Facebook: evil, stupid, dangerous: an idea whose time has come!
July 24, 2016 8:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm anti Facebook for all of the normal reasons: ethics, privacy, security, waste of time, as well as some special snowflake reasons below. But I like social media (hence, my MetaFilter membership). I'm feeling the FB pressure and have had a couple of specific "Damn, I wish I were on FB events" happen recently. But Facebook has been, and remains a really bad idea, right?


Ten years ago, most of my close friends would have agreed with me: corporate-controlled social media with no privacy protections is bad and should be avoided for ethical, privacy, security and financial reasons.

I am not anti social media: my close friends and I have run mailman mailing list since 2000. It was really great in 2000 but since 2010 or so... it's been dying.

And now, ~16 years later, they are all on the FB.

In terms of peer pressure: a few years ago my friends made a fake FB account for me with a fake name but using an email address I control. Hahaha! It's been unused since though I still get the bounced email messages.

The number of phone conversations I've had that start "Oh, right, you aren't on FB so you probably don't know ____" has reached amusing levels.

I feel like one of Teh Olds: to me, FB is really creepy: friends of friends often know more about my relatives than I do. One of my inlaws is one of those "live blog my life" Facebook people so any time he comes to visit, I imagine the entire thing is documented (and I've had friends randomly confirm this, like "nice new couch!" or similar).

Snowden help me!

From what I've written so far, it's clear: not being on FB is the right choice for me, clearly.

But recently, some events have happened that make me wonder:

* my niece was in an accident and I only heard about it because her mom posted on FB while I happened to be chatting on the phone with my buddy who is also on FB. Yes, I probably would have heard about it eventually, but it seems like for many people, FB = first responder 911 now.

* I completely missed my high school reunion because the school can't find me (in spite of me being the first hit if you google FirstName LastName) and I talked on the telephone with a classmate and felt pretty sad about missing it and just realizing that she has connections with some high school friends from that time that I don't.

Additional snowflakes:

* Our family had a prior stalking experience (both cyber and IRL) after which we decided that public social media account for us were not a good idea. Last problem was 5 years ago. Maybe it's OK now?

* I'm a teacher, and really don't feel it's appropriate to have social media contacts with students. Can I not do that or am I going to have to decline invites from 100+ students a semester?

* Next time I re-enter the USA, and they demand my Facebook papers I mean passwords, and I say "I don't have a facebooky" - will I get jailed and beaten, or just jailed, or just beaten?

* Suppose I created an account. After doing that, is there any way out?

I'm really interested in the MetaFilter member's view of Facebook - has it enhanced or hurt your life? Would you do it again? If you didn't have an account now, would you start one now? If you maintain multiple social spheres (work, school, tech-savvy friends, luddite relatives...) how do you manage it?
posted by soylent00FF00 to Computers & Internet (40 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I think you're making a big deal where you don't need to. They don't require a license to get an account. Open up a facebook-only email account. Use a fake name (that's real sounding). Friend who you want. Don't friend coworkers. Use an object image as your profile pic. Students won't know your fake name so there's no dilemma there.
posted by clone boulevard at 8:22 PM on July 24, 2016 [32 favorites]

It serves a purpose for me. There are ways you can corral its especially awful cookie-planting, those are documented on the internet, and you certainly can control what you choose to post there. It's definitely a critical part of my life for all kinds of weird reasons, including the new babies and the private/secret groups I belong to (my Secret Hillary Facebook Group is my everything these days) and people's pictures and stuff. You can lock down everything so that nothing you post is completely openly public.

I don't friend coworkers, that's my line. Sometimes when I leave a job there's a person or two I want to keep up with on that level, but the rest I just friend on LinkedIn in case one of us needs to contact the other ever again. You should decline students and their parents - just tell them "oh, I'm only on FB for my family, sorry" - or say nothing, just decline, and they'll make the same assumption. That's totally a thing people do, lots of people carefully curate their friends and most people don't get their noses out of joint about it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:22 PM on July 24, 2016 [7 favorites]

The privacy is a lot better than it's been. Almost everything can be locked down and they seem to have abandoned the several-times-a-year treadmill of "We revamped our privacy settings to serve you better and all your new posts will be public now unless you opt out." You can set up Groups that only contain a few people and direct a post only to them. You have to have a public real name and profile picture, but other than that you can be incommunicado unless you comment on others' public posts.

One problem with not being addicted to Facebook is that the email notifications they send are sparse these days, only if you get specifically tagged. So you're left checking the site over and over again.

