A view from Russell Davies, russell@russelldavies.com

Media Perspective: Going cold turkey on Facebook is my new web 'activity'

What do you think about Facebook then? Are you a fan or a foe? Is it the gateway drug for the internet or an anodyne version of social networking, concealing the real fun of the web?

Or neither? Or both? I can't decide. I'm very aware that for millions of people it's the perfect way to connect with friends, family and the world and that it's getting more so as it embraces and extends the rest of the web. I know all that and yet I'm thinking of deleting my account.

Partly it's because I'm an old-time webby snob who burbles on about how you can knit Twitter and Flickr and Spotify and this and that together to give you everything that Facebook offers.

But I know that's a weird sort of digital Luddism: like suggesting we don't need cars because if we strap enough bicycles to enough trains, we'll get a similar effect. And partly it's because I like trying new things.

I've always joined every social service that came along - just to see what it was like. That's become my job, trying these things out for you. But now I'm wondering whether I should be leaving these services and seeing what that's like instead. Perhaps I'll learn most about a service by not using it any more.

I've dumped quite a few this week - most of them you won't have heard of, and I have no regrets. The only thing that I can report is how difficult it is to leave LinkedIn. I think I have deleted my account, but it's hard to tell and I'm still getting a ton of e-mail from them. Perhaps even more than when I was a member.

But mostly it's because I'm slightly suspicious of Facebook's power and intentions. It has become a crucial element of the web's social infrastructure - connecting people, places, companies and things. Businesses, livelihoods and relationships depend on Facebook. This might be a considerable boon, that sort of social glue makes so many things cheaper and easier. Yet it seems to be rather capricious and wilful about its protocols and procedures. Its privacy policy changes every day, and then frequently changes back to what it was the day before - and even if there is no change, it's incredibly opaque.

Facebook is starting to have Microsoft/Google-like monopoly power but it is combining this with a Web 2.0 flakiness that does not inspire confidence. So, it'd be nice to know you could lead an effective digital life without our friends at Facebook and I'm therefore going to quit. I'll report back soon on how it feels.

I wouldn't for a minute advocate you do the same thing, but it might be worth thinking about how dependent your digital business is on Facebook, and wondering whether that's entirely a good thing.

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