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Why I will not be fannish on Facebook

For some time now, easily over a year, I've been hearing rumblings about the impending death of LJ as a service and/or as a community. This post hosts a fairly representative discussion, I think, of both the "Yes, LJ is dying" and the "no, LJ is not dying" sides of the conversation. No one posts here any more, the community is dispersing, everyone has jumped ship for MySpace/Facebook/Twitter/whatever the hot new thing is this month, etc. The inclusion of MySpace in the above list should be a good indicator of how old this meme is -- does anyone use MySpace anymore? I certainly don't hear it talked about nearly as much, except perhaps in music circles, and all the college students I know have certainly given it up, mostly for Facebook. All that aside, I have been seeing and feeling the effects of the various online migrations for some time now, but back in December, I found a post via metafandom that got me to thinking about the issue more seriously. The post is mostly about Dreamwidth and fannish migrations (and the lack thereof, in certain circles anyway, but that's a different conversation for a different day), but this paragraph really struck me:

Keeping in touch with friends as a major usage pattern is not going to move to DW, because it has already moved to Facebook. I hate it but there it is. I hate it because it removes the overlap between "keeping in touch with friends" and "making new friends"; I don't make new friends on FB. Do you? I also hate it because since I am on my real name on FB I have to keep everything suitable for the judge to see when I get sued for something fifteen years from now, not to mention suitable for professional contacts and many family members including my dad to see right at this very moment. That means no talking about sex, no talking about any but the most superficial bits of fandom, no talking about family....

Nonetheless, that's where my friends are. So I'm there too.

I read those words and winced with recognition. The migration was slow, and it's still not complete, but about six months ago I had to face the reality that the vast majority of my RL friends are no longer posting on LJ, and most of them are also no longer reading. My fandom connections haven't moved as quickly, or as completely, probably because Facebook is not a friendly interface for posting fic or other fanworks. But it does seem that a fair amount of the social interaction -- the daily life talk, the chatting, the random linkage -- has disappeared, and Facebook is a likely destination for at least some of it.

It took me awhile to realize that folks had moved to FB, though, because I resisted doing more than creating a basic account for a long time. Years. Mainly for the second reason listed above: Facebook operates entirely on the assumption that you have given the service your real name and that you are willing, even happy, to share all your personal information with everyone you know, and some people you don't. Of course, it's perfectly possible to give Facebook a false name -- it's not as though anyone is going to come around and check -- and you can lock down most of your privacy settings. But that's not how the system is meant to be used. If you look at Facebook's defaults, and the design of their settings pages (ie. which settings are easy to find and which are all-but-hidden), it's clear that the bias is toward sharing information with as many people as possible. As this excellent article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation analyzing Facebook's changes to privacy settings in December '09 points out:

The privacy "transition tool" that guides users through the configuration will "recommend" — preselect by default — the setting to share the content they post to Facebook, such as status messages and wall posts, with everyone on the Internet, even though the default privacy level that those users had accepted previously was limited to "Your Networks and Friends" on Facebook.

Everything on Facebook -- the photo-tagging function, all the various link and post-sharing features, the apps (especially the apps) -- depends on your willingness to share your personal information with not only your friends, but by proxy everyone else on Facebook. Given that I've gone to some trouble to keep my LJ and other fandom-related activity decoupled from my RL name, you can probably see why I haven't exactly jumped to move my journaling to Facebook.

My other problem with Facebook as a fannish platform is that it's a walled garden. Even if a post, photograph, or whatever is set as visible to "everyone", you still have to be logged in to Facebook in order to see it. (That's my impression anyway; browsing through Facebook's FAQ, I can neither confirm nor deny. Anyone know?) And I am very uncomfortable with the idea of forcing anyone to sign up for a service that I have so many misgivings about myself. This complaint may seem like a contradiction on its face, but I actually think they are related. In both cases, it's about giving Facebook control over aspects of my online interaction that I would rather control myself.

Contrast this with LJ, a company that has made more than its share of missteps, most recently the issue with requiring users to label themselves as "male" or "female", with no "decline to state" option or opt-out. (A move, by the way, that Facebook made over a year ago, and is somewhat aggressive about enforcing.) But there was user outcry, and subsequently they took it back. They claimed it was a coding error that would never have gone live, an explanation that many find fishy; but I don't think it really matters. It didn't happen, and is not likely to happen in the future. Whatever concerns I have about LJ, this is one things that I've noticed: they screw up, they listen, they learn. And they have never really given me reason to be concerned about privacy, certainly not on the level that Facebook has. They provide me the flexibility I needs to control what personal information I give out to whom.

I realize that it's next to impossible to be truly anonymous on the Internet, and I've likely left enough breadcrumbs over the years that someone who was determined to link this account with my RL name could do so. But a casual Google searcher couldn't do that, which is what I care about. And barring some tectonic shift in their philosophy, Facebook is never going to give us that level of control. As long as this remains the case, LJ will remain my primary online home.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 6th, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)
sharing pics etc w/ the outside world
Actually, you can make pictures (maybe other things, dunno) visible to non FB users, no login required. At least it used to be possible. That said, I never ever do that, so I'm not sure it's still possible. I use SmugMug to share pics with non-FBers and have only a very limited selection of pics on FB.

I never got that involved in LJ, and am willing to endure the icky things about FB in exchange for the connection it affords this stay-at-home/work-at-home mama with the outside world.
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
Re: sharing pics etc w/ the outside world
I was really unsure of that part even as I typed it, so it could certainly be wrong. ;) I think FB used to be more locked down than it currently is, in terms of only being accessible to logged in users.

