Goodbye Facebook, Hello Goodreads

I’ve blogged before about my general lack of enthusiasm for Facebook. I’ve had an account there for a couple of years, and I’ve found high school and college friends through it. Elementary school friends from Bombay have even found me! And I’ve used it to keep tabs on my farther-flung relatives. But I’ve never spent much time on Facebook, and its privacy issues have made me uncomfortable. The latest “innovations,” Frictionless Sharing and the new Timeline, have finally done me in. I put my FB account on hiatus and am about to go through the tedious and complicated steps necessary to delete it forever. (I also deleted my Google+ account, but no one cares about that.)

Frictionless sharing, if you haven’t been paying attention (or don’t want to, or don’t care) is the new method by which you tell everyone in the world what you are doing. Of particular relevance for readers is that every time you go to a website that has enabled social integration with Facebook, you can click a button and your Facebook timeline will note every article or post you read on the site. It’s supposed to replace the “like” button, another feature I’ve resolutely ignored.

There are any number of problems with the new Timeline and sharing policies. For people with a desire to maintain whatever is left of the rapidly eroding public-private boundary, it’s just one more thing to worry about. For me, it’s bad enough that Facebook keeps me logged in unless I explicitly log out, and every Facebook-enabled site (which is most of them) wants me to use my FB account to do something when I’m there. But now it wants to follow me around the web and report back to the big wide world.

I think what I find most surprising about the current discussions about social media is that while people understand the privacy implications, they don’t seem to understand the commodification implications. Why should the Washington Post care what articles you read? Why do they want you to tell your Facebook friends that you’re reading them? Because then they can tell their advertisers. Newspapers, magazines, and other print-to-online media are desperate to monetize their readership, and every piece of evidence you provide helps them do that. The more information they can give advertisers about their readership the happier advertisers will be, and the more they can be charged.¹

I want news organizations to stay in business. Really, I do. But I want my life to belong to me, as opposed to a for-profit company, even more. These aren’t just “social” media anymore; they’re “advertising” and “networked” media. We pay for our ability to communicate with each other via these sites by giving away our privacy. For some people that’s a worthwhile tradeoff. For me, not so much.

And yet, I joined Goodreads. Another social media site. Why? Because I want to be able to write short or long reviews of books whether I review them at Dear Author or not, and the conversations there look interesting. They range widely, from large discussion groups to small threads. While there is no shortage of author- and reader-behaving-badly behavior over there, I’m hoping I can avoid the idiocy and concentrate on the benefits.

I’ve rated about 150 books so far and a number of them have reviews attached. I’ll be adding to the list gradually. If there are specific books for which you’d like to see reviews, let me know in the comments. And of course, as always, feel free to go over and agree or disagree with my ratings and reviews.

___________

¹I realize that newspapers and other media have always cared about me first and foremost as a target of advertising. But I used to be part of a general mass of readers, distinguishable perhaps by my census-tract location. Now I am commodified at a much more individually specific level. That’s an ad-buy too far for me.
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13 thoughts on “Goodbye Facebook, Hello Goodreads

  1. Hi Sunita
    I never joined Facebook, primarily for those very pesky privacy concerns. I do belong to Goodreads, but I use it basically as an online catalog of what I’ve read. And I write reviews, most of the time, so that I can actually remember how I felt about a book. We all know that the books we love! love! love! stick in our memories-but the vast majority of books fall short of that category. Goodreads gives me a way to jog my memory.
    I like Goodreads for the fact that you get to decide just how much you want to interact with other members.

    • The cataloguing function of Goodreads was a big part of the appeal. Plus I like being able to respond to a particular reader’s review thread. The groups seem a bit overwhelming at the moment, but I imagine I’ll figure them out eventually!

  2. My views are very similar to yours.

    Google is scary. It’s quite interesting to see how easily many accept Google and its growth when we compare it with an era of CompuServe, AOL, Yahoo!, Microsoft and WebTV getting pelted with rotten tomatoes for expanding too fast and for intruding on everyone’s privacy. I think this proves that minimal design and simplicity make it easier for some to trust Twitter, FB, Google, etc.

    I do resent being used as part of an advertising agency and/or media distributor. No, I don’t want to forward your article, Certain Newspaper. I don’t want to give you my contact details so that you can make money from selling them to an army of advertisers. #tinfoilhat

    I accept GoodReads because it can be my book database that I can access any time from any computer, even though I’m aware that my reading and browsing patterns will be noted by third parties. It’s a compromise I’m willing to make. Give and take, really, isn’t it? Google & FB, though? I don’t like how they are trying to make everything so incestuous.

  3. Both Google and Facebook have begun to alarm me. I downloaded a browser where I basically only use Facebook. Perhaps that won’t do what I hope, but in theory that should limit its ability to track me and my cookies. (I only have a private Facebook, I’m too scared to use it in any professional way.)

    I’ve got Gmails, and I’m not ready to change them. But I have started web browsing with Bing.

  4. Amen sister! I’ve been leery of Facebook for a long time. I joined when it was still just for students, but started using it when my sisters got accounts. We could chat with each other and it was fun. But then my mom joined and the fun died because I don’t want her knowing anything about me. But most importantly, it was having to constantly change and monitor my privacy settings. I already deleted all apps and posts and pretty much anything personal a long time ago, knowing it was being used and they were collecting personal info.

