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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Being Driven Away from Facebook

Do you know where your Facebook friends are? Do you care?

Something called foursquare now allows people to “check in” apparently wherever they go. And when they check in every one of their friends on Facebook sees a message in their news feed informing them that “Steve just checked in @ Kelley’s Row (Dover, NH).”

I don’t really know Steve, though I strangely feel compelled to use a fake name for him. He seems like a decent guy. He was extremely helpful in helping me try to work through a software issue I was having with a product he developed. We’ve even made some minor connections with our different professional ventures.

But I don’t care where Steve is at any given moment. And this has absolutely nothing to do with Steve.

I have actual friends – you know, people I’ve met, spoken to face-to-face, spent time in their actual presence. A lot of time with some. People I genuinely care for. People I miss if I don’t see them enough.

People who should never, ever feel the need to tell me on a given day that they just arrived at Giant.

I don’t know if a person can even check in at Giant. I don’t know if people can only check in at places prescribed by the service, if they have to whip out their phone when they arrive somewhere to jump on a website and “check in,” or, if God help us all, it happens automatically.

And I don’t care.

By journalistic standards I should have probably investigated the how-to of this service, but I just refuse to cross this particular line.

In fact, I think this is finally Facebook’s “jump the shark” moment – at least for me.

Like everything else in the world, or so it seems, Facebook was a great idea that is being destroyed by over use. I’ll admit, I signed up to promote a website I was trying to get off the ground. Maybe I was part of the bastardization of the site.

I quickly got into the social aspects of “Facebooking.” Working (or not working) from home, it was fun to have some human interaction throughout the day. I connected with friends from high school, and people I had only known by name back then. Family connections were made, and some maybe strengthened just a bit. I made a few connections that may help on a professional level some day. Facebook has even become a decent source of information for the two daily blogs that I maintain.

Those benefits were worth sifting through the nonsense of Farmville, so-and-so who I’ve only met once answering a question about me and posting it on my wall, and even the friend requests from people I really didn’t ever want to be friends with in real life. I have to admit, I got fairly apt at declining them.

I enjoyed the sports banter. For a time, I engaged in the political debates, but it turned out to be better not to know the politics of many “friends,” even the actual ones. They no doubt feel the same way. Sharing pictures was cool. And, early on, it was even fun to read the random thoughts people felt compelled enough to share. I think it was even cathartic to share the occasional experience now and then.

But the avalanche of absurdities that everyone agrees are stupid – yet they continue coming, in some form, from those same people – has taken over. After just one day of not checking the news feed there was 300+ news items. I’m fairly certain that is the highest number the site will indicate. The “top news” item was from someone I have met twice, essentially proclaiming she had drunk too much Saturday night.

I still remember the first time I thought Facebook was going in the wrong direction. A woman I actually know, or more accurately knew as a kid, wanted to let the world know how wonderful cuddling with her husband was. The message was written in the present tense.

I have 170 friends on Facebook. I don’t know that many people. I certainly don’t have that many friends.

For now, I’ve changed my Facebook bookmark to my profile page. I can check in, and still get any communication actually intended for me. Blogging efforts will likely force me back to scanning the news feeds, but I’m hopeful that a more stringent use of lists will help me avoid the nonsense. For example, sports contacts will hopefully offer posts about, you know, sports. Note the use of the word “hopefully.”

Gradually, though, I can see myself leaving Facebook altogether. Promoting my blogs is much easier through the stripped down version of Facebook, Twitter, and it has already begun to be a solid substitute for useful information.

And, hopefully, I’ll never get a tweet telling me when someone checks-in at home.

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