Things That Actually Kinda Suck: Facebook / by Erin Wade

This post will likely come as no surprise to people who regularly spend time with me. It’s well known that I have a barely-tolerate/hate relationship with Facebook.

Now, I don’t want to come off here as if I’m comparing a social network to the apocalypse. That wouldn’t be fair. To the apocalypse.

Of course, the natural reaction to any conversation that begins this way would be to ask why one doesn’t simply stop using Facebook. The reality, though, is that Facebook has become, in many ways, something like a utility.

Yup - that’s right. Commonwealth Edison, Comcast, Facebook - all essentially the same thing.

I don’t think this is an exaggeration[1]. If I want electricity, I have to use the services provided by ComEd. It’s not like I can go over to Bob’s Electric Service(TM) down the street and start using his electricity instead.

While there are other social networks[2], the overwhelming majority of my family members and close friends are on Facebook, and it has become the defacto way to share pictures, family announcements, birthday and holiday greetings, etc, for a great many of us.

But in exchange for those connections Facebook treats us like the most passive-aggressive friend you’ve ever had:

“Oh - you don’t want the iOS app to automatically play videos? I’m sorry, I guess I thought you’d want to fully experience all of the links your friends so thoughtfully posted for you. I would have thought it was worth a little cellular data to experience the cat video your niece posted as soon as possible. My mistake - please follow these 73 steps to turn off that feature.”


“Charlie Jones has invited you to play Wisconsin Dairy Saga[3]. Okay, no, he really hasn’t, but Charlie’s playing it, and a real friend would join him to keep him company.”

Of course, one can add to this the fact that it’s apparently an active, open forum for two of the three topics of conversation that the great philosopher Linus warned us against. It’s essentially become the place that email forwards went to die. You know, if by “to die” one means “live on in perpetuity”.

But while some of the posts can be irritating, unlike in a zombie apocalypse show, the problem isn’t the people. It’s the company.

It’s like Mark Zuckerberg used his Facebook millions to purchase every manual on customer care and service, distributed them to his staff saying “read these closely and carefully; study every detail until you have them memorized forward and back. You must know it perfectly, so that we can successfully implement the exact opposite of everything they say.”

My personal dislike of Facebook is not new; rather, is is well aged, much like a nice, stinky cheese[4]. As such, it now sits in the background, waiting to be paired with a nice cracker or piece of sausage… (It is possible this wasn’t an ideal metaphor…)

Quite some time ago Facebook elected to separate out their Messenger service, removing it from the iOS Facebook app into its own, separate application. I’m sure that the company has its own, very good technical reasons for making this change, though I suspect they are secretly planning on giving every feature of the service its own application with the goal of actually having an entire page of your iPhone or iPad screen filled with nothing but Facebook.

I have resolutely resisted downloading that separate app - one Facebook icon per device is more than enough for me, and I figured if I held out long enough old MZ would surely see the error of his ways.

That, um, hasn’t happened as of yet.

Facebook, of course, left the messenger notification in the Facebook app, so it still tells you every time you have a message. But if you haven’t downloaded the separate application, it takes you to a window that tells you how foolish you have been, and urges you to get with the program immediately, if not sooner, lest your friends think you don’t like them any more or, perhaps, have fallen off the edge of the earth.

Having come to the conclusion that it’s possible that MZ isn’t suffering from my absence quite as much as I thought, I finally opted to download the app on my iPhone today.

Now, the app mostly works as advertised - and I’m sure I’m not telling virtually anyone reading this anything they don’t know, as besides myself, I think the only other people who haven’t downloaded are hermits living in Nepal. It gives direct access to the messages one has received thru Facebook, along with an interface familiar to anyone who has used any text-messaging style app.

But: Remember that passive-aggressive friend?

Literally every time I’ve opened the app, it gives me this message:

“You know, nice people want to know when others are trying to communicate with them. Don’t you want to be nice people? It’s nice to be nice to the nice.”

And the two choices accurately reflect your options - “Ok” or “Not Now” is the reality. There is no “Not Ever” or “Go Take a Long Walk Off a Short Pier” option, and there appears to be no way to turn this off in settings.


  1. Well, maybe a slight exaggeration.  ↩

  2. My daughter periodically delights in telling me that people her age are on Instaphoto or Immedigram or something like that.  ↩

  3. To my knowledge this isn’t actually a game on Facebook. Yet.  ↩

  4. Its possible this characterization is unfair to nice stinky cheeses.  ↩