But yes, Facebook is a place I find out a lot about my extended circle of friends, college buddies, and relatives. It's definitely worth it to me. I post probably once every few weeks, but I read it several times a day.
posted by wnissen at 8:23 PM on July 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

You can set your profile so it's only visible/findable by existing friends, or by friends-of-friends, so it should be possible to avoid having students requesting you every semester.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:27 PM on July 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

I didn't answer your second part, so here goes: I am on FB all the time. I use my real name and real picture. I lock it down so that my profile is friends-only. I think it's been a very positive experience for me. I have kept in touch with family that I normally wouldn't. I've been in touch with people from junior high that I actually still like! I post and read all day long. Lately it's been a little politics-crazy and I kind of hate it, but I am hugely addicted. That may be the main drawback. Because I've "liked" a bunch of news feeds, it's pretty much how I get all my current events info (that, and Twitter). It's a little echo-chamber-y, but I don't have a lot of uber-conservative ultra-religious friends anyway, so it's ok.
posted by clone boulevard at 8:32 PM on July 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

Also, it is totally up to you how much time you spend on Facebook. I go through periods of being on daily and then periods where I only log on if I have been tagged by a friend or messaged by a friend. The latter phase is the most common for me. You can actually have an account and also have a life. Kind of up to you. And for many people, Facebook allows them to socialize when they would otherwise be isolated and alone. Of course, I have an account and I'm still able to feel isolated and alone. So your mileage may vary!
posted by Bella Donna at 8:46 PM on July 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I never cared for it or used it but I had a Facebook account since the first days they opened accounts up to people in other colleges. The account kind of moldered away, with some jokey old college stuff on it, and I made a second account with my online handle for nerd purposes since I have an extremely uncommon name and didn't want to be quite so findable. That account moldered too, since I had all the other better more fun social networks for that purpose.

A few years ago I decided I wanted to make a Facebook account so I could see cute pictures of my cousin's new babies. To my surprise they said my email and name was already in use! I'd forgotten about my old accounts, and I didn't want any of that old stuff to exist anymore either. So I googled how to delete a Facebook account and it turns out that the trick is (or was, this has probably changed by now but there will definitely be a way) that once you click all the delete my account things while logged in, you have to log out of Facebook everywhere on every device, and stay logged out for two weeks, or else they reactivate your account. This is harder than it seems because all sorts of things use your Facebook account that you might not notice, so you should also wipe your history and auto filled passwords and all the convenient stuff, and delete apps from your phone, and on and on and on.

Anyway it worked though and a fortnight later I made a respectable thirty-something's Facebook account that is grandma-safe that I use to like pictures of other people's pets, babies, and vacations, and occasionally receive invitations to events, and exchange messages with people whose emails I don't have, and (embarrassingly) remember the birthdays I always forget. It is useful! I get to go through and approve or not of every picture that someone tags me in, I automatically reject all friend requests and only send my own, and I post little dribbles of content just often enough that I can point someone at it if they want a contact method but I don't really want to communicate with them beyond the most minimal exchanges.

I look at Facebook maybe... Three times a week? It's good to know what's up with my extended family and how everyone's pets are doing.
posted by Mizu at 8:50 PM on July 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it's any help... Kids aren't getting facebook accounts anymore, most college students don't even have it. It'll be shrinking in 3 years and moribund in 5. The replacements, like Instagram, Telegram, Whatsapp, etc., are also corporate but don't require nearly as much personal information.
posted by miyabo at 8:51 PM on July 24, 2016

The reports of facebook's demise are dramatically overstated. College students are spending more time on Instagram (which is owned by facebook) and sending more messages on Whatsapp (also owned by facebook), but the vast majority still have facebook accounts and use them regularly.

Source: I am a grad student at a major college campus.
posted by vegetableagony at 9:07 PM on July 24, 2016 [17 favorites]

I've been on FB a rather long time and managed to not make embarrassing exposes, one or two embarrassing bits of grammar, but who's counting? And without much effort have exactly one photo that links an image of my left hand in a crowd. And it is handy to catch up on details from some family members.
posted by sammyo at 9:15 PM on July 24, 2016

Friends of mine who teach are, variously: Firstname De L'Ourlocation, Firstname Middlename, Firstname Lastname Spousename (privacy locked down, no profile pics, for friends only) and Firstname Lastname (for co-workers/students included, with profile pic and squeaky-clean feed).

