Facebook is desparate

It’s been some time since I’ve actually used Facebook. I’ve shared my blog posts from here to my timeline there, but that is an automated task that is accomplished through the software running on this blog. There is a lot of stuff I still want to transfer from Facebook; namely, the comments and background information provided by members of my family on some very old family photo’s that I’m going to transfer to my cloud, but I would have Facebook running in a container in Firefox in order to do that. Meanwhile, Facebook has been desperate to get me to use their “Service” again.

First are the e-mails. They’ve always sent me e-mails, but lately they’ve ramped that up to 30+ e-mails per day. These go to a secondary e-mail address and get filtered appropriately as spam, so I never actually have to see them unless I want to. But then after a month or so, my phone started blowing up with notifications. Chrome on my Android phone was sending me these notifications from Facebook. The strange thing was, I didn’t even have a Facebook tab open! It turns out that one does not need to have a tab open for Facebook to push notifications via Chrome once I “Allowed” Facebook to send me notifications, so I went into my Chrome settings and revoked this permission in my settings. Then things got weirder.

I started getting text messages from Facebook about activity that had been going on. Turns out that they are using the phone number I provided them for the purposes of two-step verification to spam me with notifications. They are like the creepy ex who wants to keep on pursuing a relationship long after they’ve been dumped for abusive behaviour that they’ve never acknowledged nor apologized for.

I suppose I did leave a lot of stuff at Facebook’s house, so I probably should get around to moving it over to my cloud, but still, this behaviour is unprecedented for an on-line service. The levels of manipulation Facebook uses goes deep, and this makes me glad that I’ve pretty much stopped using them.

An Invitation

A while ago, I noticed some people were leaving Facebook. Some were my friends, some were notable people. They all had well thought out reasons for doing so. For me, it was a heavy handed three day ban for the sin of posting a joke in a closed debate group – no, not banned from the debate group, as I didn’t actually do anything wrong or against the rules of the group, but from all of Facebook, because someone in the group, presumably the debater who’s argument was defeated by my joke, complained about being offended, and so my entire account was suspended for three days, without any ability to make an appeal.

Five months ago, Jeri Ellsworth announced she was deleting her Facebook account and moving on, and invited us to friend her on a new platform, MeWe. I signed up, because even five months ago, I was starting to recognize that Facebook wasn’t a good tech company. However, as much as MeWe professes that it’s much better than Facebook, it was a move from one closed system with terms of service to another closed system with admittedly much better terms of service, but terms of service nonetheless. Number one was telling me I could not violate any law or regulation. Well, there are some pretty stupid laws out there that need to be challenged and broken, like blasphemy, god damn it.

I understand that these companies need to have terms and conditions in order to protect themselves from liability, but there was also the glaring fact that I had exactly one friend on MeWe. None of the content I posted there would ever be seen by any of my real-world friends, and I couldn’t expect them to go to the trouble of signing up for yet another social media account, so I started this blog on an old computer of mine running open source software so that I could communicate and interact on the Internet on my own terms and conditions. This set me on a journey of discovery and learning like none other. I made some new friends along the way, and also some important discoveries.

It turns out that others see the problem with traditional social media, and that problem is the fact that we need to sign up for different services that profit from selling our information; friends on Facebook can’t see what friends on Twitter are posting, and vice versa. Imagine if you had a Yahoo e-mail account and had to sign up for G-mail in order to send and receive messages to and from your friends and family who also had G-mail. So now there is a new social media that has been created using open standards, like e-mail. The solution is a federated social media network that uses open standards. What this means is that anyone can set up their own social media server, choose from a variety of open source software packages with which to host their instance, and be able to share and see updates with friends and family just like Facebook or Twitter, but their friends and family can be on completely different servers running different software packages.

