I stopped using Facebook 8 months ago. CNN's article "Why some dissatisfied users are shunning Facebook" reminded me that I haven't written an article to explain why.
There were a number of reasons. Obviously, yes, as a Google employee I was kind of sick of hearing the media yammer about Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. There was an extra large amount of hype then, especially since "The Social Network" film came out. (As an aside... I enjoyed that movie immensely and recommend it to all. I love Sorkin's writing style.)
However the big reason was time management related. I had a number of big important projects on my plate, both at work and outside of work. I did, as I recommend in my time management book, pause to take a serious look at where I was spending my time and compared it to my priorities. My "time use inventory" showed I was spending 2 hours a day on Facebook. 14 hours a week? That's like having a part-time job! What was I gaining from it? Mostly knowing intimate details of the lives of people I didn't know very well. This was not as high on my priority list as those other projects.
Social networks create an "artificial intimacy". Years ago a friend pointed this out about Facebook. I hadn't met in person for 2 years and he commented that because of Livejournal he felt like we were in constant contact. He knew all about what I had been up to. He explained his concept of "artificial intimacy" and asked if I had experienced the same thing. Sadly I hadn't experienced this phenomenon... I had stopped reading his LiveJournal a long time ago.
Before I disabled my account I tried to cut down. I purged 300 people from my friends list. That was an improvement, but not as much as I had hoped. I tried "no Facebook while at work" but that just meant I spent more time on FB when I was home; and my home time is much more precious and scarce! Why was I squandering it on FB? I tried only using it while on the train (35 minutes twice a day) but the mobile experience sucked and it was less efficient than what I had been doing on the train: listening to Podcasts that inform and educate me. Mobile use was also frustrating as I couldn't write long detailed replies from my phone.
However the last straw was when I heard the term "FBHW"... "Facebook Homework". A friend referred to the need to catch up on his "FBHW". The fact that it was a burden or an obligation to stay on top of FB was the final straw. I was feeling guilty for not staying up to date and I didn't like that.
In TM4SA I write a bit about how guilt negatively effects our ability to manage our time well. I emphasize this a lot more in my in-person training. In fact, I go as far as to refer to many of the techniques combining to create "guilt-free time management system". If higher priority projects weren't getting enough time and attention because I was feeling guilty about not being up to date on my Facebook Homework, then something had to change.
As an experiment I disabled my account. FB makes that a little hard... they obscure the option and then go so far as to show you picture of your friends claiming these are the people that will miss me (more guilt!). However, one of the pictures they randomly selected is someone I actually dislike and was only not defriending him to not offend his wife (more guilt!). See that photo made it much easier to click the final button to deactivate my account.
I thought I'd disable it for a month (they make it easy to re-activate the account). However it is now 8 months later and with the added 2 hours each day, I'm getting better reviews at work, spending more time on projects that are important to me, and having more fun.
The people that I care about still stay in touch by other means. I haven't missed any important news. Reading dailykos.com keeps me more informed anyway.
I'm not saying that everyone should get off Facebook or social networks.
I haven't eliminated social networks from my life. I use Twitter a lot (and I gateway my Tweets to Google Buzz). I find that when I have a few minutes while waiting on line I can bring up Twitter on my phone and get a splash of news and information from both friends and traditional news sources. Filling that kind of void has a lot of utility, and maybe that's the only part of FB that I really liked. Twitter has the advantage that the stream is such a flood that I don't try to stay up to date. I expect that I'll miss a lot of messages and that's ok. No guilt.
Since I've left FB I have been shocked to see that companies no longer list the URLs in advertisements, they list their Facebook page. This worries me. It seems a lot like the RealNames scam from the early dotcom boom. I could go off on a long rant about the importance of open protocols and distributed authority but that's an article for another time. ...and I have more important things to do.