I re-connected with a tonne of old friends I otherwise would not have tracked down, and reconnected in person with a set of people whose FB postings made it clear that we still had many things in common -- sometimes more things -- and I would enjoy seeing them in 'real life.'

I opened my account in 2007. No regrets at all.

Keep in mind that it wasn't that long ago that newspapers had columns reporting 'Mr and Mrs Paul Winterson will be hosting Paul's sister, Jeanette, from the UK during the last two weeks of June.' 'Mr Leopold Bloom was recently appointed to the position of manager at Graham's Shoes on Main Street, and looks forward to seeing friends old and new there.' 'The Ellul family of East Egg are hosting a strawberry social on 1 July; all are welcome. The party is being held as a fund-raiser following the loss of the Lacan barn to fire last week.' This all seems very quaint and funny until you realised: I just managed to catch up with an old friend because he posted that he was travelling to my town, I crowdsource questions about where to buy stuff sometimes, and when somebody I know is in serious need and falls into GoFundMe territory or their kid is doing a charity fundraiser I break out my credit card.
posted by kmennie at 9:50 PM on July 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

* Suppose I created an account. After doing that, is there any way out?

Yeah. Delete it.

Listen, you are so overdramatizing this. Make an account with a name that is a variation (in spelling or name type) on yours. Don't list your location or where you work or where you went to school. Put up a generic profile picture. Send friend requests only to people your actually want to be in contact with/see their posts, and lock yours so only friends can see what you post. Then don't post very much or at all. So many people do this! It is not rocket surgery.
posted by rtha at 9:52 PM on July 24, 2016 [16 favorites]

I won't cover what others covered, but I'm a teacher and I can speak to that.

I have an account and it has my real name, but my picture is not of me. I get requests from former students all the time, but it's pretty easy to say "Nope. Not until you graduate" or whatever boundary works best for you.

Most of my 6th graders wouldn't DARE be on Facebook. Their literal quote: "That's for old people."

That was mostly true when I taught 9th graders a few years ago.

Obviously, YMMV, but it's really not a thing.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:58 PM on July 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Like you, I resisted Facebook for a very long time.

I recently created an account for much the same reasons as you listed:
All of my child's out-of-school events are coordinated on Facebook (birthdays, outings, etc).
I don't mind asking someone I know to send me an email, but it's harder to ask the parent of a child you barely know to accommodate you.
Similarly, Facebook appears to have achieved a monopoly on the world's supply of baby pictures, so if you want to see a niece grow-up, you have to participate.

That said, I have taken some steps to minimize the data-mining inherent with a Facebook account:
I use an email address known only to Facebook.
I use a generic name similar to, but not my own.*.
I do not use a photo in the profile or banner.
I have (and check occasionally) all the privacy settings set to max, including tagging and limiting friend requests.**
I post only in 2 groups, (both private and invite-only), I do not comment on other posts in my timeline, and don't like/follow people or personalities.
Nor did I fill out any demographic information.
Basically, if you look at my profile, it is a blank page which tells you nothing.

Additionally, I do not the app or Messenger, and browse only from a private/incognito window.

However, if you do create an account, you should be aware of certain things:
Facebook is very good at data-mining. It's the main core of their business.
They will make the most tenuous connections, and will likely connect you with your school in some fashion.
You will be tagged in photos, and you will be subject to facial recognition.
The jury is still out on location tracking directly, but I'm sure they are correlating who logs in at the same places with the same people.

The point is, you can minimize the privacy aspects, but you can't eliminate the risk entirely.

Also, on a related note:
A lot of people are wary (for good reason) of a locked down profile. When making contacts, you may find yourself having to prompt people in person e.g., "Hey, I sent you a Facebook request as Jane Doe. Can you accept it when you get a chance?".
This is ameliorated somewhat if you have a profile photo of something recognizable, even if it's not you. A landmark in your town, maybe or a photo of your dog.

*If you plan on giving it out, make sure your fake name is relatable to someone you don't know well. Use Jane Doe, rather than Mr. Poopypants.
**There are guides online to help you through this,
posted by madajb at 10:13 PM on July 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm really interested in the MetaFilter member's view of Facebook - has it enhanced or hurt your life? Would you do it again?

I had FB back from the very beginning, and finally deleted my account about a year or so ago. I haven't looked back, and I will not ever make a new account. It was making me pretty unhappy, so I don't miss it. Do I miss out on events and announcements and such? Yes. But I've basically come to the conclusion that these people are not my friends. If someone can't be bothered to pick up the phone and call you, or text you, or hell, spend 2 minutes to email you a damn invite to their BBQ or whatever, they are just not worth your time. People who give a shit about you will make sure you get the news. For example, I had a friend recently send me a text with a screenshot of their FB invite to an event at their house (I was the only one who wasn't on FB). They wanted me to come, knew I wasn't on FB, and cared enough to make sure I knew about it.

