Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Tyranny of Convenience

The most recent facebook update really pissed me off. A lot. My immediate reaction was to lash out and complain about how a service that I used for everything and relied on everyday had suddenly changed in a way that I found very detrimental. Now, having chewed over things a bit, I'm glad facebook has changed, because it's helped me to realise that there's a big problem with facebook that has nothing to do with the most recent set of changes to its appearance and functionality.

To be fair though, it's not really a problem with facebook. It's a problem with us; the users. We've let facebook become too big a part of our lives. We've allowed the convenience of a website that does everything, and is used by everyone, to make us lazy and a bit stupid.

Facebook is just a website; a website that does a few things very well and a lot of things very poorly. It is, for example, a very good organising and promotion tool, allowing us to invite huge numbers of people to an event or make them aware of a product or service. It is, on the other hand, not very good at photography. There are many websites that do this better, allowing us to upload high quality images and edit and share them, while protecting our privacy and copyright. We use facebook for photos though, because it is an easy, convenient way to share our pictures with large numbers of people. When facebook is concerned, convenience trumps quality, and we allow it to handle aspects of our lives that other websites do better purely because it's easier to let facebook do everything in one simple step than it is to figure out how to do it ourselves.

When the new update made facebook less easy and convenient for me to use, the illusion was shattered. As soon as the convenience of facebook diminished, it became apparent to me that it actually wasn't really worth getting upset about. Facebook wasn't really any better or worse than it already was. Sure the new layout sucks and it's hard to navigate, but I quickly realised that the real problem was me. I was a fucking idiot, because I had let myself become too reliant on facebook.

So I thought about deleting my account, but there were too many reasons to keep it. Promoting my radio show, organising my social calender, sharing pictures on the fly, keeping in touch with some people I can't realistically contact any other way; facebook is still useful for these things, and giving up these things because of facebook's many failings would really just be cutting off my nose to spite my face.

I was washing the dishes at work yesterday when I had a much better idea. Instead of deleting my facebook account I would try to use facebook the way I did when it was new.

I decided to only use facebook for things that it was actually good at doing. I'm going to use the internet more intelligently, and seek out the best ways of doing things, rather than relying on the convenience of facebook. Right now I'm typing a post on my new blog. I've linked my new blog's RSS feed to the Notes app on facebook. Now I can share my ideas and my writing with all of my friends on facebook without having to log into facebook. I've done the same thing with my twitter account, which means I can post status updates, links, pictures and videos to my wall without ever having to log into facebook. I can do lots of the things I normally do on facebook, using better services, with better interfaces, and still gain all the benefits that facebook offers.

I decided to not check facebook every 15 minutes, or to sit on it all night. You know why? Because it's fucking sad. I never realised I did this until the new update made it difficult and less enjoyable. I'm going to go out there into the world and do some fucking awesome shit, and I'm going to do a lot of casual swearing while I'm doing it. I'm going to watch movies, see bands, spend time with my friends, go skateboarding, swim in the ocean, walk through a forest and then I'm going to come back home and type up a blog post about it and you can read about it on facebook and then maybe come here and read some more and leave a comment.

I decided that there were a lot of things that I didn't even really need to use the internet for at all. Recently, before all this facebook crap, a friend and I decided that we would write each other letters. A long time ago I used to write letters and I am sad that I ever stopped, because doing it again has reminded me of a fact that I had forgotten for some time. Letters are fucking awesome. There's no character limit and you can attach what ever you like to them and as a general rule nobody sells them to advertising companies.

They make you better at writing. They make you think about things a little more deeply. Also, receiving them is awesome, it's a wonderful thing to go out to your letterbox and find something other than hardware catalogs and your gas bill in there, and know that someone cares about you enough to take the time to write you a letter. I would rather receive one letter than a million wall posts. If you want to receive a letter, email me your postal address and I will send you one.

Well now it's time to see how this whole experiment goes. Hopefully I can follow through on these decisions and start enjoying my life a lot more. I'm looking forward to typing a lot more blog posts, about things that are better and more interesting than facebook.


  1. Do you think your particular perspective is partially an outcome of your age group?

    Also, we need to do more stuff together. Want to go for that skate some time?

  2. Absolutely. I definitely think that it's at least partly because I'm in the just the right age group to make the beofre/after comparison.

    If I were much younger I would never have experienced any other way of doing things online, so I'd have no point of comparison. But if I were older, chances are I'd have delayed in adopting social media, and facebook, or at least myspace, would be my first experience of the technology.

    As for skating, FUCK YEAH. I'm off work today if you want dude. I'm typing a job application but it shouldn't take all day. Give me a call. If today doesn't suit I'm off Tuesday too. If we do Tuesday maybe we could do something at yours, because I've got radio out that way from 6 'til 8.