Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Lies of Facebook

So I have joined the ranks of Facebook. This wasn't a light decision. I had been invited a few times by different people over the last few months and I always asked why. The answers I got mentioned messaging friends and seeing what they were doing. In response I asked how it was different than IM or email other than everyone else can see what you type. It wasn't until a week ago that I got an answer I couldn't refute. "To keep track of the kids." I signed up the next day. I like the ability to track what is going on with the kids in our High School Ministry. I can get a better insight to how they are feeling to know how best to pray for them. Also, I can call them out if they are saying something completely untrue. (It seems that teenagers search out a way to feel isolated and depressed becasue they found one instead of focusing on the myriad of reasons to feel included.)

I also found some friends I've lost contact with long ago. That is cool.

What I didn't like were the tricks and lies on that website. Here are the ones I've stumbled across.

1. Ads - I know that facebook has to generate revenue. I don't particularly like ads, but I canignore them. The ones that I would ban (if i were running facebook) would be the ones that lower the integrity of the site. There is an ad for getting a free MacBook Air after testing it from that is a scam. I googled the site and read up on how the scam works. Also, there are ads that try to blend into the site, telling you that you have unread messages from friends and that 4 of your friends are challenging you to take this quiz and compare the results. The quiz asks you for personal information before giving you the results. Although I now know that the quiz ad isn't part of the site, it is close enough in design that newcomers to facebook don't know if they are not paying attention to the style.

2. Facebook has invented tons of nothing to keep you on the site. There are pokes, jabs, high-fives, pillow fights, and countless more things to send to your friends, and when you do so, they get a message that they've been poked or whatever. This means nothing and is absolutely useless. It is a waste of time, and teenagers are having a hard enough time being productive as it is. Getting poked in real life isn't that much fun and getting poked on facebook is even less. It's a time thief. It's job is to keep you on the site so their numbers can go up so more companies want to advertise with them. It doesn't deepen the relationship between the friends any more than having an actual conversation would.

3. There are causes you can join. I got invited to a "Save the Animals" cause. Now I have nothing against saving animals and I think we should be kind to animals, but joining a cause on facebook (whether or not you give them money) is a lie to make you feel good about youself. (I know this sounds like a harsh opinion, and it may be, but I really see a lie in this.) The casues might be good, but as I briefly considered joining this one, the little bad voice inside my head said that if I didn't join, people are going to think I don't like animals or don't care about them and am therefore, heartless. And maybe they would be right. Maybe I would be heartless. I wouldn't have to give money. Just put my name down on the list. Boost the number up so that other people can see how important this cause it. Then you would have done something good and can be proud of it, and it didn't cost you a thing. I don't listen to that voice because I recognize it and it's not that of my Shepherd. It was a lie to try and make me do something for me, like the devil trying to get Jesus to make a stone into bread. Like the temptation David faced when offered the threshing floor to sacrifice to God. When you join these causes, you feel like you are doing something good, but you really do nothing. It doens't cost you anything. It doesn't take any time. It is a selfish good work. My good work is either going to cost me the sweat from my brow, the sleep from my eyes, or the money from my wallet, and if it's worth the effort, it will take all three. I'm going to give of myself knowing that God will provide and replenish me. Anything else would seem to be a waste of what God has gifted me with. It may seem silly to you, but I will not give to God that which costs me nothing.

(I don't hate facebook. I think most of it is cool. I just wanted to point out the traps I see instead of trying to sell an idea that isn't mine.)


Robin said...

How about the quizes that you can't get the results of without turning over X friends?

How about the people who barely talk to you in real life, but want to be your friend on Facebook? I feel if you want to know how I am, you should just ask.

Thanks for writing about what I've been thinking.

I've been thinking about deleting my Facebook account, but then I'd miss updates from the Pottengers. sigh.

Anonymous said...

I whole-heartedly agree. Those ads are deceptive. They even have your friend's picture right there, too.

I actually like some of the apps there, but I'm careful about not getting too many and not spending too much time on them. They are time wasters.

And those quizzes Robin mentioned: those just piss me off.

Thank you for blogging about this!

Stacey said...

Yep, I've thought about all those things too! I still like facebook better than my space. I don't get involved with all the "extras" on facebook, though I have been wondering just what the heck a "poke" is. Maybe we can come up with a pure, exhorting, commercial free, quiz fee, slamming free social networking site!

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of your arguments and opinions. The one thing I would like to point out is that most of the literally thousands of applications on facebook are not created by facebook. Facebook has a platform for developing applications, similar to computer programming and html. Anyone can develop and submit an application, which is reviewed before being posted. Because of the massive number of applications, there is simply not the human resources to carefully examine each one. They look at them for offensive content, or content that violates their EULA, but most apps get through. You can complain about this approval process to facebook, but cannot blame facebook for designing the stupid applications.

Jonathan Dow said...

You can make your own applications? I didn't know that. Does anyone know how to do so? (Whether facebook made it or not, "Compare Your Friends" isn't a good application.)

Steven Lybeck said...

Hi Jonathan - Thanks for the post! I got here while researching that shady '' site.

I mostly agree with your reactions on these negative aspects of Facebook - there is quite a bit of garbage.

However, I think it would be good to take a second look at silly things like 'pokes' and 'high-fives', and you might see them in a new light. People working with and researching social media often call these features "throwing sheep". They're intended to warm up and personalize interactions that can otherwise feel impersonal or cold. More and more of our interaction is taking place with these tools, and since lightheartedness is an important part of communication in the first place, it's also an important thing to design for.

Again, thanks for the post...I'll be staying away from colormyrewards!

Jonathan Dow said...

I didn't think of that Stephen, and maybe I still don't quite understand it, but wouldn't it be better to communicate your feelings through your words instead of a pre-programmed emoicon? I guess it's the same thing with greeting cards. Here, this guy I don't know wrote down how I feel about you on your birthday. Maybe I'm not as much disagreeing with facebook as with the direction of society.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same about facebook, but I post things that I think might be of interest to my friends, and I post when an article I write comes out, or when a book proposal I wrote sells, that kind of business-y thing. And, I have to say I love playing scrabble on facebook with a friend. it's free and fun and you only have to check the board once a day if you feel like it. games can take days. but I have to say it's fun playing scrabble with a friend who's far away!

lolvely1 said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I just turned 20 and I have a couple of friends who wanted me to join on a little of every site, so I got an account and now I have to many to keep up with. Like you say it is a waste of god given time when you can be doing something productive. I don't even waste anytime on it now. More than Half the profile pages I have on sites are basically empty or lack info (Updated and not) because I lost interest or got swept away to the new thing XD, don't get me wrong I think that web and websites are another way to reach a soul but with so many options facebook deviant art, gaia online, myspace, yearbook, bebo, blogger, Imeem, wiki, it's easy to get distracted.Hey, don't get me wrong some sites I do try and stay updated on but I find myself doing it whenever I get an email (meaning it has to be brought to my attention.) And to be honest I TOTALLY didn't realize this until you pointed it out OMG thanks so much and god bless ^_^!

Unknown said...

In response to Robin's comment:

There is a way that you can get the quiz results without asking any friends to join. There is a link near the friends box that says "continue to result"..I love Facebook's privacy settings, much more than Myspace. I barely use Myspace anymore because I love Facebook so much now :)

Anonymous said...

I think the fact that you take so much time to complain about facebook and discourage its use shows triteness on a level that far outweighs any of the complaints you have for facebook.

I use facebook to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues all over the world, there is nothing out there better for that purpose.