You know, when I left FB, I gave notice to all my ~350 friends or so on there that I was leaving in 2 weeks, and to message me if they didn't have my contact info so we could keep in touch in real life. I also reached out via the FB mail. Out of those friends, only like 5 messaged me back and gave contact info, even though they were active every day, multiple times a day on their account, so I know they saw my message. So, yeah FB can be filled with phonies, and honestly it felt good to be rid of all my fake "friends" who didn't give a shit about me.

As far as missing things like high school reunions - yeah, I haven't quite figured that one out. I missed my 10 year reunion for the same reason. But I'm not going to join FB just for crap like that. Not worth it to me. You may feel different.

It's up to you how to handle this - only you know yourself and how you feel, and I know we all feel different about social media and the amount in which we use it. You can always make an account, as others said above, with a fake name, and really police who you friend and your privacy settings. As for me, at this point, I only use LinkedIn, and even then, very sparingly.
posted by FireFountain at 10:40 PM on July 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

I do not have an account. I have javascript and cookies from FB blocked in my browsers. I consider Facebook to be as creepy as ever. Possibly more so but certainly not less. FB gives me a total 1984 feeling, the one difference being that people happily sign up for increasingly levels of surveillance.

I feel the pressure too, now and then. But I'm not giving in and I feel pretty good about that. Things like the new idea of asking your FB name at the border, or the fact that governments increasingly often acquire data from FB. I could go on and on.

That said, I've heard that IF you choose to use Facebook, it makes a difference whether you use the app (don't do that plz, unless you want them to know where you physically are at all times).
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:50 PM on July 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I recently deleted my Facebook account. My reasons:

1. I learned things about people's convictions/beliefs that I did not want to know and these things made actually seeing them in person much more emotionally difficult. For instance, I would see family members posting ableist bullshit about disabled malingerers that they would never say to my face because they know I am on disability. I would have much preferred blissful ignorance, tbh. It's one thing to pass the corn to Uncle Joel when he's just an affable dude I see a couple times a year and quite another when I know that Uncle Joel apparently "secretly" thinks that I'm probably just another lazy fraudster stealing his taxpayer dollars.

2. The constant requirement to manage the types of notifications I wanted to receive. Just when I thought I'd fully cracked down on share posts that featured a picture of a mange-ridden skeletal dog with exhortations to "CLICK TO SEE THE HAPPY ENDING" a new site would pop up that I would have to block shares from. It was a never-ending battle.

3. The rise of human beings using Facebook for multi-level marketing of their skin care lines or vitamins or whatever. I know people who make their car and student loan payments by posting "content" to their timelines that is literally nothing but undisclosed product endorsement.
posted by xyzzy at 2:21 AM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Re: being a teacher, every teacher I know (and I know a lot) sets their name as Firstname Middlename and uses a non-obvious profile photo to cut down on student friend request. This is in the UK so local customs may vary.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:57 AM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Please forgive:

Most of my friends now live on the beach, and I feel like I am missing out on parties and just being socially connected with them. I never see them outside the beach. It's really starting to affect my ability to socialize with them, and I'm wondering if now it's time to stop resisting beach living.

I used to worry about things like high tides and bad weather -- occasionally you see the ruins of a shipwreck or a stinking dead fish on the shore -- but that hasn't happened for a while. It's been a couple of years since the last hurricane. Also, I'm beginning to wonder if the fear of tsunamis has been exaggerated. Probably there'll never be a tsunami -- it seems so improbable -- and it wouldn't be that bad anyway, would it? Plus, my friends -- my old friends, I mean -- all think the beach is fine, and they collectively must know something about meteorology. It's the wisdom of crowds.

Sure, they're all slowly getting more UV rays than is healthy, but by the time everyone starts getting skin cancer, the whole thing will be moot; the beach lifestyle will be not only normalized, but mandatory, since the old cities and suburbs will be abandoned and the water, sewers, and electric grid there won't work anymore. People will just do everything at the beach, so the old systems won't matter anyway.

Houses on traditional "land" are for "olds".

