Why I Created a New Facebook Account
There were two major events recently that made me reconsider creating a new Facebook account. First is watching the PBS Frontline documentary, The Facebook Dilemma. While it didn't change my views on the dangers of Facebook and social media, at the end of Part Two of that documentary, there is this striking quote from Zeynep Tufekci:
They're not going to do this as long as they're doing so well financially and there's no regulatory oversight. And consumer backlash doesn't really work because I can't leave Facebook, all my friends and family around the world are there. You might not like the company. You might not like its privacy policies. You might not like the way its algorithm works. You might not like its business model. But what are you going to do?
I feel trapped in the same way. All my family and friends are on Facebook. None of them maintain personal websites or blogs like I do. It's not that FOMO got to me, but more of the fact that they can't seem to reach me after I've deactivated my Facebook account. It doesn't help that all my really close friends, my “barkada” as we call it in my native tongue, they all live in a different continent than me. So, I don't have the luxury of hanging out with them on weekends to maintain our friendship. Had I had that option, I'm positive I could have gone on without a Facebook account.
The second event is a comment a good friend of mine made on Facebook, on a post my wife shared from Valentine's Day. He asked my wife to send his regards my way. I was like, “Why does he have to do that? Well because I'm not on Facebook.” I kinda felt bad that it seems like I’m making it hard for them to reach me. It’s really not that hard, they can send me a message through Facebook Messenger or send me an email, but they probably didn’t know that they could do that. When I deactivated my Facebook account over a year ago, I didn’t have a personal website yet at that time. And when I did get my sites up and running a couple of months later, I didn’t exactly go back to let them all know that I now have a personal website they can visit.
Some more notes and observations I made from a year away from Facebook:
- People are just not going out of their way to communicate with me outside of Facebook. Usually they would just tell my wife, who would then tell me. They have the option of sending me a message or an email, but that didn't happen. Anyway, the point being, they would rather stay in Facebook, most likely because it is easy, it is convenient. I can't blame them for that because it is true, Facebook makes it easy and convenient.
- The experiment with Instagram didn’t work out. I was hoping they (my family and friends) would find my site through Instagram, but that just isn’t happening. Also, I was hoping my friends would share more photos in Instagram, but most of them just post photos on their Facebook accounts instead. This was evidenced by the lack of photos in my Instagram feed during the holidays. In the meantime, my wife kept telling me about how big the sons and daughters of my friends were based on photos she was seeing on Facebook. So yeah, they weren't really posting to Instagram like I thought they would.
- My friends exclusively post to Facebook. I don’t know anyone who maintains a blog like me. To comment on their posts, I have to be in Facebook. I mean I could send them a message through Facebook Messenger, but then my comment would have no context.
- I need a way to let them know that I have a website without having to message them one by one. I don’t want it to look like I’m promoting my site via messages. I want to try and get people out of Facebook and into the world wide web, by sharing links to this site on my Facebook wall.
- There’s built-in comments section for my friends only since they stay in Facebook all day. If that doesn’t get them to comment on my posts, I don’t know what will.
- Nowadays people announce events on Facebook first, versus any other option. My friend invited me to their wedding on Facebook. Thankfully my wife is still on Facebook, otherwise I’m not sure how we would have known.
- People are reluctant to move on from Facebook. They don’t have the same motivations I do and I don't blame them for wanting to stay. So, I need to adapt to the current way of life online. My friends live in a totally different continent than me, so it is hard to maintain that connection when I could not hang out with them every weekend. Since my only way to stay connected is through messaging and social media, a new Facebook account is a compromise I'm making. If I can't reach them from the outside, I'll try to reach them from the inside.
- Mastodon would have been a nice alternative to Facebook, but most of my friends don’t even know it exists. I asked friends of mine who are also software developers and not one of them have ever heard of Mastodon. If my techy friends didn't know about it, you can bet my non techy friends didn't know about it either. Just knowing that it exists is one thing, convincing them to ditch Facebook for Mastodon is a totally different undertaking. There's no point for me to be on Mastodon, if I can't convince my friends to join in.
At the end of the day, my attempt to replace social media (Facebook) with a personal website didn’t really work out. Most of my friends still probably don’t know that this site exists. (I'm working on changing that with my new Facebook account.) The others know for sure, but that’s because I share links to this site in our group chat. I always feel slightly embarrassed about doing that though, because it feels as if I’m promoting my website to them. So, I’ll share links to this site on my Facebook Wall instead. Nothing is changing as far as this site is concerned. I'll still be posting on here regularly as this is still my preferred home on the web.
I have to admit to feeling like I lost my battle with Facebook. With all my posts on #DigitalMinimalism, I felt like a fraud creating my Facebook account last night. However, I also know that it was not really working out for me. More than one year away from Facebook taught me that. That said, I'm not going back to Facebook empty handed. I have since learned a number of tips and tricks that I can apply on the use of this new Facebook account of mine. In a future post, I'll share some guidelines for how I'm going to be using my new Facebook account with the goal of minimizing distractions and keeping my attention intact.