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Facebook Fatigue

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 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.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management


This is the right way! Facebook and other social networks are timekiller without any advantages. Do you really need to know what your friends are doing each time? I doubt it! I have bunished facebook out of my life and I will never use this (really, really) cheap plattform (myspace is facebook with additional media, eg music...). The next useless social network thing: twitter. Is there anything NEW you can do with twitter? I don't understand why twitter is so interesting: I retain with RSS, irc, email and that's fine. Social web isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread: IT IS ONLY ADVERTISEMENT!

Hey guy. Congratulations about your choise. I've trying to do something like this.. because I have a lot of projects in mind but this fucking shit facebook sometime got my free time.

Thanks for your testimonial and God bless you so much!

I hate Facebook, and I don't keep up with it very well (or try to), but that's not because of features of social networking in general, but because of features of Facebook in particular. I haven't really had the "artificial intimacy" experience you describe; instead, I've found that social networking (mostly LiveJournal in my case) is a frictionless, near-effortless way to keep in touch with people I meet in person (or online) and get to know them better, so it leads to physical-world friendships that otherwise wouldn't have happened.

Before social networking, I would run into somebody, might have a conversation with them and think they're really neat, but if all I know about them is that I had a really interesting conversation with them once at a party about how Chinese stress and intonation compare to English stress and intonation, I don't actually know yet whether they're somebody I want to invest effort into building a friendship with, and calling them up and saying "Hey, do you want to get together to talk more phonology?" would be weird. But if we can Friend-add each other on LJ (or Dreamwidth, or follow each other on Twitter, or -- ugh -- add each other on Facebook), then I get to know them better over time, and a friendship might develop. I've had a bunch of friendships develop that way, and a couple of very important romantic relationships, that might not have happened without the easy low-risk low-effort way of getting to know each other that social networking provides.

As far as why I hate Facebook and appreciate LiveJournal: Facebook lends itself to initial posts of up to two or three paragraphs, and shows responses inline, unthreaded, in your "news feed". LiveJournal is good for posts of any length up to essay-length (provided the poster uses cut tags), and supports threaded discussion with very effective notification mechanisms. It's possible to have an intelligible, easy-to-follow discussion on LJ (more or less the way we used to on Usenet News) in a way it's very hard to on Facebook. (And don't get me started about Facebook's intrusive advertising and annoying -- to me, I know lots of people love them -- gimmicks like games. Unfortunately, as LJ becomes more commercial it's been going in that direction itself.)

The thing that really frustrates me about social networking is that it's not interoperable. For instance, SMTP, IMAP, and the many descendents of RFC822 mean that I can choose the tools I want to communicate with anybody via email; I don't have to use one set of tools to talk to people with GMail accounts, and another set of tools to talk to people with Yahoo accounts, and a third set of tools to talk to people with UC Berkeley accounts, and some dinky little hacked-together-and-unmaintained tool that sort of works to send mail to the pizza place down the street.

But social networking (currently) doesn't work that way. There have been some efforts (like Diaspora and Google Wave) to decentralize it, but the walled gardens got enough of a head start that it's really hard to breach the walls at this point.

(As a bit of a tangent, think how many social networking sites, forums, dating sites, collaborative software development tools, bug-tracking systems, and the like, have a notion of per-user inboxes or the like. It is utterly stupid that in 2011, all of those are rendered into HTML and accessed over HTTP using CGI or AJAX rather than served via IMAP. We *have* a protocol for remote message access, and it works. I would *love* to be able to see my LJ inbox, my Facebook messages, the RT tickets assigned to me [or unowned, or in a particular queue], my Twitter direct messages, and all that sort of stuff in the same IMAP client I use to read my mail. And that would be much easier on all the developers of those various sites and tools, because they could all pick from IMAP libraries written by others, and their users would get all the features of their [various] IMAP clients for free and have a better experience.)

>> companies no longer list the URLs ... they list their Facebook page

>> It seems a lot like the RealNames scam from the early dotcom boom.

Really? That's the first one you think of? I think a much closer comparison would be with the "AOL Keywords" stupidity. Especially considering both offer(ed) an entire "platform" for unabashed commercial advertising, behind a the thinly veiled illusion of "customer interaction".

It appears that others see this similarity as well:

Interesting reference, though. I'd never heard of RealNames before, or seen it mentioned anywhere. Maybe their advertising or promotions didn't make it all the way to South Carolina.

I think it's interesting that here in South Korea, you still see commercials that do the "Korean equivalent" of AOL Keywords. At the tail end of many commercials, they will display a "Daum Search" text box, along with the text (in Korean) that should be entered for more info. This is because Daum is domestically built/owned search engine over 90% if the market share for search in Korea. That is, until recently.

Due to factors such as smartphone adoption (ie, QR codes), and a larger presence for Google and Facebook, the "Korean Walled Garden" is starting to fall apart as well. It just took an extra 10 years for it to happen ...

I wish it was so easy.But I'm too deep into it to quit.I miss the outside world.
I had a dream of making a blog , of being a creative writer but as soon as I log on facebook notifications overcome my life.
I wish it was so easy for me