Or maybe for the poor people who can't afford to get to the beach, but I feel powerless to do anything about that. The longer this beach trend continues, the less relevant they seem. Anyway, poor people have started showing up, apparently, and I just hope somebody is giving them sunscreen. And that someone has explained why they need sunscreen. People talk about tanning a lot more than they talk about skin cancer.

If I don't move to the beach, what's left? Is there any other way to meet people? Are there other people not at the beach? Maybe my neighbors, but who knows what kind of weirdos they are. Maybe I could meet other folks who also aren't sure about the whole beach existence trend, but that seems like work. I'm not sure I have time to walk around my neighborhood. If I start talking to someone I don't already know, people might think I'm a stalker.

[The fact that you are feeling this way means it's probably a great time to strengthen connections with others who think like you do. The fact that lots of other people are ignoring common sense doesn't mean that they're any more right to do so. You can be a leader, not a follower.]
posted by amtho at 5:19 AM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

You are not important enough for this to be an issue. As a teacher, your account should only be your first and middle name, or your first name and something cutesy, so that your students won't find you as easy. Set it so that no one can search for you. Keep your privacy settings on high.

Since you have had a stalker experience, don't post any information on where you are, where you are going, or revealing pictures. Keep it simple. You are absolutely overthinking this.
posted by myselfasme at 5:30 AM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Perhaps you're suffering from the FOMO syndrome.

I have a very active social life with no Facebook account and basically, if someone cannot be bothered to pick up the phone, or drop by my house with the invitation, to invite me to a function, it means he/she didn't want me there.

But what's more important and satisfying is being blissfully ignorant of the multiple "achievements" of my large circle of acquaintances. It really is like winterhill described it upthread: "I just don't care about people enough to want a live feed of their holidays, their dates, their nights out, their kids, their thoughts on the latest politics or the latest you wouldn't believe what happened..."

And this is my question to you: what exactly do you feel you're missing out?
posted by Kwadeng at 5:31 AM on July 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

I suspect the answers you get are going to be skewed towards people who have strong feelings on the subject, probably against, so FWIW:

I'm on fb and like it very much. It keeps me in touch with whole groups of people from places around the world where I used to live; it's caught me up with many lovely old friends, including school friends and others from earlier in my adulthood, who I otherwise wouldn't be in touch with at all. Most of these are nicely undemanding, "aren't their kids cute?" fb friendships, but a good number I've successfully brought off the backburner and met up with them when we were in each others' neighbourhoods, resulting in rich long-term IRL friendships I wouldn't otherwise have. It's enabled me to feel part of specific communities where I live, when I see how many of the people I know also know one another, even though I've never seen them together; I currently live alone and it's also been great for reminding me I'm not alone at the oddest times. Who knew that posting a photo of the pickings from my allotment yesterday would result in friends from all over the world jumping in to discuss the merits of turnips and recommending recipes (they're great roasted, it turns out)?

I might be sailing blindly towards a terrible privacy Armageddon when all my cookies rise up together to overthrow their turnip-eating overlord, but for the past 9 years or so, it's just been a joy.
posted by penguin pie at 6:22 AM on July 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

Facebook has done amazing things in my life. I think you should get it. I can't even name the innumerable ways it has benefited me, but some of them include near immediate advice and support on both personal and professional problems, bird/bug/plant ID, finding local people who can help me with tasks or lend/sell me stuff I need, finding people I know to host me and do fun things when I travel, fundraising tons and tons of money for the nonprofit I work with (I would say almost all of our fundraising success ever is attributable to FB), learning fascinating and fun things about acquaintances at work and friends of friends, helping me communicate with and monitor family members who suffer mental illness. I could go on but suffice to say I love Facebook and worrying about who might find out what detergent I like or what car I drive is nonsensical to me considering how fantastically beneficial the site has been for me otherwise.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:23 AM on July 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

I also became first author on a research paper due to a a Facebook connection, got linked with a free lactation consultation, and lost weight (through an accountability group).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:27 AM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm also in the benefits outweigh the problems. Reconnecting with people I knew when I was much younger has been wonderful and they live all over the world and I plan to visit some of them when I retire. I am also friends with many of my adult kids' friends and with some of my friends' now-grown kids. Yes, I see a lot of cute baby pictures.

I don't accept friendship requests from students unless they're 21 or older. I'm somewhat selective about coworkers but mostly don't give a fuck if they don't like my posts. It helps that I will retire from this job in a few years and won't be looking for another.
posted by mareli at 7:07 AM on July 25, 2016

I did NSAbook once. Never again. Because:

1. Too much social drama. Nobody needs to do high school twice.

2. I don't trust it. Even with a fake name and a dedicated email address, you're still giving it data. I don't trust it with ANY data, because, PRISM, etc.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 7:17 AM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have a facebook account, and I absolutely hate everything about it.

