Why I Haven’t Joined Facebook

November 7, 2007

Lonerbook, Anti-Social-NetworkingEnough already!

In the last two weeks or so, reporters at all the major business publications have prattled at various lengths about their Facebook experiences, including Matthew Rose at The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Lyons at Forbes, and Brent Schlender at Fortune. Even BusinessWeek‘s Michelle Conlin, who is typically among the first to identify and write about emerging trends, has blogged about joining Facebook.

I hate to break it to you folks, but you are soooo very late to the party. Facebook has been around since 2004. Three years. That’s a pretty long time when it comes to cultural trends and online innovations. So why the heck are mainstream journalists just discovering it now?

Maybe, like me, they initially dismissed it as a thing for teens and the twenty-something crowd, as it was originally intended. Apparently times have changed; everyone seems to be on Facebook, including political candidates and investment advisors. Curious to see if I was the lone holdout, on Monday I googled “Why I haven’t joined Facebook” to see if there was a kindred spirit out there. The search engine actually tried to correct me, asking “Did you mean: why I have joined Facebook.” Interestingly, I didn’t get the same snarky response when I tried it this morning. (You would think the folks at Google would program their algorithms to say “Did you mean: why I should join Orkut, but I digress).

Frankly, I don’t “get” Facebook’s appeal, but I admit that that could just be me. I’m not exactly a cyberspace kind of guy. I’m quite adept at keeping in touch with my friends – I’ve been doing it offline for years. And I have worked out a pretty good system for meeting new people with similar interests. Ready? I chat to people I find at the places I like to go. I recently met this fascinating photographer named Koren on a hiking trip who, in turn, introduced me to a tech wizard named Brian whose company S&A has since hired. As for hearing from former high school classmates? Whoa – no thanks. I didn’t much like them in the first place.

There are other reasons I resist joining the growing throng of Facebookers. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the idea that my entire life is not completely google-able. It’s unsettling enough when employment candidates rattle off the most obscure minutia from our company’s history to show us that they did their homework. I can’t imagine it will be any more comfortable to have them chat casually about photos they saw of my best-forgotten New Year’s Eve party exploits! And I really don’t need the whole world to know that I once innocently went up to a familiar-looking woman at my local Starbucks and actually said to her “You know, I think I know you from somewhere.” (BTW, Brooke Shields is a very gracious woman).

Then there is Facebook’s Bill Gates connection. Even though Microsoft only owns a smidgen of the company, you know it’s just a matter of time before the site is plagued with all sorts of technology problems and outages. As far as I’m concerned the value of Facebook actually should have gone down simply because Microsoft bought into the company. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic, but Microsoft’s products speak for themselves. A more even-keeled Facebook-blogger cites other reasons why its future may not be so bright.

Still, I realize I’m in the minority here. Facebook reportedly is signing up more than four million “friends” a month, so it’s only a matter of time that holdouts like me will be forever banished as online pariahs or social outcasts. Given that even lepers were given their own colonies, perhaps Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might consider creating a companion site for the unfortunate few who are lacking an online community of “friends.” I’ve even given it a name and created a beta site: Lonerbook.com. (back off Facebook lawyers – it’s just a parody!!)

The rules would be wonderfully simple. You can post your name, but nothing else. No photos, no lists of likes/dislikes, no lists of affiliations, no “poke” buttons to enable complete strangers to give you a cyber pinch on the butt. It’s just an opportunity to announce one’s overall social resistance or rejection.

I think the idea has promise. If nothing else, it at least would give some mainstream journalists some “news” to write about.