Friday, August 21, 2015

Facebook is Broken

I posted the following as a Facebook 'status update' on August 19, 2015, edited a bit to add an image and links where applicable. It came after a 2-month hiatus I took from the website, and its purpose was to both explain the reason for the hiaitus and to describe my approach to Facebook moving forward. 

As readers of the blog will know, Facebook has been one of my primary objects of research study for six years, and yet I don't think I've blogged much about my personal approach to the site. The following characterizes much of my current position, perspective, and approach to Facebook as a user. 

Facebook is broken, or, dispatches from the bank of the stream...

Facebook is broken for me because my reasons for visiting this platform are no longer supported by the platform's functionality and the values built into its design.

If I could set up my Facebook feed(s) so that I only see original photos and text-based status updates posted manually by the people I care about, Facebook would not be broken for me. Believe it or not, iterations ago these global filters existed on the main News Feed for all of us, as I’m sure many will remember.

Of course they are long gone, because to provide those options cuts against Facebook’s relationship to its paying customers: advertisers.

So, well over a year ago, as a 'hack' to take back a little control, I created 'friends lists' which served as 'channels' where I bypassed two frustrating behaviors of the News Feed: 1) visiting a list enables you to see ALL updates from those added to it (so, no algorithm determines what is worthy of being made visible), and, 2) there were filters for post types that could be applied globally to each list. Oh, and list feeds have no ads.

This set-up worked for over a year for me. Until one day, the filters disappeared. Suddenly, my list feeds started featuring 'such and such [friend] is now friends with so and so [stranger]' and 'help this person level up in their game [BIG IMAGE FROM GAME]'.

Then, politics happened--well, it's always happening, but the news cycle did a thing (a few things actually), and the result was more polarization among and between my multiple communities than the 'normal' amount I had grown to bear in my own way on this site and others like it.

And not just polarization, but the visual rhetorical presentation of positions that seemed (please note ‘seemed’, not ‘did’; this is an important distinction) to resist the fact that every 'issue' in this messed up, broken world is complex. End stop.

Put another way, I began to perceive, through and on Facebook-as-platform, positions on issues in our world presenting themselves as simple, self-evident, and obvious, when in reality they are anything but.

This type of visual rhetorical presentation (writ large, taking many forms, and articulating diverse positions) became painful for me (physically, in my chest, at times)--it's the cognitive and affective dissonance of *knowing*, through lived experience, that something is far more complex than how you’re seeing it rhetorically presented before your eyes--making it hard for me to engage on Facebook and sites like it for a time.

And then I began to realize, this platform--Facebook--is in fact built, designed, and programmed to eliminate complexity in the visual rhetorical presentation of shared information on this site.

[NB: This observation complicates the heck out of all of the research I’ve been doing for six years now with Teresa Grettano about information literacy practices and behaviors on sites like Facebook [Added editorial note: those are five different links btw.]. But that’s okay: 'complex' is clearly where it’s at for me, these days and always.]

So, I just can't do it anymore, where 'it' means trying to get this tool I've studied as both a researcher and a user, since 2009 and 2005 respectively, to work the way I wish it did.

I've decided not to leave Facebook entirely though, because the other thing I realized during my Facebook hiatus this summer is that I do still wish to share things about my home life, my family, and some things about work (though FYI: most of my work-related sharing is on Twitter these days), with the people I've chosen to connect with on here.

I also use this account as a network node where I connect with those persons I want a way to be in contact with, whether they be new professional colleague-friends or other types of cool folks I meet and get to know through and in my days. I plan to continue to utilize the site in this manner.

But, I'm giving myself permission to do something I've never done on here before: I am going to share what I want to share, with no plans to view everyone else's posts *in aggregate* (that is, via any feed-type options this site offers users--because, as I said, they are all broken for me, for one reason or another).

Instead, I'll be keeping up with folks individually, deliberately, and mindfully, by visiting your profiles directly.

Basically, I'm stepping out of the stream, but still want to camp out on the bank and do my own thing at my own camp, so to speak, and visit your camps directly from now on (house calls!), versus trying to have a meaningful meeting while caught up in the current.

And I definitely welcome visits to my little section of the stream bank by folks who are interested in what is happening in my life. <3

I wanted to share this news explicitly because I have never *not* been in the communal 'stream' before on here, except during my two explicit hiatuses, a year ago (for two weeks) and this summer.

Oh, and a related PSA: Facebook messages are now the near worst way to get in touch with me--the worst way probably being via phone (I know, I know). I don’t use the Facebook message app and never will. So, I will do my best to catch up on any Facebook messages that have come in over the summer (when I have time), but all in all, you’re better off emailing me than messaging me on here anymore.

So, now that I've shared my new approach to Facebook, starting tomorrow I plan to begin playing catch-up by posting about all the cool things that have happened over the summer since I took my Facebook hiatus at the end of June.

What’s funny is, I know the Facebook News Feed algorithm isn’t going to favor my posts much, especially since I’m going to be sharing quite a few in quick succession over the next week or so. So consider this post an invitation to visit my profile from time to time to see what I’m up to. :)

And, I'm looking forward to catching up with all of you, in a manner that also protects the peace I've found over here on the stream bank. <3

rocky stream and mossy banks
Image by Flickr user keithius via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0* (human readable version of license here)
*This license requires that remixed, transformed, or built upon versions of this image need to be licensed CC BY-NC-SA as well (the SA stands for "share alike"). Although I don't believe I've done any of these things by linking to the originally hosted version of the image, just to be safe, this post on my blog is licensed CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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