New Year’s resolution: Fix Facebook

I mean, it's not like we could just demand to see the code that's governing our lives. What right do we have to poke around in Facebook's private affairs like that?

Over the years I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Facebook: I love to hate it. As an early adopter, I always have felt that my interaction with the social network was very different to what other people were using it for, and the change in the platform has only made my interaction with FB much more difficult. Some years ago I even publicly quit Facebook for almost 2 years, only to come back after it became overwhelmingly prevalent in society.

But I still hate it.

There are things we all hate. The pretentious pictures, the passive-aggressive pictures, the badly-used memes. But for me the main reason why I loathe Facebook is the fact that it has morphed into the place where you are supposed to connect with your real friends and family, while other social networks fulfil different functions. It has been a long-running joke that Twitter is where you follow people you’d wish you’d know, while on Facebook you follow people you wish you didn’t. LinkedIn is just weird, strictly for business, and it has gained a reputation for being a bit creepy at that.

I'd like to add you to my professional network

But Facebook started as a very different proposition, you used to add absolutely everyone you had ever met, even if you had just met them at a conference. Now it has become a bit more touchy social issue of who to follow and who not to, with the unwritten understanding that you only follow real friends. But the legacy aspect has left me following a whole bunch of people who I have no idea who they are. This festive period my timeline was suddenly filled with people I don’t know, and I kept asking myself why a social media intended to connect to close friends was full of strange faces. I started going through my “friends” list and there was a significant portion of people who I had no idea who they were, or where I had met them. I could guess in many cases thanks to the other shared friends, but in many instances I really couldn’t remember if we had even spoken in real life.

All of the above has continued to upset me over the last year, and it is part of a larger problem with the type of content that I get. A good number of my connections on FB are from high school and university, and I have simply become much more different person than the Costa Rican social norm. Many old friends have aged into conservatives, which filled my timeline with political, religious and social commentary absolutely alien to me. Many of these former friends and acquaintances hold views that I despise, and while I spent last year filtering quite a large number of people, I am still constantly angered by stuff I read on Facebook.

It is no secret that I am more of a Twitter person, I like the casualness and unilateral nature of the communication, while Facebook has morphed into a mix of a popularity contest and a Trump rally. So my FB became extremely impersonal, I don’t have my actual picture in my profile, and I tend to share very vague stuff, and lots of duck pictures, which I’m sure many people may find incredibly annoying.

So, what to do? I started thinking of the various options:

  1. Quit. This is tempting, but there are still a few useful ways to use FB. I like to use it to connect to family and friends, and there are also a few people that I absolutely love to follow. The common thread of these is that they tend to use it more like a very personal Twitter. So I won’t be quitting for now.
  2. Remove everyone but a few close people. This seemed like the best next option other than quitting, but I felt that if I do that I might as well quit.
  3. So I have opted for a compromise, I will first remove everyone I can’t remember where I met them, or who I have only met once. Then I will see what my timeline looks as a result. Then I’ll start following interesting people and news sources in the same way one follows people on Twitter. My plan is to remove over the next few days at least half of my “friends” list.

One thing is clear, life is short and I cannot continue to allow Facebook to become a constant source of annoyance. I will let you know how the experiment goes.

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