Almost four years back, I deleted my Facebook account. No solid reasons for it, but I just wanted to see if I can live without the almost all-pervasive Facebook. And considering that four years back, other social media portals weren't as popular as Facebook, I didn't have a profile on any of them. For a first few weeks, it was rather odd, but then I got used to it. After a brief period of keeping my account deactivated, I got so used to my new 'offline life'.
I started using WhatsApp to keep in touch with people, which meant I spoke more regularly to those who were close to me, and being in touch with the rest didn't really matter that much. So, I actually became more connected with people once I got off Facebook as now my conversations with them were more personalised and went beyond seeing their posts on my News Feed.
However, I only got reminded of the fact that I didn't have a Facebook account when I went out to social gatherings and someone started discussing a post or a picture seen on Facebook. Nothing that I couldn't live with though. And soon, people discussing the number of likes their new profile picture got or who added them on Facebook started seeming like a joke.
It was only sometime back, that I thought of making Facebook profile again. Most people I know kept on insisting that I should at least have an account even if I didn't want to be active on the platform.
So after an almost four years, I came back to Facebook. I created a new Gmail ID for the account, didn't share my phone number when Facebook asked for it and didn't update my academic and work information. For, who said that you have to be honest with Facebook?
Anyway, Facebook was quite different from what I remembered it to be. I could see quite changes added in the last four years.
Firstly, my News Feed was literally full of emojis. People feeling 'blessed' had a certain emoji to represent that and those who were feeling 'angry' has a certain other emoji which showed with their post. While there was always an option of inserting emoticons in comments, one could now use rather-huge looking stickers too. I bet Snapchat fans love this, I thought to myself as I scrolled down.
Secondly, Facebook now reminds people of what happened on this day 5 years ago or 3 years ago. Now this was something that I thought was pretty pointless. I didn't come across a single relevant post with this feature. Mostly, it collected pictures or posts from the person's timeline from that particular day and showcased it. But five years down the line would it matter to me who I met for lunch today? Most likely not.
In an attempt to be more interactive, Facebook now also wishes its users things like 'Good Morning,' which I again thought is not very relevant.
It also reminds people that they are celebrating 'x' number of years of friendship. But since Facebook is all about social interaction and connecting with friends, I bet there are those who really like these features.
More relevant changes include feature to reply to comments individually. What I really like is that these comments do not appear till someone click on them. So it is an attempt to serve only that content to the audience that they really want to see. Also, we can turn off chats for a few selected people we don't want to interact with, and we can also limit the visibility of our posts to only our close circle of friends. Good changes Facebook, we would like to see more like these.
But most importantly, Facebook is far more crowded than what I remembered it be.
However, these changes aside, what really got to me was the fact that Facebook is literally trying to bully its users into downloading the Messenger app. It prompted a message each time I tried to read my messages. Then there were Friends sending me invites to be on Messenger. And I could only read their messages if I downloaded the app.
I thought I can live without it, and downloaded Facebook's app instead. And that was when I noticed something very odd.
Till I hadn't downloaded the app, the friends Facebook suggested for me were all random people. Anyone who had a few mutual friends, or even those who didn't have any appeared on my Friend suggestions list. I understood this. Since I hadn't shared any information about myself, I couldn't really expect Facebook to have a magic formula to know who my real friends are. But apparently it did.
The minute I downloaded the app, the Friends suggestions became scarily accurate. I literally felt like I had a stalker. How on the earth could Facebook know who I actually talk to when I had made sure I share nothing about myself? Even people who I happen to talk to but share no mutual contacts with appeared on my suggestion list.
I don't know about how others would feel about it, but at least I wasn't very happy with this. So I uninstalled the Facebook app from my phone. And the accurate Friend suggestions magically got replaced with the previous inaccurate once. Needless to say, I was zapped. How could the app get it so right?
To know if other apps by Facebook also have a similar effect, I downloaded Messenger. But I was so happy to find Messenger not intruding the way Facebook app does. The Friend Suggestions remained inaccurate even after that. And I decided to retain Messenger. I checked Facebook Lite too, but to my delight, it spared me the horror of showing me accurate friend suggestions.
What's more, even Facebook-owned Instagram started behaving in this fashion when I installed Facebook on my phone. Now it has been showing me all my Facebook friends as suggestions. And let me remind you again that I'm using different IDs for both, and I haven't as yet linked the two.
Well, it didn't take much time to find out the reason. I went on Play Store pressed install under Facebook app's icon and it asked for my permission to access device and app history, identity, calendar, contacts, location, messages, camera, pictures, microphone, Wi-Fi connection and device ID and information.
So even if you don't share any information with Facebook, it will know. And since most people don't find it necessary to go through app permissions, I'm sure a major slice of them isn't even aware of how much information a social network has about them.
But the reason for Facebook accessing so much information about me is not very apparent. Is Facebook trying to be the next Google-like entity?
Well, even if it is, it's not doing a very good job at it. Google uses data from my e-mail to remind me about meetings or flights, which has proven to be quite useful at a number of occasions. And Facebook reminds me of people's birthdays. It's plain obvious which one I would rather pick.
While Facebook is a wonderful tool to stay connected to our friends, even those whom we haven't met in years, it should really focus on being just that. It has the advantage of being the most popular social media platform since Twitter is deserted compared to Facebook and LinkedIn is too professional. It should use that to be a more effective communication tool, and not a collage of features from every possible social media platform.
And if we go by data, then most Facebook users, then according to Emarketer, Facebook is mostly used by people lying in the age group of 25 to 34 years. The reason for it is quite simple: Other platforms like Snapchat and Instagram are increasingly gaining popularity with the next generation.
So while as of now Facebook is ruling all other social media platforms, it may not be able to target the next lot of people.
And if I just talk about myself, then even after undergoing so many changes, it couldn't really keep me gripped. I have lived without it for four years, and if I delete my account again I would really not miss anything.
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