I would like to extend an invitation to all of my friends and family to join me in this new revolution. Just like e-mail, you don’t have to set up your own server if you don’t want to. Right now, the biggest and most popular servers are mastodon.social, as well as mastodon.xyz where you’ll find notable people like Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia. There are also many groups dedicated to certain tastes that you can browse through at joinmastodon.org. There are apps for Android and iPhone. I have an account on mastodon.social, @quirk@mastodon.social. I also have the Social app installed on my Nextcloud server, and have a federated social media address there of @paul@cloud.pquirk.com. I encourage all of my friends and family to find a federated social media instance or start your own if you’re as ambitious as me, and I’ll follow you. Together, we can kick the Facebook habit and take ownership of our social media experience. This is the future, so please join me and we can enjoy it together.

The future of social networks

I have seen the future of social media, and I saw it by looking at the past. The social media of today is similar to e-mail of the days before the Internet; we have a few big players, completely incompatible with each other. Someone on Twitter can’t see updates by their Facebook using friends on their timeline, and vice versa. A person needs to be signed up to both services, and if they have a friend who’s still using Myspace, they’ll need to add that service as well. If you become dissatisfied with a service, leaving them means leaving all of your friends and family as well. To compare to e-mail, imagine if you had to sign up with a Yahoo! account to read e-mails from friends and family who use a Yahoo! e-mail account, forcing you to subscribe to Yahoo!, Outlook, GMail, and whatever else is out there. We wouldn’t stand for it with e-mail in the modern day, and now we don’t have to stand for it with our social networking, because services like Mastodon are going to change all that.

The concept behind Mastodon is that it is a social network that uses open standards. This means that anyone could create a Mastodon server. It also means that you don’t have to use Mastodon at all to participate with all your friends and family; you might prefer to use a plug-in for Nextcloud like Social. I now have two accounts on this federated social media; one is from my own server, @paul@cloud.pquirk.com which I created for experimental purposes (the plug-in is still very much in development), and the other is at a Mastodon server, @paul@mastodon.social, which will be my more mainstream account. Obviously, I’m a fan of owning my own server and not having someone trying to interpret my intentions as they decide if my posts fit with their rules and regulations, but for now this is a great start and a step in the right direction for social media.

How things look from my server, a bit sparse for now

I’d like to invite all my friends and family to join me in the future of social networking. I’ve abandoned Facebook, and am winding down my Twitter use as I migrate entirely over to this new federated platform. I invite you to as well, won’t you please join me? Click here to sign up to mastodon.social, which I believe is a great place to start for anyone.

Facebook is everywhere

Facebook is an interesting phenomenon whereas its users are not the customer, they are the product. What this means is they collect information about you and then sell that information to whoever wants to buy it. When it comes to their platform, I understand the information I post there will be sold as such. What I don’t agree with is the fact that they are keeping track of me in other places on the web that have nothing to do with Facebook; places that have to do with my employment and finances.

Years ago, when there were issues with running Javascript on certain web sites, I followed the advice of an article I read and installed NoScript in my Firefox browser. I had since then switched over to Chromium and then Chrome, but didn’t bother installing NoScript. I decided to switch back to Firefox when I switched back to Ubuntu, and decided to use its default browser for a while. Signing back into Firefox meant that NoScript was added for me. NoScript is an extension that, by default, does not allow any scripts to run, and then I get to choose which scripts can run on which sites. Since it had been a while since I switched back, most of the permissions on NoScript had to be set up for web sites to work.

Imagine my surprise when I went to my trade union web site to discover that one of the scripts it was trying to run was from facebook.net. Equally as disturbing was when I went to my online banking site with my credit union, the same script from facebook.net was also trying to run. This script was trying to run even after I logged into my sessions at these respective sites. I tagged this script as “Untrusted” at these sites, so it cannot run. These web sites continue to work perfectly fine without the script from facebook.net.

As far as I’m concerned, NoScript is a valuable add-on for anyone who wishes to browse the Internet under their own terms. Not only will it protect you from malicious scripts (assuming you don’t mark a malicious script as “Trusted,”) it also puts giant marketing creeps back in their place while I do my personal business free from their prying eyes.

