Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Post Facebook? Or Perhaps the Value of Less Facebook

A digital friend of mine recently announced being “Post Facebook”, meaning he had canceled his user account on Facebook. It seems to be a growing trend in some countries with decreasing Facebook users.

(note: I define a “digital friend” as someone whose friendship and acquaintance generally takes place on digital media, like Twitter or a blog or something, over traditional proximity-based friendship where you actually “see” peope.)

It’s an interesting and radical step to cancel your Facebook account, which, even though I don’t know his specific reasoning, I tend to agree with from time-to-time.

I don’t really like Facebook anymore, if I ever did. There is not a ton of value out of my using Facebook since there are so many voices on some many topics fired at me at the same time via a single stream. But perhaps this problem about random info in a social media stream isn’t limited to Facebook, but it’s perhaps one of the first digitial places to really suffer from it.

I’ll admit that I’ve never really loved Facebook as one of my earliest posts on this blog reveals:

Suddenly I have too many “friends” for me to handle. How did this nifty way to stay connected and “keep in touch” with people turn so cruelly nightmarish? This Pandora-like book of faced “contacts” has got me all turned inside out. So, let’s face it, I’m face-book-out. And once opened, Facebook is strangely difficult to close.

Just like 5 years ago, I think this Facebook burn-out or fatigue still seems true today. For me, sheer fatigue is not the only issue I have with Facebook.

I think my current issues with Facebook comes down to the following points: 1. much of the information I get from facebook is both worthless and irrelevant, 2. I don’t really have a way to segment the info, and 3. the ads are ridiculously and annoyingly mistargeted to me.

In spite of these problems, there are a these rare instances where Facebook has extreme value for me, so even though ultimately the value of Facebook is less Facebook, there is value on being on and connecting through Facebook.

(NOTE: If you want to skip Facebook trash talk, head to the last section on a Morocco Anecdote/)

Most Facebook News Steam Info Is Worthless and Irrelevant

While I very occasionally get interesting information on Facebook, I’d say the majority of what appears to me on my news feed is completely and totally worthless. It’s just lots of links and snippet to mind-numbing videos, bizaare pics and the never-ending inspirational quotes. On this scale, Facebook sucks a lot in a large amount of volume.

It feels like this overcrowded central marketplace with people screaming and selling and pushing for attention with their elbows, sounds and false promises.

I might be wrong here and maybe I’ve got the “wrong kind” of Facebook friends, but my guess is that most people get a lot of garbage through Facebook today, especially once the number of “Facebook friends” gets beyond a hundred and/or you befriend a Facebook sharing psychopath. I think it’s partially tied to the fact that it’s so simple to just keep adding “friends” on Facebook that your Facebook. It’s also easy to share stuff.

It’s a bit like email, people share everything without considering the cost of people’s time in having to process it enough to ignore.

In this way, Facebook’s “social media life” has turned into a junkyard of people’s daily crap and so-called shared wisdom. It’s crowded, it’s empty, it’s a hallow. And mute just doesn’t really seem like a much of an option.

News Feed Insanity or the trouble with segmenting the info better

While Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are less bad in this respect compared to Facebook, none of them really provide a great way to segment the info. There are, of course, lists, circles and different tagging of groups of people, but, excluding Google+ Circles, all of these social networks force you to group of a person’s updates into a category. This doens’t prevent a person in “cool technology” category from tweeting out or posting a Facebook update about their latest burrito outing. The lists fails, because people don’t just talk about one thing, unfortunately.

Facebook news stream is still one of the worst, because by it’s very nature people post their personal stuff, so it tends to be much less relevant to me since, well, it’s not my personal stuff.

Google+ has the potential the make this info sharing a lot better since you group people in circles and can better in turn place your updates, links and other stuff accordingly in circles. It’s potentially better but far from perfect, since it requires quite a bit of control for the poster.

I’d say the news feed insanity comes from the fact that you might be going into a list of this interest but people post about 3 or 4 or more categories, which leads to irrelevance and information overload.

Facebook Ads Target Me as Needing A Girlfriend All the Time and in Every Country

This is a grip I have a lot of trouble coping with and this alone might be enough to jump ship with Facebook.

Facebook ads are also really annoying for me and completely ruin the experience most of the time. With my “single” relationship status and my current location, I get bombarded with sidebar advertisements pimping the local ladies (currently Spanish, previously French and before that Chinese) and their free love (yeah, right).

I got so feed-up with the facebook ads that I installed the Chrome extension AdBlock, which has significantly improved my negativity towards facebook. I don’t like blocking internet ads since I know a lot of the internet blogger economy runs on it and I appreciate and respect the internet bloggers.

Post Facebook? But Why I Can’t Leave? A Moroccan Anecdote

In spite of all of these negative points about Facebook, I’m not sure I’m ready to cut myself off from Facebook completely just yet, because on the rare occasion, Facebook allows me to connect withpeople in a place and in a way that wouldn’t happen unless we were already connected via Facebook. By being the biggest social network for people watching and general old friend stalking, Facebook provides a unique opportunity for me to meet people again that I met someplace else previously. Here’s an anecdotal story from a recent trip to northern Africa.

A couple weeks ago I took a spur of the moment trip to Morocco. I work digitally so it’s pretty easy for me to continue working and still manage to be “traveling” anywhere I want. I left because I left like it. I stayed for while, saw cool things, ate amazing new dishes and made a bunch of new memories about a unique place and time.

Anyways, so the night before leaving for Morocco, I logged onto Facebook and saw a photo from a previous travel-acquiescence who I had met in Thailand. She happened to be traveling by train from Fez to Marrakesh and had posted a really beautiful photo. Amazingly, I too was to be in Marrakesh the next day so I zapped her a message. A few days later, we met a couple times while we were both in the same city. We had tea and chatted about our travels and lives abroad. It was the pure coincidence of two people had to connect in a real place because Facebook was already connecting us.

I generally avoid posting many updates in Facebook for the reasons I discussed above, but when I do, which is I do a bit more when I travel, I do try to provide only “cool,” “interesting” or “unique” updates and photos.

Anyways, so a day or two after arriving in Morocco, I took a pretty cool picture and posted it to Facebook with just a simple description but no location. A French friend of an American friend living in France asked if I was in Morocco, which I was. She was also living in Marrakesh and invited me to her house for dinner with her boyfriends.

Again another coincidence of people, place and time meeting through connections that, at least then, could only have happened through the biggest social network that currently exists: Facebook.

I may not like many aspects of Facebook, but indeed it made for a couple rare reunions on unplanned roads in faraway places.

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