Dave Allen

So I closed my Facebook account

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Facebook, Privacy, Data, Dave Allen, North

Could it be that folks aren’t in a buying mood when hanging out digitally with their friends? – Stephen Baker

“I think we changed the world, but this notion that we shouldn’t be self-critical and that we shouldn’t be hard on ourselves is irresponsible.” – Jaron Lanier

As a citizen of the world, no one will really care if you close your Facebook account, (except for your “friends” of course) but if you work as an interactive strategist you had better brace yourself for a flood of questions about closing your Facebook account. The good news is that the questions are all built around the same premise – why? And the best answer to that is to turn the question on its head and ask – why not?

It goes without saying that humans are fallible and we reward ourselves in very strange ways. For instance, our brain’s pleasure centres light up when we pick up (cuddle?) our iPhones. We find it hard to ignore them. I find this sad. And yet it is just one offshoot of our anthropological need to always be in touch with our loved ones, our social groups, and, if you use Facebook, your old high school buddies. There’s nothing new in this. In centuries past, lovers would send notes to each other across town, delivered by a servant who arrived by horse and carriage, the transport technology of its day. Modern technologies simply shorten the distance between us.

I wasn’t using Facebook to stay in touch with people – how could I, I had 3,800 friends? I used it to share posts such as this one, or post news links (mainly political and economic news.) I would also check Google Analytics to see how much traffic was generated on North.com from Facebook when I shared my blog posts. Turns out, not much. Twitter does a far more admirable job, as does Reddit and LinkedIn. And of course there’s Dark Social. For me then, Facebook was all business. The North Facebook page can handle that perfectly well, expertly overseen by our two social lab mavens, Alison and Jessica. They also run our North Tumblr and our Pinterest and Twitter accounts.

Facebook is a great tool for staying in touch with friends and family, I’ll give it that. As I wasn’t using it for that, and it wasn’t driving much traffic to the North blog, then it just became a time suck, as I found myself voyeuristically clicking around the site. What I am suggesting is that Facebook and business, especially the advertising business, don’t get along too well. Here’s Stephen Baker mulling Facebook’s place in business and culture:

“As I researched the social media story that ran in today’s Times, I kept wondering whether Facebook is really made for the advertising business. Could Mark Zuckerberg be in the wrong line of work?

Facebook of course has enough going for it, including a billion networked members, to make a good business in advertising. Revenues top $4 billion. But despite its towering strengths and limitless potential, the company struggles to please traditional advertisers and investors. The company reminds me of a brilliant student who’s following the path his parents have mapped through med school, even though he’d rather be building skyscrapers or writing songs.”

I don’t want to dwell on whether Facebook can get beyond its struggles in re brand advertising and marketing, but Baker, in the aforementioned article in the NY Times, ends on this note:

“That, in fact, may be the ultimate lesson to draw from the social media marketing miracle that wasn’t. The impact of new technologies is invariably misjudged because we measure the future with yardsticks from the past. [My emphases.]

Dave Morgan, a pioneer in Internet advertising and the founder of Simulmedia, an ad network for TV, points to the early years of electricity. In the late 19th century, most people associated the new industry with one extremely valuable service: light. That was what the marketplace understood. Electricity would displace kerosene and candles and become a giant of illumination. What these people missed was that electricity, far beyond light, was a platform for a host of new industries. Over the following years, entrepreneurs would come up with appliances — today we might call them “apps” — for vacuuming, laundry and eventually radio and television. Huge industries grew on the electricity platform. If you think of Apple in this context, it’s a $496 billion company that builds the latest generation of electricity apps.

Social networks, like them or not, are fast laying out a new grid of personal connections. Even if this matrix of humanity sputters in advertising and marketing, it’s bound to spawn new industries in consulting, education, collaborative design, market research, media and loads of products and services yet to be imagined. Maybe, just maybe, it will even be able to sell soap.”

This all speaks to the fact that pure web companies don’t last forever. Yes, Facebook could go away if it doesn’t keep shape-shifting. As Baker says, the company needs to change the face of advertising completely but that may be a Herculean task.