I only reluctantly wanted to have a Facebook account for my business, because everybody kept telling me I needed one. If not for the little bit of marketing help it provides, I wouldn't have a business page.

Facebook wouldn't let me create a business account, without having a personal account first. So I have both now.

I set my personal page as private as I could. The only thing posted there is a notice "I do not use Facebook for personal reasons. My business page is at {link}.

Much like Winterhill and Kwadeng, I just don't care about other people in that way. I don't want to know anything about anyone's day to day activities. Furthermore, I don't understand why anybody else wants to share their life in that way. People just aren't that interesting. Why do people think they're interesting?

Email, texts, and phone calls are perfectly sufficient for contacting friends and family, for arranging social activities, for sharing photos.

I love my privacy. As far as I know, there are no pictures of me on Facebook. I want to keep it that way.

If I could be completely invisible, I would gladly do so. I am only as visible as is minimally required for my business.
posted by yesster at 7:25 AM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

More strongly: I find the "culture of constant contact" to be completely toxic.
posted by yesster at 7:27 AM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have a Facebook account, but use it in its own browser, generally only log in for work-related reasons, and what little I do post is very much 'the bits of me I would be fine with anyone knowing' (professional stuff going on in my life.)

I miss out on some stuff, but most of the people I actually want to see and talk to are from my same generation of 'when we got on the net' and vastly prefer other formats. (real-time chat, email, other forums and platforms) where we have more control over content, less advertising, and less tracking. (And also the ability to use stable pseudonyms if we want.) So I log in for work, and occasionally for cute videos of friend's kids (after they mention it in email or chat, which is where we're actually talking.)

Besides the privacy / tracking / etc. issues, my current big issue with Facebook is that if I say I want to see content from somewhere, I want to see the content that person/group is putting out, not have to dig for it because an algorithm with limited data (because of how I use Facebook in the first place) decided it was less interesting to me. Put all of them together, and it's just not a platform I want to spend my time on.

I check in just frequently enough that I do spot things like reunions (also, I know roughly when I might want to pay attention to them happening), and basically anyone else who actually knows me well knows to email me instead. If they don't, that's okay: I'm having a perfectly nice life over here without Facebook.

The one caution I'd say about using name alternatives to keep away from being found by students is that social network graphs are a thing: if you're connected to other teachers in your school, or people in your community, and your account isn't also totally locked down, chances are someone will eventually put the pieces together. There's no reason to friend students (and I agree with all the people who do the 'not until you graduate') but that doesn't mean they might not discover (or at least guess at) more about you than you really wanted.

I was a high school librarian when Facebook started becoming a thing, and I want to keep my personal online net life (where I talk about things like religion, health, and other topics that might influence people's comfort with me or interactions with me) distinct from what teenagers could easily find or guess about me.
posted by modernhypatia at 7:38 AM on July 25, 2016

I don't FaceBook. Never have. Won't say never will, but I cannot imagine a scenario where I would. I live what I consider a fulfilling life without Facebook. I have missed out on knowing about some things (not sure I would have participated even had I known), but it has not materially affected my life in any way that I am aware.

My advice would be to join Facebook because you want to, not because of missing out on events or because relatives want you to or because of baby pictures, etc. If you have legit privacy concerns which a stalker (former or current) sounds like to me, I would stay off of it even with a fake name, but only you can decide the risk.
posted by AugustWest at 8:18 AM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I love Facebook. I scroll through my newsfeed every morning, and often check in during the day. I have reasonably tight security but nothing extraordinary; I use my own name, my regular e-mail address, etc.

Nothing bad has ever happened to me because of Facebook. I can think of one bit of "drama" but that would've happened anyway -- someone was posting mean stuff about me but it was so passive-aggressive that it was hard to tell who it was about (and I was amused, not offended), and she was saying stuff about me in face-to-face conversations, too, so, whatever.

I moved around a lot until I was in my late 30s, so I have friends all over the globe. It's a great way to keep in touch. My friends from high school are interesting, funny people, and I love knowing what they're up to.

I block websites like mercola.com so I don't see as much toxins / vaccines / etc stuff, as that drives me nuts.

I have been sent friend requests by people who I didn't want to Facebook befriend; I ignored the requests. Again, nothing bad has happened because of this.

