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Today is Quit Facebook Day – for Dummies

Today, May 31, is supposed to be Quit Facebook Day.

I wonder how many info pros will announce to the world they don’t have the information skills to manage privacy by leaving Facebook today. If they do have the skills they won’t for long as outsiders. It seems to me that it should be a reasonable user expectation of librarians and information professionals that they should be able to manage privacy settings and use the full range of web tools. I also would expect to be able to receive informed, current and excellent advice and training on how to deal with the emerging social tools from my professionals in the social institutions I frequent (public libraries, schools, universities, colleges, etc.).

Probably the worst way to protest is to exit the conversation and shout from the sidelines. Will they exit Twitter and Google too for collecting private information? I suspect that would make them unemployable. At least, ironically, they’ll be easily identified by professional recruiters and HR folks through the standard tools and the digital trail they leave as they exit and discuss their position.

In a couple of weeks my hometown and province will be hosting the G8 and G20. They’re building huge fences in Huntsville and, close ot my home, in Toronto to keep the protesters outside the perimeter. Inside or outside – who has more influence?


Posted on: May 31, 2010, 8:57 am Category: Uncategorized

10 Responses

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  1. This is a touch offensive. It’s extremely unlikely that any librarian is leaving FB because they can’t figure out how to handle privacy settings. On the other hand, it’s quite possible for a librarian, or anybody else, to decide that FB as currently managed is simply not trustworthy as a social network, and to leave on principle. Or don’t principles count?

  2. admin said

    If anyone is reading this post as a direct insult to librarians’ skills, please read it again slowly. I am not a self-hater.
    I am not saying that librarians haven’t the skills to handle FB et al. Most do but it can’t be sustained if you bail. I am saying that I believe that bailing is a very poor strategy for you as an individual or for collective influence:

    1. Recruiters and HR types may not have that same viewpoint or see a principled stance as a plus for their researcher hiring to client’s specs. What justification is there for hiring a researcher who won’t play where the majority of users are? I doubt it will come up in an interview for people to explain, since they wouldn’t make the cut in the pre-interview screening process where resumes are fodder for internet screening. As an employer I would worry that I had a risk with an employee who unilaterally chose to avoid certain key web sites, especially big ones.

    2. How can anyone stay up-to-date with the world of social information and research if they choose to stay away from services that have, potentially temporary, privacy issues? I suspect that, as I’ve noted in other postings, that collective pressure from our associations and collective class actions, may be a more effective first step. Google collects a ton of data on you. So do Twitter, Bing and Yahoo! So do most of the services you get for free. That is why they’re free, they make their money elsewhere in targeted ads – Google made over $2 billion in the last quarter. How much of that big-chunk-o-change was your money? They serve their real customers by serving up you just like TV served you up in the Sixties for ads. It has evolved and we should be part of, not separate from, this evolution and influence it from within rather than the sidelines. How many sites are you going to bail on as an individual before you’re completely cut off from the web? Or are you really not bailing at all – just heading to public library terminals for anonymous searches?

    Announcing to the world that you’re exiting a social site may be a principled stance. If you’re planning to do research or develop sites for the masses, you might want to have a deep and growing understanding of the place where the majority of internet users are resident. That’s what I’d hire. Independent people like retirees, consultants, etc. may have other options. Most librarians need to keep their skills in social media up-to-date by working within the system not standing outside the fence.

    Facebook is the top sharing site, the most global site, the largest site with members, etc. I am not saying that it doesn’t have big problems. These must be addressed and we’re seeing just teh tip of the iceberg right now. I am saying that if information professionals can’t find a better way to influence a major vendor like Facebook or Google than common consumer mob revolt tactics, then our profession needs a lot of work!

    At CLA and ALA I’ll be asking key people how they’re doing after their calls to Zuckerberg et al . . .


  3. Ally said

    It’s not just a matter of privacy settings – its a matter of Facebook constantly changing their mind on issues, and never being clear what control you have over your information (not to mention that some information cannot be made private at all)

    I personally am sticking with facebook under a new profile that I am purposefully linking to as few things as possible – but I don’t blame my friend who left yesterday. He’s a linux programmer. He’s certainly smart enough to deal with the privacy controls, but he left on a matter of principle because of what has been happening with facebook. (Including some issues and points of reason that I’ll admit I don’t fully understand.) If someone chooses to leave as a matter of principle I think we should respect that as a valid choice. Will it make a difference necessarily? Probably not. But that’s not their only reason to leave a site they disagree with – and most of them would have left even if not for a single day for people to leave facebook – they just decided to time their leaving to try and send at least a bit of a message to facebook…

  4. admin said

    To put things into perspective . . .
    If 25,000 Facebook users quit yesterday (which is doubtful, especially since some just set up a new account with different settings), that would be 0.0000625% or rounded off, about 1 one hundred thousandth of one per cent of the 400,000,000 active users Facebook claims.
    This is the definition of a drop in the sea.
    Therefore I think that a better strategy to influence Facebook from the library world would be collective influence through our associations based on the user groups we represent – libraries, students and cardholders. That’s bigger than this flea bite.
    Was this truly impactful on facebook beyond a small PR problem . . .