Another problem I had is how the company handles my privacy. Facebook’s executives need to get real about user data and how they use it. Posting bland updates to their privacy policy won’t keep cutting it for long. I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

Back in 2010, my pal Roy Christopher interviewed danah boyd about privacy in his smartly titled post: Privacy = Context + Control. And earlier in 2010 I had been struggling with Facebook and privacy in two posts: Facebook and your privacy – part 1 and Facebook and your privacy part 2 – or how to be alone. Not to mention Facebook likes are not engaging.

Every now and again the big scoop comes along, and because our memories are short, or people are willfully ignoring the evidence that is presented, there’s a flare up and then things die down very quickly. Wired magazine ran a story in late December titled ‘How much data did Facebook have on one man?’ 1,200 pages of data in 57 categories as it turns out. And when you take a look at the list of those categories, you will see that Facebook takes a huge dive into your personal data. The term Orwellian doesn’t come close to describing what’s going on here. The reason we can even see those data is because Facebook was prodded by European laws, as European’s take their privacy far more seriously than North Americans:

“Gary Davis, 40, deputy data protection commissioner at the IDPC, says Schrems’ complaints were “well-researched”, but stresses that Facebook complied without any problems. He believes it is simply a US company struggling with EU legislation. “The concept of access [to your data] was just alien to them. In the US consent is just a privacy policy and a tick-box approach.”

Now, that data is gathered so that Facebook can parse the information and monetize it for advertising and marketing purposes. The trouble is, quantifying data is a messy business. Stephen Baker again:

“While the rise of search battered the humanists, it also laid a trap that the quants are falling into now. It led to the belief that with enough data, all of advertising could turn into quantifiable science. This came with a punishing downside. It banished faith from the advertising equation. For generations, Mad Men had thrived on widespread trust that their jingles and slogans altered consumers’ behavior. Thankfully for them, there was little data to prove them wrong. But in an industry run remorselessly by numbers, the expectations have flipped. Advertising companies now face pressure to deliver statistical evidence of their success. When they come up short, offering anecdotes in place of numbers, the markets punish them. Faith has given way to doubt.”

Social media marketing evangelists will now have to create a new edifice to preach in. Big data is not the friend of social media evangelists. It acts like Joshua’s horns when called upon to breach the walled gardens of Facebook et al.


Jaron Lanier – What turned Jaron Lanier against the web?
Europe and data tracking Europe vs Facebook
How to quit Facebook – Hint: It’s really hard


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  • http://www.north.com Dave Allen

    Maurice, please lay it all out here, I’m not kidding…

  • Maurice Boucher

    Oh I see, you wanted to KNOW how Facebook is of USE to BRANDS and ADVERTISERS! Well that’s a whole ‘nother thing because I just assumed you guys already knew. I mean, ha ha, it’s so plainly clear I didn’t feel it was worth mentioning. Okay, got it now–see where you’re coming from and all. Yes, how Facebook can be used successfully by advertisers and brands. Okay, well then if you ever want me to explain it to you guys drop me a line and I’ll lay it out in classically McLuhanistic terms.

    By the by, I would like to reiterate my final comment on this discussion which I tweeted yesterday here:

    Rock On

  • http://www.north.com Dave Allen


  • http://www.instagram/true Anthony Rue

    –>now feels rather silly for not having read Dave’s earlier article before jumping in on this thread.

  • http://www.north.com Dave Allen

    I certainly don’t think that apologies are necessary from anyone in this thread. I for one have been very intrigued with where it went, even if we took some detours for a while. To over simplify, it’s hard to determine what actual use Facebook provides to brands and advertisers. I can see its value to users in keeping in touch with friends and family, after all, anthropology points to that basic human need and as I’ve long said, technology today simply shortens the distance between us. In fact the three of us have never met except in this forum.

    And remaining with “over simplify” we just have to look to the power of TV advertising. On Sunday night during the Golden Globes, two brands grabbed my (cynical) attention – Target and Dodge. I never interact with either of those brands either IRL or online. But I do remember their ads vividly a few days later.