It's great for community organizing. My book group, my Girl Scout troop and higher levels of GS stuff, my street, some friends who are working on projects together, a group for people who like to discuss David Bowie while drinking cider... I love FB groups and organize them for all sorts of things. One friend and I use it like Dropbox for sharing notes and files for a joint project (we're the only two members of a secret group).

You can be FB friends with someone and filter them so you don't see their posts and they don't see most of yours; this can be useful if there's someone you should be "friends" with, for diplomatic reasons, but you don't actually care about them.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:23 AM on July 25, 2016

I'm going to preface this comment by saying that you shouldn't do anything that you don't want to do, especially not for the reasons that I'm going to give, but here's some stuff to think about:

I'm not gonna lie, I have people who I care about who are not on Facebook and I find it really annoying. If I need to get in touch with a group of friends -- Facebook is the fastest, easiest way to do so for like 90% of the people that I'd want to get in touch with. And my communication with the 10% does suffer for it.

Take this scenario: I want to go see Ghostbusters, I don't feel strongly about when and where or with whom but I figure I'll send a feeler out. On facebook, I post a status message that all my "friends" can see. They can speak up if they are interested or ignore if they don't want to. Friends of mine who aren't friends with each other can participate in a conversation about what time/day works etc, etc.

Without facebook (assuming I have everyone's emails/phone numbers), I need to pick specific folks, then send an email (and, because I do respect people's privacy, I'd probably BCC everyone so as not to expose email addresses, and MMS is right out). So because no one has anyone else's email the only one who knows about any response is me and I have to coordinate/juggle.

So, Facebook wins for convenience. But, if this is something that someone in the 10% might be into, I need to make the effort to send them a separate message and relay info back and forth and really it's just a huge pain.

Same thing goes for communication of random stuff in my life -- No individual person needs to know about the art project I finished this weekend, but putting up a facebook post about it means that people who want to be in the know can see it.

I feel you on the privacy stuff: I don't post on facebook much, I never tag people in photos, and while I dabbled with Foursquare/Swarm check-in type stuff a few years back, I don't find the privacy hit to be worth anymore and so I don't do it anymore. I also don't play any games on facebook, and I blocked all "platform apps" years ago, so I don't get deluged with annoying game requests (or have any of my info leaked via my friend's gaming habits).

I also feel you on the "nobody should be forced to use a private company's service for anything" stuff: That high school reunion is a perfect example of facebook making people lazy, if they cared about their alumni they should have been trying multiple channels to reach people. Ditto, say, party invitations and the like -- I think that my friends who aren't on FB are justified in being offended if they miss invitations because they were only sent via that one medium (so I make an effort to make sure they are included).

Finally, FB, for me, is a pretty good way of staying in touch with folks who I would otherwise drift away from, because I don't have the energy to maintain one-on-one communication with them, but we can kind of keep abreast of stuff that's important to each of us through the service. I give up some privacy, yes, but I have things controlled in such a way that the "price" is worth it.

So in sum - do some research on how to keep your FB safe, make an account, friend the people you want to, keep your posts friend locked, and delete it if/when you don't feel comfortable anymore.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:49 AM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't have Facebook. Not now, not ever. Because Skynet, man.
posted by pleasebekind at 12:04 PM on July 25, 2016

I quit Facebook, though I like the idea in theory. That being said, it's a tradeoff. For me, it's giving up privacy by having Facebook track things I don't want them to (like my web history and location) and having to stay on top of them making things public I didn't intend. My other issue is that people completely abandon the public decorum you would have in a conversation, which often results in posting racist or disgusting things. I'm actively hostile to ever using Facebook again.

The key thing is to understand and accept that tradeoff and decide if you want to make it. I would say Facebook is likely not better than when you quit. It's a question of whether you're more willing to accept it now than you were then.

Here's a fantastic quote from Ian MacKaye, that's a wonderful summary of social media:
But you know, the internet is an aquarium. There could be the fiercest battle – like the fish could be going at it, just tearing the crap out of each other. The castles could be knocked over. The gravel displaced. But for those of us outside the aquarium, not a drop gets on us. It’s just not real. If people want to engage in that communication, I’m not judgmental. But if it hurts you, or it’s dispiriting, then get out of the aquarium.
posted by cnc at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've moved a few times and live a long long way away from most of my friends and family, so Facebook is an absolute godsend. Friends aren't permanently lost into the mists they way they were before social media, it doesn't require constant effort to keep in touch with family. I don't have to explain [life event] 50 times to 50 people wasting hours and days. Everyone is not constantly offended and upset with me because I haven't been in touch - there is no way I could keep up anyway.

