Leaving Facebook

Today I decided to stop using Facebook. I’ve already turned off both my personal page and my fan page.

I’ve been pretty active on Facebook in the past, and I have many friends who use the service. My personal page was maxed out at 5K friends for more than a year, and my fan page had just over 3300 fans. So it may seem a little surprising that I’d up and drop the service altogether.

There are a number of reasons I decided to do this, so let me ‘splain.

The main reason is that I dislike the way certain features on Facebook are designed and implemented. They may work okay for most users, but they aren’t a good match for someone in my shoes. Over time I felt like the system was becoming increasingly abusive in the way it treats me as a user, largely due to what I consider to be serious design flaws.

Obviously my situation isn’t like that of the typical Facebook user since I already had a substantial online following before I started using Facebook. It didn’t take long for my personal account to max out on friends. Once I got close to that limit, I lost the ability to send out new friend requests. So that feature hasn’t been available to me for more than a year. Facebook kept adding new incoming friend requests to a waiting list. It just left those requests in limbo, but I couldn’t do anything about that.

I thought that a solution would be to add a fan page, which I did in September, but then I ended up with two pages. That’s been awkward to maintain, especially since each type of page is administered differently. Also, Facebook’s latest update really broke the way fan pages can be administered, making it more trouble than it’s worth. I can either spend extra time on the admin side, let the page quality go down the drain, or drop it altogether. I choose the latter.

The biggest overall issue is that Facebook’s admin tools absolutely suck when you have a very well-known profile there. I think all of these problems are fixable from a design and programming perspective, but instead of fixing them, Facebook seems to break more things as time goes on.

My Facebook message inbox would receive daily spam, even from people I’ve unfriended and blocked, and there’s no way to prevent it. I disabled every possible email notification that Facebook might send me, but it’s still very lame to visit my Facebook page, see notification that I have several new messages, and all of them are spam from people I don’t know. This problem was minimal when I started using Facebook, but the longer I’ve been a member, the worse it became. Having another spammed inbox degrades the quality of the service a lot. When it got to the point where most of my Facebook messages were spam, I began to think, “Why bother with this?”

And of course you can’t disable their private messaging feature, which would have been my preference from the get-go. I don’t need another email inbox anyway. If you have a personal account on Facebook, then people can message you there, and you have to go to Facebook to reply. Even if I set it so that only friends can message me (the most restrictive setting they offer), it doesn’t work. For whatever reason, people could still spam me on Facebook whether we were friends or not.

I’d also receive countless event invitations from people I don’t know, in cities where I don’t reside, and there’s no way to block them. This is really lame. If given the choice, I’d disable event invites altogether, but of course they don’t provide such a setting. Event spam is apparently mandatory.

People tag me in random photos as a way of spamming my wall. If I don’t manually delete those, my photo section will eventually fill up with spammed photos. No way to prevent this.

People add me to groups without my permission, and I can’t prevent it. I can only manually unsubscribe after the fact.

There are numerous other forms of abuse employed by Internet marketers, spammers, born again nutters, and people who simply want to game the system. In my opinion, all of these problems could be solved with some moderately skilled programming.

And that’s just on the personal page side.

The best word I can use to describe Facebook’s fan page administration is “broken.” There are so many complaints about it from other fan page admins, but it seems like Facebook is ignoring these problems and perhaps even making things worse on purpose. Due to their business model, Facebook can actually make more money if they break things a certain way.

For example, in their latest “update”, Facebook removed the ability for fan page admins to block certain users from posting comments on their walls. So a spammer or troll can post comment spam on your wall, and for all practical purposes, you can’t prevent it. You can manually delete their posts after the fact, but they can just come back and post more.

A common trick used by spammers is to “like” your fan page, spam it, and then “unlike” your page. It appears that they can do this as much as they want, and you can’t prevent it. There’s no way to block them.

As a programmer myself, I can’t fathom that it would take much technical and design effort to address these issues, and Facebook is flooded with complaints from users begging them to fix these headaches. From my perspective as a Facebook user with a very active personal page and fan page, I can’t help but get the impression that Facebook deliberately wants to make some basic admin tasks (like blocking spammers) difficult or impossible in order to compel you to spend more time on the site. There doesn’t seem to be any other logical reason for these glaring design flaws that I can comprehend, other than pure incompetence, and based on their success in other areas, it seems more likely that these choices are deliberate.

I imagine that most Facebook users won’t encounter these problems, at least not to the degree that I did. They’re partly a problem of scale. The more people who know you on Facebook, the worse these problems become.

Given that Facebook’s business model is based on getting you to spend more time on their site, effectively addicting you to it, and given what I’ve seen from maintaining very active pages on their site, it looks to me like these “bugs” are intentional. For most users they’ll create only very minor headaches, probably not enough to motivate someone to leave the service but enough to produce a little extra gain for Facebook. An occasional spam message from a non-friend looks like a glitch or an accident if it only happens once or twice a year, but it brings you back to their site to deal with it, where you’ll be exposed to more ad impressions that generate revenue for Facebook. Multiply these seemingly infrequent problems by 500 million users, and something looks very fishy.

Either that, or they have some really incompetent interface designers and/or programmers, and I have a harder time believing that to be the case. Surely someone on their team is aware of all the complaints and requests to fix the broken elements. So why do they seem to ignore what appear to be such glaring (and fixable) problems?

I thought that Facebook would be an interesting place to share inspirational messages and build more community around growth-oriented people. But the current implementation of Facebook can’t handle the way I’ve been trying to use it without creating more headaches than it’s worth, and their momentum appears to be headed in the wrong direction for me to expect that these problems would be fixed anytime soon.

So I’ve crossed the threshold where Facebook’s value isn’t worth the hassle to use it. I concluded that the best choice was to simply drop the service altogether and invest my time elsewhere.

If you were one of the people who actively connected with me on Facebook and you’re disappointed by this decision, I’m sorry about that. Perhaps it’s for the best though.

From a subjective perspective, I’m not particularly disappointed. I’ve been wanting to spend less time online and more time connecting with people in person, so these problems may simply be part of the way that desire manifested.