    So, again “over simplifying,” I tend to agree with Anthony’s McLuhanesque point of the TV coming with the advertising “installed.” And I say McLuhan and installed as that was his point – the medium is not the ads the viewer sees on the screen, no, the medium are the tubes, transistors and today the LCD’s that “bring” the message into the living rooms of the viewers. And there are millions of viewers still glued to their sets. That’s where the eyeballs are and advertisers know how to reach them – unlike on Facebook.

    Anyway, all of this reminds me that I wrote Facebook Likes Are not Engaging back in 2008: http://north.com/thinking/facebook-likes-are-not-engaging/

    Update: Today Facebook announced Search, or Graph Search as Zuckerberg calls it… http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/15/facebook-unveils-a-new-search-tool/

  • http://instagram.com/true Anthony Rue
  • Maurice Boucher

    Ah well the misunderstanding is all mine then. I’ll leave you to your declaration of deference to Dave’s position on withdrawing from Facebook. As you have just stated he has no opinion on Facebook one way or another and, anecdotal to his original comment, though problematic Facebook is still being used by . . . someone. No wait, that is your position. I’m confused.

    It seems the obsession with why social digital media doesn’t work and how to fix it is mine alone (and maybe of some interest to media conglomerates and advertising agencies like North) but that is neither here nor there. As you said, Facebook has many super-intelligent Oompa Loompas at work on the problem so what’s to debate? Well thanks for condescending to have issues with some points I tried to raise even if your responses indicated a very superficial reading of my logic. As I tediously droned on about my obsession with solving this problem while giving you the benefit of the doubt in terms of interest with this issue, I must have seemed quite the bore. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I mistook the purpose of this thread, not realizing that it existed mainly as an opportunity to agree with Dave. My apologies.

  • http://instagram.com/true Anthony Rue


    I don’t really know if I am arguing with you or not. I don’t think so, though a few puns got mis-threaded and some bits of the thread have been stripped. My use of investment is more emotional and less financial– although there’s plenty of irrational financial investment in Facebook. Perhaps it is the damp spark that you reference. Anyway, I’m not looking for anything from Facebook. It is what it is: I use what is of value to me, and I won’t be surprised if it morphs and survives or crashes and burns. I absolutely agree with Dave about the problematic nature of pure web companies. The one thing on FB’s side: they have the money to hire many very smart people. Everyone I know who has worked with their team says the same thing: they have a crack team of engineers and programmers who are able to respond to changes with blitzkrieg efficiency. Considering that they are a fairly young company, I was surprised to learn that they have their own in-house think tank of psychologists sifting through data and analyzing trends. it’s not the sort of behavior that I ever witnessed in the first internet bubble. Will it make a difference? I’m not going to wager one way or the other.

  • Maurice Boucher

    “So, 1 billion people have signed up for facebook accounts. One out of every six in the world. “Where are they hiding” is obviously on the mind of every “social media” ad exec.”
    Well yeah, the user base is a grossly inflated number and everybody knows it. No argument here. I guess you could call it Mark Zukerberg’s take on ‘truthiness’.

    “. . . unlike the investment in a TV (and, more recently, cable), which all but guarantees that the “investor” will be present– will buy in, so to speak: nobody really “invests” in Facebook”
    My point about investiture is that Facebook is now a publicly traded company. It is probably being speculated upon by (pun alert) ‘faceless’ institutional investors like pension funds on a millisecond by millisecond basis. The pressure to show a revenue stream is probably quite intense at Facebooks corporate headquarters since the stock has performed so miserably since the initial I.P.O.

    The Facebook user is NOT the customer/investor and never has been. The Facebook users are the natural resource that corporate investors are speculating on when they buy shares in Facebook. Facebook mines and processes ‘likes’ and ‘friendings’ like oil companies process oil into gasoline. To take the analogy further, Facebook is selling gasoline that seems to have a problem igniting the internal combustion engines (promotional campaigns) of Facebook customers (Corporate advertisers and small business services).