Facebook has some pretty complex privacy controls and there is more you can do to gain the benefits of FB with less of the downside that concerns you. You also want to develop the knack to have a happy informative friends-feed instead of something filled with bile and trash. So I would say that while it's trivial to get started, it's not trivial to use Facebook well, there are some acquired skills. But... well worth it IMO.

Lots of people I know use a fun approximation of their name which makes it harder to find or link their account to them for anyone they haven't authorized, I think you'll be more comfortable doing this. "John Smite" instead of "John Smith" for example. You don't have to post any personal info at all.
posted by anonymisc at 6:08 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am also a teacher who uses Facebook. A few of my colleagues, but only a few, use fake names. Most of us friend (selected) former students, in accordance with district policy, after they graduate. I am well aware that anything I post on FB needs to be something I wouldn't mind anyone -- parents, students, admin, colleagues -- seeing. But hey, as a teacher, you're pretty aware of that anyway.

I'm fine with that, because I like FB. I like it as an easy way to keep in touch with people from all parts of my life. I like seeing my high school classmates' babies and my former students' post-high school lives.

And yes, people use it to organize things that I want to go to.

If I had an ethical objection because of privacy etc., it would be different, but that's not important to me. YMMV, as they say.
posted by lysimache at 6:34 PM on July 25, 2016

Here's why I'm not on Facebook.
  • Facebook spies on you when you visit third-party websites. You can mitigate this by only visiting Facebook in an incognito tab and/or clearing your cookies after you log out -- if you're diligent about it, and assuming Facebook doesn't use your IP address or other identifying information to link your browsing activity to your account even when you're logged out...
  • If you use a fake name, configure your privacy settings correctly, and never post anything personal, you can keep students and other people from finding your profile or learning stuff you don't want strangers to know. But you are still constructing a very detailed map of your social connections for Facebook and anyone they choose to share that information with.
This kind of information is extremely personal and revealing. To quote an NSA lawyer, "Metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content."

You probably know all this stuff already, but it's easy to shrug it off because the problem doesn't feel immediate and everyone else is on Facebook anyway. I think it's important to remind ourselves that Facebook really is part of a scarily pervasive system of mass surveillance. Speaking as someone who has been under actual police surveillance, I choose not to participate.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 9:00 AM on July 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I share many of your concerns, and yet I am a daily user of Facebook.

There is lots of good advice above: use a fake name; don't use a photo of yourself as your profile picture; check your privacy settings carefully; deny the mobile Facebook app access to GPS; don't "check in" anywhere; don't give Facebook any more information than you have to; etc. (And if you really want to play it safe, set up a separate Gmail account solely for this purpose.)

Facebook does seem to have been better about privacy over the last year or two – maybe they actually learned from past embarrassments.

A lot of people seem to think that there's only one way to use Facebook. But that's just not the case – just as there isn't one way to use email.

The standard approach (apparently) is to accept friend requests from every acquaintance, distant family member, or coworker you know. This does not work for me: I'm a very private person; I'm unconventional in many ways, and I don't really need to hear randos' opinions about it; and I like to be able to express myself freely. (My initiation into online culture was via dialup BBSs – and, later, the early web – where anonymity was the norm, and the online world was largely separate from and parallel to meatspace. I guess I still have those habits.)

So, I've blocked all of my coworkers, just to eliminate any chance that they'll see my posts (Facebook doesn't notify people when you block them; your profile just shows up as nonexistent). I rarely comment on news stories or other general-audience stuff. Periodically, I use the feature that lets you retroactively set all of your past posts to "Friends Only" – just in case I accidentally posted something with more leninent permissions.

As a result, my friends list is much smaller than most people's, but I've been able to make the Facebook experience into the one that I want.

It does mean that I occasionally have to explain to people why I won't friend them on Facebook. I try to make it about me rather than them. So, be prepared for that.

It has worked for me so far.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:41 AM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you're concerned about online privacy, then I hope you already have something like Adblock Plus or Ghostery installed. If not, they'll help enormously in denying Facebook (and Google, and everyone else) knowledge of your browsing habits.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:48 AM on July 28, 2016

One other thing -- the Facebook app checks your location many times a day, ostensibly to determine who to suggest as friends. I just turn this off using Cyanogen Privacy Blocker but that only works on a few rooted phones, so it's not an option for most people.
posted by miyabo at 10:15 AM on July 30, 2016

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