A tentative return to Facebook

(My prior posts on this topic: initial departure, reflections one week in, realising I miss close friends)

A couple of weeks have passed since I courted controversy by leaving Facebook. After some reflection, I’ve decided to return. Here’s why:

The big reason I left was the overhead of managing multiple types of contact across a single network. As I bemoaned in my initial post on this topic, I have 295 ‘friends’ from all walks of life, and no idea what value (if any!) the majority place upon our online connection.

What have I learned?

  • It is not necessary to religiously read people’s updates each day. I haven’t missed the activity itself, or (to my knowledge!) missed any critical news. A few close friends have had big news and they got in touch to let me know: Facebook was never the only mechanism for staying in touch.
  • I thought I’d miss material from close friends, status updates in general, and event invites. I was mostly wrong: I did miss material from close friends (more than I expected)… however, the latter two aspects didn’t affect me.
  • I didn’t expect to miss photo sharing, but I did. It’s not just having a platform to share my photos, but being able to see the photos of others… for instance, I graduated on Monday, and I’m going to a wedding tomorrow: it’s nice to see other people’s images from those events.

Before I left, I was reading text updates from everyone and rich updates from close friends. I was broadcasting my own updates to all, which I found problematic.

(An aside: the broadcasting issue may seem a touch paradoxical to those who follow me on Twitter, where I broadcast publicly! However, I’ve always used Twitter as a work tool, and Facebook as a personal tool. I’m comfortable on Twitter because I know what audience I am addressing, and because of the asymmetry of relationships on Twitter: people follow me if they wish, and don’t otherwise. Unlike Facebook, I don’t feel an obligation to tailor my content to ‘suit’ the people who choose to follow me.)

I’m going to restrict my Facebook updates to a subset of my current contacts. I’m not sure how difficult I’ll find it to identify that subset, but I hope it’ll be worth the effort. I’m also going to stop feeling I ‘ought’ to skim updates from everyone!

The IPR and data mining issues remain, and are clearly a negative facet. But Facebook’s usefulness to me seems to outweigh that for now.

Addendum: the account is fully wiped now, which handily removes the issue of “How shall I handle this big old set of contacts?” (It also means all those pictures I was tagged in are scattered to the wind… facial recognition software aside.) I think on balance I’m pleased with this situation, but if I change my mind I’ll let you know!

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