Is it possible to stay in touch without a phone or Facebook?

201111220327 Is it possible to stay in touch without a phone or Facebook? This weekend I suffered the technocrat’s greatest nightmare and dunked my iPhone. It’s currently sitting in a bag of rice and soon I will find out if my life is over or not. In the meantime, for someone who is attached at the metacarpal to her iPhone, this past weekend was very interesting.

For instance, I had to find my way to someplace I’d never been. Instead of relying on GPS when I got out of the subway, before leaving the house I had to look it up on a map and print it out. And then pull out a paper and look at the map when I arrived. It was like a Geico caveman commercial.

The daily routine of life was much different as well. While ordering a Vietnamese coffee I found myself reflexively reaching for my pocket. Even though it takes less than two minutes to get a Vietnamese coffee, I would normally pull out my phone and look at my Twitter or gmail “to kill time”. I’ve pretty sure my time was long ago stuffed and mounted over the mantelpiece. Is twiddling really necessary?

My socializing was rocketed back to 1997. It’s amazing how much we use our gadgets to isolate in a crowd. Unable to whip out my phone and google whatever was passing through my mind, I found I had to actually sit and talk to people. Weird! How on earth did we survive those primitive times?

Thing is, I don’t actually use my phone as a phone very much. The problem of ordering some sushi for dinner was solved with Skype and my iPad. I tried to retrieve my messages from another phone but realized I’d never bothered to learn the architecture for doing so. Oops.

Don’t get me wrong. I want my phone back. But a little lesson in non-digital life was a bit refreshing. In fact I found I had way MORE time. So much so that I decided to take the evening to clean up my RSS feeds. A bloated thing of 600+ feeds, I found countless dead or misdirected feeds, and long ago ghosts of an internet that was. Where have you gone, Chesterfest blog? I was kind of saddened that so many art blogs that I once loved to visit have been moved to Twitter or Tumblr. Even more have moved over to Facebook, much to my sorrow. I consider Facebook the AT&T of the digital era, a giant corporation that has no real interest in helping its customers — it only wants to keep customers.

For instance, once you get sucked in there is no way to get sucked back out. Sure I’d like a nice discrete feed of all my actual friends and family. Unfortunately I did not have the foresight to start this five years ago, so now I have a bloated 2000+ friends, some of whom are not people I actually know. There is also no easy way to create a feed of an individual page — once there was, but Facebook keeps fiddling with the settings.

While cleaning up the feeds, I found this post by media expert Anil Dash called Facebook is gaslighting the web. We can fix it in which he points out several alarming things. As of today you can no longer import your own content to Facebook Page notes. You must do so manually — right, like I’m going to physically make a FB note every time I make a blog post. Because, as FB puts it:

We want you to connect with your fans in the most effective ways possible. That’s why as of September 30th you’ll no longer be able to automatically import posts from your website to your Page notes. The best way to get people to interact with your content is to give them insight into the links you share on your Wall by adding personal comments and responding to feedback from fans.


Oh, so that’s the best way? Thanks, Facebook! You know best!

Dash also pointed out something that I’d found vaguely annoying: Facebook warns you everytime you leave Facebook, just like that kid who insists on leaving the hunting lodge after hearing screams and gurgles outside. Dash writes:

• Facebook is warning its users about the safety of a page which incorporates Facebook’s own commenting features, meaning even web sites that embrace Facebook’s technologies can be marginalized

• Facebook is displaying this warning despite the fact that Facebook’s own systems have indexed the page and found that it incorporates their own Open Graph information.


I know that railing against Facebook makes me the equivalent of your Uncle Ted who can’t even turn on a computer unaided and refuses to let go of his typewriter and buggy whip. Being a Facebook denier has cut me off from the circle of life. Unless I comb through the mind-numbing information feed of “Mary Mucous is listening to the Dave Matthews Band on Spotify!” “Yegreb Pronto likes Anique Kittenplan’s status” and “Barry Stinkus just read some stories about girls with big hooters on Yahoo!” I’ve missed out on pregnancies, engagements, weddings, deaths and other life-changing moments that folks used to get on the phone and gab about.

Of course I don’t have a phone any more, so that’s useless, too.

I guess it’s pointless to warn folks that “Facebook is made of people!” That’s what everyone likes about it.

In the comments on Dash’s piece, some people compare what Facebook is doing to how AOL “dumbed down” the internet when it was the primary portal for many beginning surfers. While I appreciate the news sharing and trafficbuilding aspects of Facebook and the “Like’ button, giant monolithic corporations that want to be all-inclusive never seem to work out, no matter how easy they make tagging your photo albums.

Comments

  1. I’m not on facebook, and I don’t have a cellphone. My wife does, though.

  2. I myself don’t have a cellphone. I only bought a cheap one from some pharmacy in San Diego when I went to the US for the convention so I can stay in touch with the wife. But here at home, I don’t use it. I do have Facebook, but it’s mostly for fun, than anything else. I think I can do away with it if I really wanted to. Email is really just enough to communicate with friends and people at work. In fact, I found it less stressful that way. With a phone, people tend to send you messages, and seem to expect responses at ungodly hours.

  3. I no longer use Facebook except so that people can contact me to set up events. Partly that I don’t trust it, mostly that I have no interest in wading through all those status updates.

  4. “Is it possible to stay in touch without a phone or Facebook?”

    Of course it is. Stop being so histrionic.

  5. I quit facebook over a year ago (mostly over their blatant contempt for their customers), and I’ve never regretted it. It is actually easy to export your contacts (or it was when I did it):

    http://kevnetik.wordpress.com/how-to-get-your-contacts-out-of-facebook/

    I do occasionally use Google+ these days (which is also far from perfect… it does beat the hell out of Facebook in my view, though). If you are looking for something else, the circles there make it easy for organizing your contacts.

    I also quit carrying a cell phone I can’t remember how many years ago, and it is mostly liberating, although it is missed occasionally.

  6. I don’t trust Facebook at all. They have consistently shown that they are not on the side of their own users. As it is today, if you log out of Facebook, they still know who you are when you visit any page that has a “like” button on it (which is just about everywhere as more sites try to get “social”). The only way to fix this is to delete any cookies that have “fb” in the name, or use a separate browser for Facebook.

    I don’t use Facebook. Which sucks, because like you mention, a lot of sites are moving their presence there.

  7. Bill K says:

    I thought the technocrat’s greatest nightmare was being chosen as the person responsible for fixing Italian government and finances?

  8. Charles Knight says:

    heidi – are you not getting onboard with facebook’s Open graph or is that two difficult/expensive to do?

  9. Kyle Rimkus says:

    It’s amazing that so many children can live without toys, while so many supposed adults can’t.

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