    There is no ‘spark’ to Facebook ‘likes’ and ‘friendings’ because there is no culture (the oil) within which Facebook users can create a chemical reaction (a marketplace of winners and losers). And with that last statement this analogy is officially stretched to the breaking point. So to re-iterate:

    Customer A is Facebooks corporate investors who are pushing its stock value down every time Customer B (Advertisers on Facebook) complain about the quality of the product (Facebook users).

    “Your quoted stat of “80% of likes are outside of the user’s immediate social circle” should probably be taken with a grain of salt:
    The average amount of friends that each Facebook user has is roughly 100. Yes that includes a percentage of inactive users. The amount of phantom likes and friendings within that number is hard to pin down and Facebook does its best to obscure the data. That is why you can only de-activate your account, which, in effect means your friends will not be able post to your page anymore but Facebook can still “act” upon the data they have collected on you so far. Perhaps they can also use that data to track you beyond Facebook and in effect continue to use you as a source of revenue. Sneaky.

    I don’t have data on how many of those 100 contacts are made up of a users actual inner circle of real world friends and relatives but lets say it averages to about 20. These are people you see everyday or less in which Facebook as a networking tool is far less efficient that sending a quick email to your sister or peering over the cubicle wall to say hi to your co-worker.

    So just from an anthropological point of view Facebook has a problem. Each user has 20 people they don’t really use Facebook to track but rather to archive joint activities after the fact so that the other 80 contacts can see what awesome lifestyles they have (and perhaps want to be more than Facebook friends with the user).

    What’s left after family and friends? The answer is people you want to impress. Facebook doesn’t give a toss if those people are inactive because Facebook has learned that you want to be friends with these people and they know something about these users, inactive or not. That knowledge is almost as valuable as being able to watch active user interact with active users. That 80% of Facebook relationships are imaginary sounds like a realistic number to me.

    So yes 80% of a Facebook users social network consists of people the user has never met or maybe met a few times at conferences ex cetera and wish to keep in contact with. They might also consist of people they would like to know (given our celebrity culture) but know they are likely to never actually meet and a smaller number of private citizens who are of like mind, close by and might make a good ‘backup’ friend someday when you get tired of the same old crew. As you said . . .

    ” with one billion users, I’d be willing to bet the farm that there’s a major trend line of tertiary adapters who sign on, friend any number of “celebs” and brands out of novelty, and then never really utilize the service beyond farmville and birthday reminders.”

    So I’m wondering what you find amiss with my argument since we agree roughly on the major issues. My point of view is that corporate realities (stakeholder expectations and the vagaries of promotional campaigns) and social realities (fake relationships do not create a culture) make the solution space of Facebook as a business model untenable and your point is that . . . I’m speculating here . . . you find Facebook to be lame and they should just get their shit together and be what you want them to be? Is that it?

    A portion of my analysis leads me to believe that they are never going to meet your expectations because of economic and cultural realities. My analysis also shows that if they can solve the cultural issues within Facebook that keep the social networks from cultural ignition they should be able to come out on top and will simply wait you out until YOU adapt and see things their way.

    Historically, civilization has shown the latter scenario is more likely because Facebook knows what is at stake and they won’t give up easily. They might go so far as to change the rules of the culture to fit their business model. Need an example? How about the Disney corporation and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which passed through congress so easily in 1998 because the electorate didn’t understand Hollywood/Disney’s REAL business model. That was a dark day for digital artists of all kinds. I don’t want to see something similar happen with Facebook and its army of lobbyists it is probably amassing as we blog about how hopeless and lame Facebook is.

  • http://instagram.com/true Anthony Rue

    Maurice, I’m reminded of the Cabaret Voltaire song Yashar (itself quoting an episode of the Outer Limits): There’s 70 billion people on earth. Where are they hiding?

    So, 1 billion people have signed up for facebook accounts. One out of every six in the world. “Where are they hiding” is obviously on the mind of every “social media” ad exec. With print on the ropes and TV in transition, 1 billion is mesmerizing. But unlike the investment in a TV (and, more recently, cable), which all but guarantees that the “investor” will be present– will buy in, so to speak: nobody really “invests” in Facebook. You don’t buy a computer or smart phone just to use Facebook. It is just there, another distraction. The 1 billion is a chimera, in every sense of the word. Your quoted stat of “80% of likes are outside of the user’s immediate social circle” should probably be taken with a grain of salt: with one billion users, I’d be willing to bet the farm that there’s a major trend line of tertiary adapters who sign on, friend any number of “celebs” and brands out of novelty, and then never really utilize the service beyond farmville and birthday reminders.

