used to check Facebook whenever I sat down at a computer, but that will stop as well.

What this means for my friends is:

  1. I will not be responding to any messages you send me on Facebook (use email or IM)
  2. I will not be putting any photos up (though you are welcome to put my photos up
  3. I will probably ignore any application/quiz invitations you send me
  4. Please don’t depend on event invitations to let me know that something is happening
  5. I’ll still be using my Wall, but don’t expect a response in less than a few hours

I would still like to use Facebook as a discussion medium (as opposed to a communication medium) but only if the time/energy investment pays off. Without Facebook as a major time sink, I plan on refocusing time and effort on this blog, my website ( http://basushr.net ), email for direct communication and involved conversations and Identi.ca/Twitter for more informal, short length communication.

Communicate Away!

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Published by

Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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