The Unsocial Revolution
If you're paying attention to what I write, and chances are you aren't, then you've probably figured out that I've been quiet on Facebook and other social sites lately. If you had been following me on Twitter, you might've seen this post …
The short of it is, I'm pulling back from Facebook and many other social sites. I'm either closing my accounts or setting them to their most private levels. I will continue to run this blog and post to Twitter, but my Twitter account will be private.
The New Green
In 2008, one of our new phones was going to have Facebook built into it, so I created an account and linked to a few friends. That's when the pivotal event occurred. A random check-in from my friend Joel, talking about being in Dallas on a last weekend with his son before moving to China on an ex-pat assignment. By chance, we were in Dallas also. I had no idea Joel was moving, so I called his cell. We met for dinner and he ended up getting a room in the same hotel as us. We had a relaxed breakfast the next morning and ever since, I've lived vicariously through Joel and Elisa's posts from Shanghai. That was what Facebook could do and I bought into it and many other things "social".
I ignored the less desirable aspects for a while. We were changing the world with this social stuff. We elected a black President in the US, one non-corporate donation at a time. I've always been the optimist and organized events, so I jumped into this social stuff with both feet. I created accounts, participated, checked in, and shared. Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Gowalla, Radar, yelp, TripAdvisor, TripIt, MeetUp, LinkedIn, etc. Not to mention dozens of user communities devoted to some activity or piece of equipment.
Most companies had no idea what "social" meant, but they wanted it, whatever it was. They hired experts and spent a lot of effort to socialize their offerings. Consumers were encouraged to offer up their contact lists and private information in order to find their friends and be connected.
One big happy hive mind.
The cracks started appearing in all this open sharing of information. Photos of celebrities doing things they shouldn't made headlines. Somewhere along the way Social became Social Media. It stopped being a way to meet friends and started becoming a mouthpiece, an asset to be managed.
Then one day, the pivotal event occurred. I was looking at a gorgeous photo on Flickr from a photographer I knew. Down in the comments was a toss-off remark from some random jerk. It was at that precise moment I realized I don't care what Joe in Hoboken thinks of my photos. So I stopped posting to Flickr. I wasn't pissed off, I just stopped caring. And that is a dangerous quality for a community that's based on sharing.
A few weeks later, my wife casually mentioned that she had deactivated her Facebook account. When I pressed her for a reason, she said she didn't need it any more. Didn't need it any more. And that's where the seeds of the Unsocial Revolution were sown. Like my wife, I realized that I didn't need it any more.
I'm no revolutionary and I appear to be way to the left of the chasm on this one. Will a gradually increasing flow of disaffected people follow? Will there be an event that catalyzes everyone into action? A digital 9/11 of some sort? Or, will I slip back quietly because I'm the only one out in the street, listening to the party inside?
I suspect that everyone will keep doing as they are doing, because it's easy. They'll move back and forth in response to small events, not seeing beyond the horizon. Then one day, they realize their personal data will no longer be theirs. CNN will tell the world which articles you read because you're logged into Facebook when you load the CNN website. The photos they posted to social sites are no longer accessible because the company went bankrupt. Lazy newspaperwomen will browse Facebook posts for their columns, and edit them as they wish, regardless of the authors' wishes. And then people will wonder how the hell did this all happen?
I'll be outside, on the back stoop, if you need me.