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Facebook, I wish I knew how to quit you 11 May 2010

Posted by Helen in Reflection.
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Our discussion in class last week seems to echo sentiments expressed by many Facebook users; it’s no surprise that the Huffington Post reports that the Google query “how to I delete my Facebook profile” has recently increased.

I don’t agree with the notion that Facebook is evil because it allows third parties access to voluntarily-provided information. If you don’t want something out there, don’t put it out there– simple. However, my own feelings of trust in the company have been irreparably damaged over the past year because of two incidents with management of the site itself: abruptly shutting down a 45,000+ member page my former employer ran, and then the insertion of illegal acts (while simultaneously removing my privacy settings) into the activities section on my profile two weeks ago.

With the first incident, Facebook notified myself and the other BBQ administrators that we had three weeks to prove the page was affiliated with our business; we complied after one week, yet Facebook did not accept the changes, asked us to do something that was literally impossible without deleting the page, seized our control of it two weeks early, and did not provide any way to petition. Despite our multiple attempts to contact the company through multiple channels, the page remains inactive. The second incident upset me because even though I (unlike some people) am careful with what I put on my profile, a parsing error could damaged my reputation anyhow.

Facebook thus has us stuck between a rock and a hard place. Clearly, their lack of customer service ethic proves they have become too big for their own britches. At the same time, our social lives are intimately connected to the site. We depend on it for photos, games, birthday reminders, information about our friends and loved ones, and even relevant news. At my brother’s college graduation last week, the student speaker concluded her speech with “set your Facebook status to ‘I’m graduated!'”

More powerful institutions than Facebook have fallen. If users become frustrated with the arrogant Zuckerberg regime, they can quit without much penalty– Facebook can be a jerk, but it can’t send you to the Gulag. Boing Boing reports that Facebook will still hold on to your data, but at least you will be free.

So why don’t I quit if I despise it so much? Facebook thrives because it appeals to our vanity, one of the most powerful forces of all. Rather than posting vacation pictures on Facebook, I can easily share these photos with my friends and family on another site or via email, but I don’t really care about my friends and family, or at least what they think. What appeals to me about Facebook is that when I post said pictures of my vacation, my high-school acquaintances, college frenimies, and relatives-I-don’t-really-like-but-sort-of-have-to-like-because-they’re-family see them. And hopefully get extremely jealous. And that’s why I will never quit Facebook even though I really, really want to make a stand.

To make this mini-rant relevant to the class, design, function, and usability are wonderful, but decent customer service and actually caring about your users is #1. Unless you inspire envy among your users’ friends.

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