I don't mean to judge anyone for their choice of social media platform, and I hope I didn't come off that way. If I did, I apologize. The privacy trade-off is the right choice for some people, in some circumstances. I don't judge anyone for being on FB -- heck, *I'm* on FB, because it's the best/only way to keep up with certain subsets of people. When dealing with large corporations, each person makes their own decision about what they'll put up with. And for most people, I think that will depend on where their community is. The first article I quote above makes that point: the most important part of "social media" is the "social" part.
Jan. 6th, 2010 01:17 pm (UTC)
Re: sharing pics etc w/ the outside world
Oh I wasn't feeling judged at all, just chiming in. And heck, I don't think that there's a lot of REAL privacy anywhere on the internet, just perceived. :)
Jan. 6th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
I'm on the periphery of so many things - lj, facebook, fandoms etc that I'm kind of on the outside of all of the controversies. None of them feel like my internet "home". It seems to me that each of these sites provides something specific. I'm on fb, on lj, on twitter, but in each case I'm interacting with people in very different ways. The only real overlap is that I'm interacting with people over the internet.

So where's the need for dramatic talk about death? :P
Jan. 7th, 2010 03:33 am (UTC)
So where's the need for dramatic talk about death?

I agree that a lot of the handwringing around this subject is pretty overdramatic. And I don't find it difficult to be on different types of social media for different reasons, although the RL/fandom divide with FB on one side and LJ/Twitter on the other sometimes makes me feel like I'm compartmentalizing my life in ways I don't always like. I think what happens in some cases is that people mistake the platform for the connection, when really, it's the connections that matter.
Jan. 7th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Also? I do not care what ass-stupid Flash game you are playing, or what movie you decided to fan. (WTF?) And there's basically only Twitter-level interaction on FB. I like long meaty posts.
Jan. 7th, 2010 03:29 am (UTC)
I block *so many* things on FB. Flash games, Farmville etc., all those free giveaway things. At least they provide the functionality to do so, but I'd really rather not have to do it.

I actually kind of like the status level interactions. They're my favorite thing about FB. But if I could lure more friends to Twitter, I think I'd be much happier having those interactions there -- Twitter is much more like LJ in its level of privacy controls, as far as I can tell, and I like how quickly the conversation can move. Unfortunately, I have more RL friends active on LJ than I do on Twitter, and that's saying something.
Jan. 19th, 2010 04:40 am (UTC)
I hate Facebook. Hate hate hate it. (Okay, I'm one of the handwringing dramatic people. Sorry.)

Facebook finally implemented filters to let you decide who sees your posts, and I still hate it.

Facebook is based on the premise of sharing RL mundania and those vapid little game apps.

Fandom is trying on and playing with identities.


The walled garden is all about control. There was a huge outcry when Facebook said it owned all content posted on it in perpetuity, and they've retracted that somewhat. But they are in the business of monetizing content far more than LJ with its piddly little web 1.0 banner ads.

This is a moneymaking move.

One of my alternate identities is a Search Engine Optimization / Squidoo Making Money Online persona. I don't pursue it that vigorously because I can't bring myself to do real affiliate marketing -- earning commissions for promoting/selling on CommissionJunction and all the rest. But I am in the fringes of the affiliate marketing community, even if I don't shill stuff beyond books on Amazon which I actually like. (Even that is problematic: AmazonFail. But I digress.)

TONS of people in affiliate marketing are streaming into Facebook as an opportunity to make money by getting you to click, to buy, to purchase. They are figuring out strategies and optimizing for search and all that crap that I can do now, although I hate it. Facebook is another way to promote stuff to you. Heck, even I have dropped a few links to my Squidoo pages in hopes of getting visitors and earning pennies. So suddenly I'm using my friends as part of the way I make money? Uhhh.... bad. Double bad for fandom, where fanfic is not supposed to be moneymaking.

I don't want to be in a community where all the affiliate marketers come to play. I have enough trouble with Squidoo.

Having some experience with the "monetizing" side of social networks and user-submitted content, I know what Facebook is doing. It's called Permission Marketing. Get a lot of people to your domain, have them play in your sandbox, buy your goodies, make them WANT you to market your goodies to them. It's like crack. The first bag is free.

And I refuse to believe that Facebook is keeping its nose out of people's posts. No. It is using it for targeting ads, gathering search data, and further refining its database. It wants to take on Google, and the best way to do that is to keep the walls up and have enough content within those walls that people have to leave Google and other search engines and use Facebook to access Facebook. While I appreciate that a monopoly is unhealthy, even from a benevolent dictator like Google, this is not a fair way to break its monopoly of what most people see on the web.

Facebook added the filters because it's sucked up most of the people who don't care about privacy at all (or give in), and it's now trying to attract us hold outs who refused to play along.


I use Facebook a small amount to see how high school friends are doing (and feel very wary of sharing anything about myself). That's it. Even that is too much. Do not WANT.

Edited at 2010-01-19 07:48 am (UTC)
Jan. 19th, 2010 05:42 am (UTC)
Thank you for this -- I think you do a really good job of explaining why the ad-driven content on Facebook bothers me much more than LJ's advertising. It helps, of course, that I have a permanent account here, so I never see ads anyway, and also my browser has pretty strong adblock. That helps with Facebook, but of course not completely because the advertising is worked so deeply into the content.

Even that is problematic: AmazonFail.

Unless you plan to go off the grid completely, you're going to have to deal with large corporations that do evil. Not even Google, whose motto is "don't be evil", is completely evil-free. I don't think it's possible for a modern corporation to hold to that standard. So you pick your evils, decide who you can live with. For me, that includes the ability to change when they get caught failing at least some of the time, and both Amazon and LJ pass that test for me. So far, Facebook has not.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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