Huffington Post just released a list of “11 Reasons You Should Quit Facebook in 2014.” The complaints seemed largely to be focused on undesirable content. That Facebook is a platform, and that you have a share of the responsibility for what you see on that platform, are facts worth remembering. Fortunately, Facebook provides a number of tools that, if used effectively, mean you can stay up-to-date with friends without most of the ills outlined on HuffPo.
1. Nobody actually wants to just read about what you’re doing anymore.
Absolutely. If you’re going to use Facebook effectively, take the time both to create content people will want and to enhance the content you see in your news feed.
For the former, look to how more established media operate: considering what their audience likes and the best way to tell each story, whether it’s with a status update or a photo. If you have a diverse friends list, you can never be all things to all people, but before you post, ask if anyone will really care that you just got a Big Mac at McDonald’s. In the same way that each commuter has a little responsibility on the big issue of climate change, each social media user has a little responsibility towards the climate of the place.
Meanwhile, if you have friends who only post content you don’t enjoy, remove them from your news feed. Before you complain that Facebook is annoying, consider what experience you have curated for yourself there. Have you subscribed to pages that provide content you like? Have you followed fascinating people? Or is it all getting drowned out by a few loud and uninteresting people from high school? You need to take an active role in shaping your experience.
How to: the next time someone shares their fourth “post this to raise awareness of the plight of people born without a big toe” status in 24 hours, hover over their name with your mouse and click “following.”
2. Facebook makes it impossible for you to stay “private.”
You still control the default privacy settings on Facebook. While the company obviously sees a benefit in pushing people to make more content public, for now it is only as public as you want it to be. Set your default privacy settings thoughtfully, and remember, if you go into the “custom” settings, you can even block individual friends from seeing your content, perfect when someone’s comments on your statuses are consistently taking the conversation in a direction you don’t like.
How to: click the gear in the upper-right corner of the page and select “Privacy Settings.” On “Who can see my stuff,” click “edit” and then the dropdown menu that appears under the fake status update. Select “custom” and then who you want to share content with, and who you want to block.
3. Your parents (and even grandparents) are now watching your every move.
Again, set those default privacy settings with care. If you don’t want mom to see your statuses, set the default so she can see it. Or create a list of people with more “sensitive” palettes and set the visibility of your more scandalous posts so that list is excluded.
For the record: my mom sees almost everything I post to Facebook and is never embarrassing.
4. Or they’re posting photos of you that you would never want anyone to see
If you want, you are able to see all content people post to your timeline or tag you in before it is visible to others. Mom can post all the baby photos of you she wants, but no one else will see them if you don’t approve them.
How to: click the gear in the upper-right corner and select “account settings.” From the left-side menu, click “Timeline and Tagging.” For “Who can add things to my timeline?” Click “edit” for “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline” and click “enabled.” Now, under “How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions” do the same for “Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook.”
5. Facebook is even keeping track of what you don’t say.
This is the one good reason to quit Facebook. If this kind of surveillance bothers you, there’s nothing I know of that you can do to prevent it (other than writing your status updates in another place and copying-and-pasting them in only when you’re ready to hit “post,” which would be clunky as hell).
Even if this doesn’t particularly bother you, Facebook’s other actions in the effort to monetize your participation might give you pause. Your options are pretty limited to accepting it or quitting the site. I’ll write up my own thoughts on this kind of surveillance down the road.
6. Facebook makes you feel less positive about your life.
The study cited in the HuffPo piece makes big assumptions about cause and effect. Namely, having found a correlation between unhappiness and time spent on Facebook, they assume the time on Facebook is causing the unhappiness, but the situation might just as easily be reversed, so giving up Facebook would not contribute to happiness. Further, while the results were intriguing, they were based solely on responses from undergraduate students from one state university in Utah, probably Utah Valley University, where 82% of the students are white. The study authors may be on to something, but the generalizing their findings is difficult given how little their sample looks like the broader world, both in terms of age and race. More research is needed before strong statements are made.
7. The “friend suggestions” tell you to befriend people you don’t even know.
Do you use an ad-blocker on the browser you use to access Facebook? If not, install one and those “friend suggestions” disappear along with the ads.
8. You realize you only know and care about only 20 people out of your 1,000 friends.
Again, this is where you need to take an active role in your experience. If you have far too many “friends” you couldn’t pick out in a line-up, start pruning, either by defriending some, or by hiding them from your news feed.
9. Your friends keep announcing their engagements.
Prune your friends. If you would have only heard about their engagement through Facebook, odds are good that you don’t know them well or care much about their more minor updates. If they are close enough that you would have heard about the engagement anyway, getting off Facebook won’t help.
10. The excessive ads are about to ruin the whole experience.
The HuffPo piece conveniently provides a less drastic solution than canceling your account for this one. Install a flash-blocker and you won’t have auto-playing videos (and that ad-blocker you installed earlier has taken care of most of the rest).
How to: as with the ad-blocker, Chrome offers an extension and Firefox has an add-on. Both solutions still allow you to click on a video if you want to let it play, but don’t let videos start playing automatically. Both also help improve performance from your browser.
11. It makes getting over a breakup really hard.
Just go and make that relationship-status field blank. Never again will you have to decide when your relationship has reached the point it needs to be registered with Facebook, and never again will you have to change “in a relationship to single.” And when your next relationship ends, do yourself a favor and at least hide your ex from your news feed.
How to: go to your personal Facebook page/profile and click the “About” tab under your cover photo. Go to “Relationship” and choose “—” from the “Relationship status” dropdown menu.
Much of this comes down to taking ownership of your Facebook environment. It is a little more work, but most of these steps take a few minutes one time, and then do not need to be given much thought again. Customize your experience to get all of the benefits, with substantially less downside.
Your turn: do you have any other strategies you employ to improve your experience with Facebook? Or do you have other reasons you’re about to jump ship? Share your thoughts in the comments.