  • http://www.north.com Dave Allen

    Anthony, Maurice,

    I’ll be back in action tomorrow…dealing with the rest of my life today – nothing ominous, just chores.

  • Maurice Boucher

    The real world tangibles of the evil Facebook empire milking prohibitive rates of revenue out of small business who use Facebook to the point of an unsustainable ROI are class-driven and more topical, but this news causes me to re-iterate the comparatively mundane point that this is all symptomatic. Discussing the nature of, and ways to, alleviate the symptom’s might be a more viral discussion to have (Facebook Give Me My Friends Back! et al) but I see the ultimate solution for vested parties might lie in looking at digital social media culture at large. I look at it this way;

    * Popular consumer culture amounts to a mythology about winners and losers
    * You cannot create and sustain a modern marketplace without such a culture as its foundation
    * Facebook (and most of the others) have never had a mythology or a culture of any kind

    “Then again, if I worked for FB, I’d be a bit worried that the user base sees the service as a replacement for Outlook, AIM, evite.com, and photobucket.”

    This goes to my point about culture. None of these features are perceived by the public as worth the price of admission to Facebook. They are considered base assets that keep users from straying outside the realm of Facebook. Anthony also argues that real time driven events like movie openings are a good fit for Facebooks feature set. Well, what is superior to real time? How about ANY-time events.

    Using Facebook for time critical event planning seems almost counter-intuitive to its feature set which focuses on archiving and review/retrieval of personal history–a process that is not time dependent. What’s more, Facebooks own data shows that eighty percent of likes and friending are not with people in your immediate circle but with strangers of like-mind OUTSIDE of your circle. This is the second time I have quoted this metric in this discussion so I’m going to assume that we can take it as a given.

    No question if you look at the content of Facebook pages you’ll see documentation of events with actual companions within a person’s inner circle of friends like office parties and community gatherings. I’m afraid you have confused the content with the culture. The Facebook culture is an asynchronous detached method of comparative social status in a one to one context. Facebook is made up of people looking to see if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

    Misunderstanding the non-culture of Facebook is why we have wasted business resources that use Facebook to promote events and services that are non-native to Facebook AND a corporate mindset answerable to shareholders (who misunderstand the non-culture they have invested in) desperate to maximize revenue exploiting its resource (Facebook users) in a non-renewable crash and burn manner.

  • http://instagram.com/true Anthony Rue


    The small business paradox has been well covered by Richard Metzger over on Dangerous Minds (http://dangerousminds.net/comments/facebook_i_want_my_friends_back). I run a modestly successful small business page in a metropolitan area of roughly 250K people; the goal of the page is to drive foot-traffic to a physical location from the local community. I typically reach 10% of our followers with each post. It would cost $20 per post to be visible on the page followers’ walls for a single 3-day time-limited period. There’s an irony in that if I’d not advertised the page on Facebook to drive up the number of “likes,” I’d probably be reaching a larger percentage of a smaller number of core fans. If I were to pay the maximum to promote each of the posts made last year, each for the maximum 3-day period, it would cost within a few thousand dollars of the total cost of rent and utilities for the year for the business itself. Instead of paying-to-promote, I take what exposure I get in exchange for whatever data they are collecting on the business and our fans, and then use the marketing budget for more direct community engagement. I’d certainly do more to build the business in the eyes of the community by donating goods and services to nonprofits and fundraisers than by paying-to-promote the same value on FB.

  • http://www.north.com Dave Allen

    Anthony, Maurice,

    Hollywood may be looking for a scapegoat but more likely they are probably, like some other media producers and corporations, realizing that they aren’t getting their bang for the buck. Small businesses also fall into the trap of thinking that when they post to their FB biz page that they are reaching all of their followers. That’s a mistake because they aren’t – unless they pay for promotion. Apparently you will reach less than 25% of regular followers unless you pony up.

