12 May 2010

Open letter to my Facebook friends

Dear Facebook friend,

I hope this letter finds you well. Myself, I am doing quite fine. I have been busy and I have some major changes in the not so distant future as I, together with my family, am about to return ‘home’ after eight years of self-defined exile. But I am not writing to you because of that. I am writing to thank you for sharing this platform, Facebook, with me for however long we have been connected here. I opened my account sometime in 2007 and the number of you – my Facebook friends – have varied between 130 at one point to around 50. Currently I have 66 people on my list. I like things that one can do in Facebook except that all of them you can do a lot better elsewhere. I like Flickr for photos, Twitter for updates and links and blogs for most other things. Even if in Facebook all these things happen in the same place, it’s a bit clumsy and to me its only redeeming quality is that it’s got everyone. Well, I am not after everyone and quite importantly since I am not really selling anything, I see no longer any reasons to have the account. I will delete - note, not deactivate - it tonight.

This moment is liberating. Facebook has for some time been going against some of my principles that I perhaps with na├»ve foolishness hang onto. For a long time I have felt troubled by its ever changing terms and conditions and distinctly unclear privacy settings. I am not necessarily that private person – I share a lot in my blog and Twitter – but I struggle to appreciate the feeling of being tricked into new rules. I also find it impossible to appreciate the possibility of my information being used for advertising or other commercial purposes. That’s the kind of stuff that really gets my go. I also cannot let some company like this to pressurise me to let them define my friendships and social interactions with constant reminders of ‘maybe you should be this person’s friend’, and even more so, I would not wish to appear for other people in that way either. I have been tweaking my settings, but really, it should not be that complicated.

So now, after back and forthing around the subject for a long, I have finally decided to free myself from it. It feels a lot better than the time when I recently deleted my MySpace account. That hardly was a sacrifice; I didn’t use it anymore anyway, but in Facebook I am every day. A bit like I drink excessive amount of coffee every day, but I know it’s not ideal.

I am also aware of the possibility that deleting the account will lose me a few contacts. We have become so used to the idea of contacting people through Facebook, that we don’t even have everyone’s email address anymore, and even if we do, we keep the contact by clicking the 'like' button on each others’ witty updates. The stage online should be at, at the moment, at least if I should believe the ones thinking a lot about it, is somewhat social. I quite like that, but Facebook on everyday level to me has become less social and more like a register or database of people I may or may not have a strong connection with. Some people have popped up from decades ago to my life, only to say nothing to me or me to them. Twitter, where you will easily find me, is easier space to communicate without all the clutter and the prerequisite of communication that is, at least theoretically, but also technologically two way relationship; I don’t see any sense in adding people to my list and then hide their updates and such. Why are they there then anyway – as said, I am not trying to sell you anything so I don’t need a mass audience, and I am old enough not to worry over the quantity of my friends. I know this may sound like a criticism to someone, perhaps even you right now, but really, I am only talking about how I feel about it; not how you should. I’ve also got my blog which really is the centre of my web presence and I like that as a place to express. There, by the way in my view, is not anything wrong with people using Facebook for grassroots promotional purposes; it's just that I don't.

So without being overtly dramatic about it, if my deletion of this account means that our relationship, whatever it may have been is finished, then there are no hard feelings involved. Life is such that people enter and exit your life and only a very few stay for long time. No beef involved. That natural lifespan of social relationships was always to my dissatisfaction disturbed by Facebook anyway.

Regardless of whether I have been one of your few or a few thousand Facebook friends I wish you well. I am sure there has been some reason why we were on each other’s lists. I hope to see you in the real world, in Twitter, to hear from you via email or converse in my or your blog. Who knows, maybe soon again there will be a new service that doesn’t leave me feeling short changed and we meet again there.

All the best and like they say, let's stay in touch,

Twitter: @mikmikko

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