A Little Bit Of History
This WordPress blog is the latest incarnation of my online identity; I’ve had a web site operating continuously for roughly 20 years, but I didn’t start to post regular updates online until “blogs” became a thing. I remember encountering the memepool weblog for the first time in the late 90s, the earliest instance of a site I can think of that had collaboratively posted links in a pure timeline format. I don’t think anyone would claim that Slashdot was a blog, even though it’s always been a collaboratively curated links site; Slashdot always felt like it was more about news and conversation than pure content, the evolutionary path that would eventually branch off into the 4chans and Reddits of today.
But I recall that early on weblogs weren’t something everyone did – they were largely left to people who were excellent curators, or who had great connections or inside sources, or who generally knew what was going on in the world. I didn’t start blogging myself until the year 2000, when blogs tended more towards personal journaling; I joined Livejournal because all my friends were doing it, and were all migrating from posting to Usenet newsgroups and to groups within our private network / evolved BBS (the infamous gweep.net).
It wasn’t until the advent of so-called “microblogging” and “social networks” that I moved my personal journaling to Facebook, and then Twitter. I put quotes around “social networks” because I still feel that no one has truly nailed social networking yet. Facebook and LinkedIn have obviously gotten the farthest, but they aren’t social networking tools. Or, if I’m feeling generous, I should say they have only the most rudimentary social networking functions – so much more could be done to manage and discover more about one’s relationships! Regardless, I went to Facebook when everyone else did, and stayed for a number of years; but I recently (finally) decided to “cut the cord” and leave the network – for good.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
Like many others did in recent years, I dithered about whether or not to continue using Facebook. Over the years, I’ve migrated from system to system like so many other digital nomads: in terms of “social” I go all the way back to Sixdegrees, then Friendster, MySpace… and finally to Facebook. With an itinerant history like that, I always felt that at some point it’d be time to move on to whatever was the next thing; I just didn’t expect the next best alternative was going back to independent blogging!
Ultimately deciding to delete my Facebook account was a simple matter of weighing the pros and the cons of using and maintaining it.
Reasons To Stay
The most obvious reason to stay was that EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT. I could easily send messages to my parents now living in the Deep Southwest; keep tabs on them and the rest of my extended family while they were keeping tabs on me. Having access to a network that most people are part of is pretty great, especially when so many less techie members in my social circles are using it.
As one of those “full stack” unicorn-like software engineers who has to wear every hat at the same time, I also had some incentive to stay connected to the platform so I could continue to develop applications on it and be able to integrate other systems with it. This is especially true for building at hackathons and cobbling together quick apps with a lot of the foundation already built.
Events, invitations, and group pages were all something I wanted to stay on top of; people and local businesses now regularly use Facebook as a nexus for event planning, since everyone is on it and you don’t need to remember anyone’s email or phone number to communicate with them. My recent inclusion in the private YxYY Facebook group also gave me a sudden upswing in interesting activity and a lot more friend requests.
Facebook has become like Las Vegas – a glitzy wonderland of games and entertainment, all style and no substance, and almost nothing like a “social network” at all.
Reasons To Go
I’m sure that the first thing most of you think I’d talk about as a reason to go is the privacy violation issue; while it’s a real problem, and Facebook has no respect for anyone’s privacy, it’s also a moot point. There is no privacy left in the world – the NSA monitors everything you say or do, remember? Giant multinationals have mountains of data about every one of us. Privacy died decades ago, so it’s not really related to all this.
No, the things that bother me most about Facebook are the bugs, the inconsistency of the experience, and the constant involuntary upgrades. All the things that I want to read and access, Facebook goes to great pains to hide.
Sadly, on top of these things, Facebook has also eliminated just about all the reasons to stay that I listed above. The fact that they now actively hide posts and even comments from people, groups, and fan pages that I’m interested in, make the point that “everyone” is on Facebook moot, because now I don’t interact with everyone any more. Remember the “Facebook is going to start charging you” hoax / meme? It’s basically true at this point, because you have to either go through a ridiculous set of preference and option changes over and over, or you have to pay to get your posts promoted so that people can see them; and this makes groups and fan pages less useful too, because they end up having to pay to get their announcements out to their members.
As far as events go, they’re never at the forefront, so I often forget when things are happening – no calendar on my timeline page? Ridiculous. And now in addition to the events I’ve been invited to (many of which could easily be classified as “event spam” from promoters trying to get me to come to their marketing parties) I also get suggested events that I almost never care about and would feel weird about inviting myself to anyways. And the game requests… good grief, the game requests!
Overall, I judged Facebook a terrible user experience that I cannot control at all and was no longer worth my time. When I found that WordPress was a viable choice, I made one more Facebook backup and promptly deleted my account. I’ve not looked back since.
So Why WordPress?
When I read the Wikipedia article detailing WordPress’s history, I discovered that the free and open source (free as in freedom) blogging system celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. I feel like I should have known about this milestone, as I clearly recall encountering WordPress many times as I migrated again and again across communications platforms. Each time I remember looking at WordPress and thinking “It doesn’t have everything I want.” It was always something: it was too clunky to use, it didn’t have every desired feature, it was too hard to maintain and upgrade, and it was ALWAYS getting hacked. Like so many other free software projects, it needed time to build momentum – GNU/Linux wasn’t built in a day. Maybe it takes a good decade for a free software project to actually come fully into its own?
Regardless, this time I have come to WordPress and I have not found it wanting. There is no disputing WordPress’s online domination, just as so many other free software projects dominate the web. The variety of themes and plugins is overwhelming, making its capabilities quite extensive. Automattic’s Jetpack plugins sweeten the deal, with many tasty pieces of slick functionality, including analytics through registering the blog at WordPress.org. That I was able to import all of my blog posts and comments from all my other blogging platforms made it a complete no-brainer – the only frontier that remains for me is creating an importer to convert my Facebook export into WordPress Posts.
There is no disputing WordPress’s online domination, just as so many other free software projects dominate the web.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll also say that I started looking at WordPress as a solution again because I was given the gift of a lifetime personal account with WPEngine. I was fortunate enough to take part in the inaugural Yes by Yes Yes event in Palm Springs, where WPEngine was the major sponsor and very generously provided attendees with lifetime signup codes for personal blogs. I’ve been extremely pleased with it so far, and feel very secure using their painless and seamless hosting services.
“Now What Am I Supposed To Do?”
You’re probably asking yourself: “Should I quit Facebook?” I don’t have an answer, you’ve just got to figure it out for yourself – it’s your prerogative. What are you getting out of it? Are you spending a lot of time using it but find yourself endlessly frustrated? Is all that time and energy you put in worth what you’re getting out of it? Are you concerned about government surveillance, inappropriate trust relationships with major multinational corporations, and endless privacy violations? Does it suck that you have no control over who gets to see your posts, and that you don’t have any say in whose posts you get to see?
To me, Facebook has become like Las Vegas – a glitzy wonderland of games and entertainment, all style and no substance, and almost nothing like a “social network” at all. And just like in Glitter Gulch, a seedy underbelly is throbbing beneath the flashing lights, a churning well of lost souls fueling its engine of personal financial and spiritual ruin. Facebook addiction is as real as gambling addiction. Visitors to both are constantly bombarded by advertisements and empty promises. Everyone using their facilities is constantly surveilled and totally monitored. Casinos in particular do everything they can to keep you trapped inside their walls and to foil your sense of the passage of time… try logging out of Facebook some time and clearing out all your cookies; you’ll see just how tall and thick their garden walls really are.
I will say that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything important post-Facebook. I certainly don’t miss all the noise, ads, game requests, spam, and garbage bombarding me.