    Anthony, I get the same answers too re FB use – cloud contact management, instant messaging, event coordination, and photo sharing. And when you consider that it makes sense that brands are being shoehorned into FB, it’s not a good fit. Hence the social media “experts” jargon pretending it’s otherwise. As I wrote in a recent post – social media marketing, sells….social media marketing!

  • http://instagram.com/true Anthony Rue

    Maurice, I’d disagree with your comments about Hollywood and FB. Most people I talk to who are heavy FB users identify four reasons for investing themselves in the service: cloud contact management, instant messaging, event coordination, and photo sharing. Of all the things that could be marketed on FB, real-time events like movie openings seem like as good a fit as any: users can plan attending, schedule with friends, discuss details, and document their evening (thus generating buzz). When there is an “event” opening, like for The Hobbit, there’s a significant uptick of mentions immediately before and afterwards. I’m not sure if it says more about Hollywood or FB that it isn’t working out.

    Then again, if I worked for FB, I’d be a bit worried that the user base sees the service as a replacement for Outlook, AIM, evite.com, and photobucket.

  • Maurice Boucher

    Anthony, I guess our “meh” reaction to turning away from Facebook is framed by a few grains of salt regarding the new reality we are finding our feet in. I don’t want to sound too Kafkaesque but when accounts are suspended on Facebook I think of the characters on Patrick McGoohan’s television series, The Prisoner, forever telling Number 6, “No one ever escapes from the island.”

  • Maurice Boucher

    Thanks Dave, read the L.A. Times article. My first is impression is Facebook? why is Hollywood signalling them out? As far as Hollywood goes, their products have no profile within digital social media period. They are a non-entity everywhere you look except in traditional mass media. The movie business has waay bigger problems than spending that infinitesimal amount of there overall promotion budget on Facebook ads. They must be searching for a scapegoat and they were not able to make the same case with YouTube because Google keeps their data super-secret.

    But I have to chuckle when I think about why they went after Facebook in particular. Facebook gave them the data they needed to know how they were doing. They probably have had that data from the beginning. Maybe they sense the pile-on has begun and want to get ahead of the story.


    Yup, the pile-on has begun and I suppose we are not going to get credit for seeing it first. It’s not like Salon has a clue. They still worship Hollywood. Maybe the writer of the article has been listening in on us. It’s a nice thought but hard to prove

  • http://www.instatram/true Anthony Rue

    Out of curiosity, today I asked a dozen people around my cafe a simple question: when was the last time that you “friended” anyone on FB because you were interested in the quality of the discussions on their FB feed? Answer: not one could remember the last time that had happened.

    Then I ran into my friend Taylor McKnight. Taylor is a very bright guy. One of the original back-end crew for Gawker Media, he helped to build Hype Machine before moving on to Sched. He’s always pushing the edge of social media from all sides. His latest year-long project: he’s signing off from FB and Instagram for a year and instead creating a private subscription-only email list via mailchimp. After coming of age in the myspace/FB generation, he’s now interested in exploring a slowed-down long-form written word+photo essay collaborations with friends and family. The experiment begins tomorrow; I’m looking forward to seeing the results. When was the last time anyone said that they were looking forward to an exchange of FB?

  • http://www.north.com Dave Allen

    Anthony, Maurice,

    Cracks in the edifice – Hollywood doubting Facebook’s value for movie openings http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-fi-ct-hollywood-studios-movie-ads-facebook-20130108,0,5032664.story

  • http://instagram.com/true Anthony Rue

    Looking back over the comments, I’m most struck by the collective shrug in response to notice that someone working the creative/theory side of social marketing would leave FB. Out of curiosity, I just checked my own (admittedly meager) “friends” list on FB and hadn’t even realized that about a fifth of the list had deactivated their accounts. That I never noticed is a tell in and of itself.