A month without Facebook

Just over a month ago, I decided to stop using Facebook after receiving a system wide ban for three days for posting a joke in a closed group. For the record, I never got banned from the group; I’m still a member, the admins never had a problem with my joke. Facebook decided that I should be banned system wide as “Punishment” for posting a link to a Youtube video entitled, “Goat shagging.” It was this heavy handed censorship to which I oppose, and my primary motivator for quitting Facebook. As I reflect on the past month, I have to admit I’m glad that this happened, and my life has been significantly better without Facebook.

The first thing that happened was that I started to get things done. For example, I kept my old computer because I intended to turn it into my personal web server for my blog. I finally did that, but also turned it into a multi-function cloud server. I also finally got around to installing Linux on my new computer; I had been running the Windows 10 license from my old computer, but now use Linux for nearly 100% of my computing needs. Then I started writing again. When I looked around, I noticed that a lot of creative, intelligent, and inspiring people have also left Facebook, inspiring me further to learn even more new things. Who knew I could track my own cell phone?

A month off of Facebook has helped me to recognize what a useless waste of time it really was. I’m no longer chasing the likes, looking to blow up my number of friends, and feed into a marketing machine constantly distracted by insignificant notifications. I’ve become more focused on my career, real friends, family, and my own mental and physical health. I’ve learned so much in just a short period of time from others who have also learned the folly of Facebook. Facebook is now constantly spamming me with notifications via e-mail, but it’s not my primary e-mail address, and even then it gets filtered away into a folder. I still have yet to migrate my content off of the Facebook platform, but now that I realize how insignificant it really is, I’m in no big hurry to do so.

I don’t think I’ll entirely delete my account on Facebook; unfortunately, for some people, it might be the only way they can initially get in touch with me. I can use Caprine instead of Messenger for one-on-one communications, but I do prefer e-mail. Meanwhile, I’m going to continue to move my content and digital life from the big corporate marketing machines to my own hardware, learn new things, and make new friends along the way.

There are other reasons to leave Facebook; here’s some links of note that you may also be interested in reading:

Lifehack has 7 reasons why quitting Facebook now is good for your future.

Men’s Journal also has 7 reasons why you should quit Facebook.

Gizmodo came up with a top 10 list of reasons to leave Facebook.

I don’t expect change to happen very soon, as this wired article explains why victims of Facebook censorship don’t leave Facebook.

However, as this CNet article points out, Facebook’s censorship can be a real problem.

3 days without Facebook

I decided to chronicle my experience over the past three days leaving Facebook to share this experience with others.

Day 1: I admit it, I was mad. Some underpaid lackey got to play judge, jury, and executioner in banning me from posting to my Facebook account, and that decision was final. There was no way for me to contact anyone, to plea my case; in a knee jerk second, a decision was made, and that was that. I started deleting some photo albums to see if they’d notice, because I could at least do that. At first, I was mad at Facebook…but then I realized, I really should be mad at myself. I knew this could happen to anyone; it had already happened to many of my friends. It was me who allowed Facebook to play a central role in my on-line life, and that was a mistake. I could still go on Facebook and read things, and I was still getting notifications, but I couldn’t even wish anyone a happy birthday. I decided to uninstall the Facebook and Messenger apps from my phone, and my phone worked a lot better.

Day 2: I began to realize that, as I had become so focused on Facebook, I neglected other things like my blog here. I also have other social media accounts, like twitter, Google Plus, and MeWe which I have underused as well. I made a new profile picture especially for Facebook, wrote about my experience on my blog, and shared my experience at MeWe. This will be my new profile picture at Facebook from the day the ban will be lifted until Facebook is no more:

My new Facebook profile picture

Day 3: It’s been nice not having my phone ding with notifications every moment; I found myself very clear headed and productive. I spent some time cleaning up my blog and making it look decent. I contemplated leaving Facebook completely, but I think it’s better that I retain an account there with the new profile picture I made along with directions to pquirk.com. I will, of course, delete all of my content, and put it elsewhere…either in this blog, or with Google photos. However, Facebook is dead to me. My wife agrees with this decision, and has also decided she will not use the app and won’t be using Facebook much anymore either.

