Broadcasting the living room

Or why I'm deleting my Facebook account

At the end of this week, I'm going to delete my Facebook account. I've given this a great deal of thought, and I feel I owe an explanation to the family and friends who use Facebook regularly.

Ten-four, good buddy permalink

Years ago, I had more money than sense. I also had a close-knit group of friends, all of whom lived within about a mile of each other. When we weren't working or at school, we spent a lot of time in one another's living rooms. We had the those intense and fascinating conversations that are only possible when you spend a lot of time with a small group of people.

I don't remember why, but I thought that buying us a set of CB radios would be a great idea. Each of us had one in our living rooms. The idea was that we'd continue the conversations over the radios. That didn't really happen. We used them for a few months as a kind of novelty item. We'd listen in on some of the conversations. We'd find a channel that was relatively quiet and goof around. But we never really has the same kinds of conversations over the CB.

Unguarded conversations permalink

In retrospect, it was ridiculous to think that we could have the same types of conversations over the CB. Even when we found a clear channel, there would almost always be someone listening. And the types of conversations we had in our living room were simply inappropriate for the CB. In the end, we did more listening than talking.

In the privacy of our living rooms, we're able to have unguarded conversations with people we trust. When I first started using Facebook in early 2007, it felt a bit like that. I was able to post quick messages and photos to a group of family and friends that I knew and trusted. There was more to Facebook than this— especially after Facebook introduced apps in May of that year—but it was a great way of communicating with family and friends. Effectively, I saw Facebook as a virtual living room: a place to have unguarded conversations with people I trusted.

Broadcasting the living room permalink

The changes to the default privacy changes announced in December of last year and at the F8 conference this year changed that. Suddenly, it was no longer possible to have an unguarded conversation on Facebook. Even if I changed my privacy settings, I couldn't be sure what settings other users had chosen. Facebook, for their own reasons, wanted those conversations in the open. Facebook had decided to broadcast my living room to the rest of the web.

Facebook is right: open is good, sharing is good permalink

I don't have a problem with having conversations in the open. This blog is open to anyone who cares to read it. I'm an avid conversationalist on twitter. Most of my flickr photos are public. I use a number of other online services that make much of my life public.

I love the conversations I have in these places. I've learned a great deal, and I've made a number of friends using those services. However, the conversations I have in the open are fundamentally different than the conversations I would have in my living room; they are fundamentally different than the conversations I used to have on Facebook before December of last year (I haven't really used the service much since then). Everything from the way I speak to what I say changes depending on this context.

A question of trust permalink

I would have been quite happy to go on using Facebook if they seemed to have any interest at all in their users' concerns. The way they went about implementing these privacy changes was underhanded and dishonest. This fundamentally eroded my trust in the company.

Over the last few weeks, Facebook has had ample opportunity to address users' concerns about the changes to the default privacy settings, but they seem determined to ignore them.

When asked why Facebook couldn't set up their privacy settings so that everything was "opt-in," Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy at Facebook, replied "Everything is opt-in on Facebook. Participating in the service is a choice... Please don’t share if you’re not comfortable."

Today, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, claimed to address users' privacy concerns. He did not once mention users' concerns about the changes to the default privacy settings.

Facebook has had more than enough opportunity to prove to me and others that they care about their users' concerns. I'm not convinced. Facebook is no longer a company I feel I can trust. They are no longer a service I feel comfortable using to share my life with my family and friends.

Only connect permalink

If the page they display when you try to deactivate your Facebook account is anything to go by, Facebook seems to think they can get away with this kind of behavior because they own the connections between their users.

This is simply not true. At least, it's not true of they way I've used Facebook. Each and every friend I have on Facebook is someone I met outside of Facebook. For most of those friends, I have alternative means of contact.

If you're reading this post and think you don't have a way of contacting me you can:

And let's hope someone creates a social network that gives a damn about people so we can have unguarded conversations again.

Update: I clicked "Okay." Permanently Delete Account