    I’m not so much concerned about the advertising aspect of it because I can still chose to click on an ad or not. But I don’t think everyone on my FB, most of whom I really don’t know that well, needs to know what articles I read, what web sites I visit, etc. unless I chose to post it myself. It should all be an opt in, not opt out.

    I never click “like” button anywhere for the same reason, knowing that it’s being sent somewhere.

    A while ago, Yahoo suddenly sort of did the same thing only they didn’t really tell anyone. If you posted on a message board with your email, or commented on a Yahoo news piece, it updated and all your contacts could see what you posted. WTF? I found out by accident and went in and disabled the updates. But that should have been an opt in.

    I worry about Google as well, but my ID on Google is LVLMLeah, which is not my real name. So I do feel some sense of privacy although they can know who I am by my IP address. But I can keep some anonymity. I also never got a Google profile, which did the same thing, started sharing all your info with all your contacts in your email account. Again, WTF? Not all email contacts are friends. Dicks.

    I never joined Google + for the same reason.

    I have a Goodreads as well, but again, it’s under LVLMLeah, so again, I don’t worry. If they all would insist like Google + to use a real name, I’d drop it all like a hot potato.

  5. I joined Facebook and Twitter at about the same time, but Facebook immediately seemed like too much work and too invasive. I posted there very intermittently, then did away with the account entirely. (Although I’m wondering now if I can confirm its deletion, because I don’t remember the steps being as arduous or byzantine as everyone describes.) Haven’t missed it at all.

    I’ve got a Goodreads account that I’ve never updated — I like LibraryThing for tracking what I’ve read. The ability to discuss (which I LT may have) appeals but I’m at saturation point with social media at this point.

  6. I know we’ve always been tracked by various sites, and I’ve accepted it as the price of using them. I’ve tried to opt out of personalized ads but they keep coming back whenever the programs are updated.

    Somehow the individualized nature of the tracking (and the feedback to your own account, as if you want the information too) feels like a difference in degree, not just kind.

    I agree that it is odd that FB has gotten a pass until now, and Google still mostly gets a pass for the privacy-infringing procedures they use. People must honestly believe the “don’t be evil” motto, or the changes are gradual enough that the don’t notice. Or their desire to use them outweighs their skepticism.

    @jmc: I think the FB deletion hoops for me at least stem from the fact that they don’t really “erase” or purge your data. Maybe they do now. I’ll see if the process seems different from the last time I looked at it.

    Glad to know I’m not alone! Bing is a very good idea. I love Chrome, but I should really go back and try Opera again.

    ETA: When Microsoft’s Bing seems like the non-monopolistic alternative, you realize how fast the tech world moves.

  7. When Microsoft’s Bing seems like the non-monopolistic alternative, you realize how fast the tech world moves.

    lol, it’s true. Though I’ll add that one reason I’m more comfortable with Bing is that I have Gmails, so this decouples (I hope) my searching and my email addresses. I still have Google Reader, though.

    • Yeah, I have Gmail and GReader as well. Not willing to give them up yet, but like you, I’m thinking using Opera and Bing may reduce the amount of virtual paper trail available to them.

      And Bing is a pretty decent search engine, so far as I can tell.

  8. I’ve always found Facebook annoying. The only reason I have an account (including a “fan” page, ugh) is because I felt pressure to do it. I was told that I needed 10k followers to be considered successful/get more contracts.

    Goodreads, I like, but I have way too many books on my TBR page. Whenever I click to see what I should read next, the site hangs. I enjoy seeing what people are reading, clicking on covers, reading & writing reviews.

    • It seems as if authors are required to use Facebook. And it does appear to work for a lot of them. It makes sense as a professional & commercial site; it’s the pretense that it’s all about the intimate and personal that raises my hackles.

      One of the reasons I stayed on FB was that it allowed me to visit author sites. But I imagine I’ll get the information other ways.

  9. Another point about Facebook: I avoid clicking FB links, even if they were given by the ones I trust.

    a) when I go there via a FB link, there is a sign-in page. I’m not interested enough to sign myself in just to see whatever the link provider wants me to see, so I leave.
    b) there’s a page that says I have to become friends with this person’s account before I could see the contents of that linked page. A pure WTF moment when this happens with an author’s FB.
    c) I generally don’t sign up for anything that requires some kind of commitment at a place I rarely visit, so many authors’ FB pages tend to fall under this category.

    So whenever I see a FB link, I ignore it.

  10. I have closed privacy settings on Facebook because for me it is about my personal connections and for someone who spends a lot of time at home due to chronic illness and has family and friends around Australia it is a great way of being connected. I think this illustrates that you have to think about what you want to get out of social networking sites and not just be on because everyone is. In being clear about that you then have to be active about the security and privacy issues you need to manage.

    I’ve read about this add on for managing our privacy online:

    ShareMeNot is a Firefox add-on designed to prevent third-party buttons (such as the Facebook “Like” button or the Twitter “tweet” button) embedded by sites across the Internet from tracking you until you actually click on them. Unlike traditional solutions, ShareMeNot does this without completely removing the buttons from the web experience. Note that this add-on is part of a research project and not targeted for general use. We welcome your feedback and will use it to improve our tool.

    http://sharemenot.cs.washington.edu/

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