  • Maurice Boucher

    Just to be clear, tweeting “Dave Allen closed his Facebook account without even thinking how it would affect ME!” is an attempt at aphoristic parody. It is meant to push into focus how Facebook and similar web sites are so easily open to user corruption of the social context of the engagements they commit to their timelines. A good real world example would be if two friends were having an earnest lunch hour conversation on a pleasant sunny day. One of the parties notices an attractive member of the opposite sex sitting within earshot and behind the second party. With this knowledge the first party cannot help but increase the volume and sophistication in subject matter of their side of the conversation as the second party continues to engage but with growing confusion as to why the partners speech and mannerisms have suddenly become so affected, This is the fundamental conflict of social politics; the gulf between what we say and what we mean that distorts the process of harvesting data about individual to tribal relationships and how to go about exploiting this data for commerce.

    The personal attachments realized in social media tend to be with those whom we have no real and fundamental sense of–none of the people we engage with on a daily or semi-daily basis tend to be prominent ‘friends’. I think It goes to the human penchant for the appeal of reinvention of identity. If we use degrees of separation as a metric we can see that Facebook is not a tool for your immediate circle. What is even more interesting is that the same research shows that these relationships are with strangers who are similar to us and located relatively close to us.

    The social network that trades in digital media about interesting strangers or engagements with people who sit just outside our regular circle is less a tool of easy access and keeping up with the crowd and more a substitute for the now geographical limitations of chasing the western dream; the “go-west-young-man” myth of individual re-birth of identity with a fresh start as a “stranger in town”. The nature of digital media as a signal of infinite malleability in creating, subverting, and confirming an identity makes social networks enticing. It seems we need and have always needed distance as part of the formula to construct social networks. Digital media affords the formerly dichotomous blend of distance and immediacy.

    I agree with how Anthony uses Facebook and also agree that it is probably a counter productive way to use digital social networks. Never-the-less I seek out events and contacts that are atypical of my personal history in an attempt to create a page that raises more questions (in terms of connections between postings) than answers. This is, I think, a creative artists perspective on social networks. Ultimately I guess I am creating a memoir that consists of a pastiche of non-intuitive connections as much to be mused over as ‘worked’ in the career sense. I find that this approach is easier to implement on Twitter than on Facebook. Facebook seems to have features that require me to legitimize the connections I make for purposes of creating something useful for Facebook to monetize (which I find very frustrating). Although on both networks I get very few follow-backs which I suppose paints me as a non-entity, I find it easier to use Twitter in this way and enjoy creating a digital replica of my penchant for dry wit and editorializing through the use of hash-tags, lists, and responses in a way that retrospectively amounts to a meta-analysis of the topics and personalities of the day. Often there is misapprehension and confusion with my approach and style of humor. Recently I have been accused of being ‘cruel’ (I am, in fact, a complete pussy cat). I guess it’s a somewhat narcissistic approach ultimately, but as far as I can see, Twitter is the new show business and as some celebrities have observed from time to time, show business is a cruel bitch.

  • http://www.instatram/true Anthony Rue

    Dave, down here at University of Florida, I’m bemused that in the absence of a more refined university-wide social/teaching network that professors and TAs are integrating FB into their class. I’ve wondered if they have to pay to promote to reach all of their students– but it’s one of the reasons that I see FB open in browsers at all times among the undergrads. I also believe you are absolutely right about pure web companies, and that FB has overplayed its hand.

  • http://www.north.com Dave Allen

    Anthony, I was using FB to share my personal “agenda” as it were, and like you I avoided Liking brands too. Then I just got bored with its distraction, the clicking around checking in with what a small subset of my friends were doing.

    You mention 18-24 undergrads and FB use. I’m seeing the opposite in the class I teach at University of Oregon, as my students are not using FB hardly at all, they stay in touch via mobiles and texting. It’s a small cross section of the Uni, average size of my class is 30 -35, but I find it quite telling. And I stand by my insight that pure web companies don’t last forever.