That’s it, no big deal. Like many other people, I’ve been wanting to leave Facebook for a while, and I’m actually thankful to them that they provided me with the motivation I needed to take action. Like many teens of today, it really is completely meaningless.

Goodbye, Facebook

I decided to stop using Facebook after being an original member for over a decade. This isn’t a decision I made lightly just to follow a trend, to be “Cool,” or edgy. I don’t consider myself addicted to it. I need to stop using Facebook because I am a man of principles, and Facebook’s policy of heavy handed censorship goes against those principles.

When the Internet and the World Wide Web became popularized in the 1990’s, I, like many people, created a web page. Many people used Geocities, but I came to prefer Tripod. This static web page was a way for old friends to find me, for extended family to keep up with our family, and for me to share my interests and hobbies, much like how Facebook is used today. The last update I made to this web page was on July 29, 2000, and you can still see my old web page here.

Tripod had its limitations; primarily, I wanted to be able to host files, and the advertisements were really making a mess of my web page. Also, they had “Terms of Service” which made it possible for them to remove my content at any time for any reason. At this point, I registered my first domain name, and set up a Red Hat Linux computer in my home office, where I hosted my own web site. Meanwhile, having married and raising my child, I wanted to get in touch with long lost school friends, so I tried services like classmates.com, but they wanted money and offered little in return. I also enjoyed using Internet forums for various hobbies, such as retro computing, cars, and debating. Then Facebook came along as an answer to everything.

Facebook gave for free what classmates was trying to sell. I signed up in 2007 with a joint account shared with my wife, but then in March of 2008, we set up our own individual accounts.

Facebook friends with Sally since 2008

Facebook seemed to deliver everything I needed; I was able to connect with old and new friends, keep people up to date, keep up to date with others, share my interests and hobbies, and participate in forums which Facebook likes to call groups.

One of the groups I participated in was one of religious debate. I have many religious friends and understand that a lot of people are turned off by this sort of thing, so I don’t really discuss it on my main page or with people who aren’t interested in engaging in such a debate, and I don’t really go into it on my blog here, so I joined a closed group that was specifically for religious debate as this is one of my few “Guilty Pleasures.”

The question of creation is a debate topic that comes up every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and instead of participating in an existing debate, some people will rudely start a new one. It gets tedious after a while. This particular example pictured above is one that appeared in “Top Posts” for some reason, and I found it rather offensive, so I decided to respond with some humour. I posted a link to a public Youtube video entitled, “Goat shagging,” and jokingly suggested that perhaps this was how the poster was created, a tongue-in-cheek way to say we were all “created” through sexual reproduction.

Within minutes, I got a notification that my post went against community standards. I admit, my post was in poor taste, and I expected that, if someone complained, the post would be deleted. However, I was shocked when I couldn’t even update my status or even wish my friends a happy birthday:

At the time, I was told that I could not post for three days. When I clicked on “This is a Mistake,” I got the following:

Of course, if anyone did a review, they did not contact me further nor did they do anything about this problem, which is this: I agree that, even in a closed debate group, some humour can go too far and a post should get removed to keep a debate on topic. I can also agree that Facebook should be able to remove people from groups. What I don’t agree with is censorship that is so heavy handed, I am unable to post even a status update on my own timeline for some arbitrary period of time.

I can live without Facebook for three days. The problem is, Facebook is well known for their heavy handed censorship policies. I am generally opposed to censorship, but especially when it comes to my voice. For over a decade, I’ve used Facebook to communicate with friends and family, and have come to realize that Facebook can arbitrarily determine that something I posted in a closed debate group may have offended someone, even if no offence was intended, and censor me from posting anything for however long they want. I can’t have that.

I have decided that Facebook’s heavy handed censorship policies are in violation of my principals, and so I’ve decided to fire Facebook, and that this blog on my web site will be my primary means of sharing what’s going on in my life with friends and family from now on. Over the next few months, I will be removing my content from Facebook and bringing it here, until the only thing that will remain on Facebook will be a link to pquirk.com. You’re fired, Facebook. It’s been nice knowing you.