  5. Andrew said


    You keep focusing on librarians leaving what about everyone else? This day wasn’t started by librarians (at least that I can tell.) It was prompted by our stakeholders getting pissed off that Facebook keeps making changes and abusing their trust. They took a stand and whether it made a difference or not they did so based upon their beliefs that it made their lives better.

    You keep saying that folks should stay to influence Facebook from the inside, my question is how? Facebook has shown over the last two years it could really care less about what its users thought and can’t even hold through on its own promises about privacy. How do you suggest that we influence change from within Facebook?

  6. admin said

    Yep I focus on librarians. I have different standards for my colleagues than I do for the general public. For example I think they should know copyright compliance better as a basic skill. I expect that a profession that represents itself as being an information profession should be able to collectively organize itself beyond a consumer boycott. I don’t focus on the general public – we’re supposed to helping them and doing better – not merely joining an ineffectual boycott with a “me too” – principled or not.
    I watched as several information pros and librarians announced on FB, Twitter, blogs, etc. that they were leaving Facebook I did not see one suggesting that there might be a better way to influence FB such as talking to the Justice dept,, attorney generals federally or state, having ALA contact them, seeking redress in the courts. Are we sheep or a profession?, Are we that sadly bad at political and policy influence?
    I am at the Canadin LA conference this week and ALA at the end of June. I do hope we move up to the late on this issue rather than defending the bailout as a valid strategy. Can you imagine any other real profession like lawyers or doctors or nurses no commenting on one of the major issues of our times as a collective instead of just bandwagoning on another boycott?
    I challenge library land to make a stand.

  7. I deleted my Facebook account before the so-called Quit Facebook Day. In fact, I didn’t even know about that “event” until after the fact. I quit Facebook in part because when it comes to privacy, Facebook has shown that they only respect a call for more privacy when they’re faced with legal action or they’re getting enough bad press to push them to step back–a little bit. But they continually change the goal posts and they clearly don’t give a shit about their users as people. Users are there to generate revenue for Facebook. That’s all. Can I cause better change on the inside? Maybe, although I seriously doubt it. Librarians and their friends simply don’t make up enough numbers to make Facebook break a sweat. If librarians had that kind of power, I’d rather they use it to make vendors of library products (like Sirsi-Dynix) stop making crap products and charging libraries stupid amounts of money for them. But beyond that, it’s simply not worth my time, not as a librarian and not as a human being, to waste my time pushing that rock up the hill, having faith that Facebook as a company will listen to me and have a change of heart.

    The other reason I left Facebook is because it’s too centralized, too much “AOL 2.0.” It wants to be THE central web experience for people, and that bothers me for all kinds of reasons. The web isn’t centralized and shouldn’t be centralized. I don’t want users to be better at handling privacy on Facebook, I want them to be better at using web tools across the board. I want smarter people using better tools, not trying to wrench a piece of crap like Facebook into something a little bit better. We already have the tools so that we don’t need Facebook. So, screw ’em.

    Stephen, it may look to you right now that Facebook is really important in the world of the web and social networking. I don’t. If librarians had expended loads of time and energy on AOL 10 years ago…now, that would look pretty silly and stupid. Spend time and energy on the web and broad social networking? Absolutely! Spend time and energy on Facebook? Meh. I’ve got far more important things to do.

  8. Just a few months ago, a librarian who was in a position to hire subordinates took public umbrage on one of the listservs because an applicant had had the gall to send her a “friend” request and thus exposing her Facebook profile for the hiring manager’s scrutiny. Librarians who do use Facebook personally, as opposed to being the adminstrator of a library page, are now in a “damned if they do and damned if they don’t” position. Posts like this one really don’t help us clarify the issues and the possible solutions.

  9. I think people might not have gotten quite so knicker-twisted, Stephen, if you hadn’t started the ad hominem part of it with your post title. “Dummies” is a little harsh, don’t you think?

    When I quit Facebook (which I haven’t yet), it will be for reasons of principle (which don’t require that my principled actions have a direct effect on Facebook), it will not change my abilities as a librarian, and it will certainly not change my IQ.

  10. admin said


    Well I am glad that it started a tiny debate. This is a topic that deserves wider conversation in library land and more sophisticated collective strategies for information professionals than the one suggested by Quit Facebook day. People are certainly free to do that but I’ll continue to argue that, principled or not, this issue deserves more than just a personal response. I wonder why all comments have been about personal principles and there’s been no feedback on undertaking a wider strategy? Surely we have more power and influence as a profession than just engaging in consumer boycotts.

    As for reactions to “Dummies” I was just referring to the bestselling series of books. I hope everyone doesn’t read between the lines and take that so personally when it’s as tongue-in-cheek as the books. I’ve bought a few of the books and never felt that I was being impugned on a personal level.