  • http://instagram.com/true Anthony Rue

    I have always looked at FB somewhat akin to how Mark Stewart uses Twitter: as an outlet for a stream of consciousness collection of very odd bits of youtube ephemera and political commentary. Sort of like the radio station in the film Born In Flames, with just as much Red Kraola. I guess I decided to never play the game the way they intended; I’ve never “liked” a brand or a business that I wasn’t directly connected to, and I’ve never, ever clicked on an ad or enabled any apps or sharing with any other device or app. I’m guessing that they hate users like me. In all seriousness, it does feel like there’s been a deep shift in attitude against FB among broad segments of users– although more among the 25-35 segment if my casual observations are right. On the other hand, I still see massive integration within the lives of the 18-24 undergrad set at university. All they have to do is keep churning though that segment to continue to buy time to figure out what exactly they do, especially outside of the US. In all honesty, if I didn’t need a personal account to admin my work pages, I probably wouldn’t use FB at all.

  • http://www.north.com Dave Allen

    Maurice, I think you have stronger credibility here in this blog than having me as a friend on Facebook!

    FB is like Frankenstein’s monster isn’t it. It started out to be one thing and then morphed into what it is today, where its sole existence is now working to garner profits for its investors. I can’t call this a worthy and revolutionary technological idea…

  • Maurice Boucher

    But did you give one second of thought about how closing your account would effect MOI! I didn’t think so. I was barely credible as it was but now all I have for friends are a half dozen west coast hippies and a cat with mao-ist leanings!

    Seriously though what I learned from this post is this; Privacy is nice so if you trade some of it in a Faustian bargain the Devil better deliver more than a “bait and switch” business model (Agreed). Having mounds of data about a customer doesn’t really help a business, and might tell you what you don’t want to hear(good to know). Mark Z doesn’t really know what he’s doing (what I always suspected).

    Ever the optimist, I’m hopeful that big business eventually will see that social media’s main benefit to profits is in making THEM transparent to the customer and not the other way around. Facebook is a product of a (not to self-aware)guy who is a product of his culture–a culture that views status as the common currency of all transactions. Truth is, I never expected Facebook to get it right given those biases. My take is that I’ll park what people THINK they know about me on Facebook for now until something that is not as pathetic comes by. Whaddyathink?

  • http://www.north.com Dave Allen


    Yes, the downside to all the free web services is the ‘abandon all hope ye who enter’ issue of what data gets shared. It’s clear to me that many websites that I’ve registered with share my email address even though they profess not too. You can tell by the influx of spammy email on certain subjects. I have to take that for granted. It’s the same issue with free mobile apps too…

  • http://www.north.com Dave Allen


    I agree with your sentiments. I’m pretty certain that me leaving FB will not cause the floodgates to open or FB to collapse. It’s just something that I’ve been thinking of doing for some time. I wanted to streamline my online social world so I’ve trimmed things back to what I find useful and actually enjoy using – Twitter, Posterous, Instagram, my personal website and LinkedIn are my current top 5… It’s not just social platforms that have a limited shelf life. The very nature of the web demands that pure web companies need to keep changing and adopting to their audiences. I suspect that the data/privacy issues will haunt FB at some point. Right now people are either ignoring that or simply don’t care.

  • Laura Chevalier


    I commend you for doing what you did, and also presenting the facts. I’ve been becoming increasingly disenchanted by Facebook over the past few years, and even more as of late. When I recently signed up for a supposedly reputable dating site, I was shocked to see that I could “log in” and see if I had any “friends” in common with my matches, strangers who the site promised to hide my identity from. Why is this is this acceptable? Enough!


  • http://www.turntabling.net Joe Wallace

    Dave–you probably won’t like this (I wouldn’t) but your closing your FB account is a pretty strong indicator that Facebook has jumped the shark. I’ve always liked your ability to size things up, keep what works and discard the things that don’t–and sum all that up neatly in a blog post.

    I felt Facebook started turning into Myspace Mark II (the part where people start leaving in droves is yet to come, but definitely in the works) when they changed the interface to encourage sponsored posts–and limit some of the unsponsored ones. The sound you heard when that day arrived was the wheezing rasp of a social platform breathing its last lungfuls of air unassisted.

    I do wonder, how long now before the real FB exodus begins? It was amusing while it lasted. Maybe ALL social platforms have some kind of built-in shelf life? A statistical arc of relevance before the MBAs take over and monetize it right out of existence?