In the aftermath of the privacy debacle that surrounded Facebook, many prominent technology people have publicly deleted their Facebook accounts, and many more are threatening to follow suit on May 31 in a massive display. When all of those people spend their Memorial Day holiday deleting their Facebook accounts, I will not be among them.
Facebook recently was confronted with massive privacy issues, and as the issues grew, regardless of Facebook’s attempts to spin the problems, they became the forefront of debate in social media. Then certain social media trendsetters like Leo Laporte and Jason Calacanis publicly announced they were deleting their Facebook accounts, and live streamed it so viewers could watch them do it online. (Youtube recordings can be seen if you click their names above)
Leo and Jason are big names in the social media world. Leo founded the TWiT Network and Jason founded several companies, most recent of which is Mahalo. They are established brands that are highly recognizable and have followings that are large enough to set their own parameters. As such, people watch their podcasts, listen to what they have to say and ultimately have set May 31 to do a mass deletion of Facebook accounts for Quit Facebook Day. Unfortunately, there are two major flaws with Quit Facebook Day. The first is that it is a fairly major American holiday, when most people are at the beach or barbecuing instead of at their computers. The second is that Facebook won’t care. As of this writing, there are 23,120 people who claim to be deleting on the first, and assuming that they all do, they will be replaced quickly. According to statistics from December 2008, Facebook is adding more than 600,000 users a day. To lose 23,000 would mean next to nothing to Facebook.
Most of the 23,000 leaving are social media savvy, but most Facebook users are not. They are “civilians,” people looking to connect with other people they know, stay in touch and catch up. My Facebook usage is predominantly to communicate with friends and family, keep up with people I just don’t get to talk to regularly and to get invites to parties and events with friends. My brand isn’t at the level of Leo or Jason and I need Facebook to keep up with what’s going on with friends and to promote my personal brand. It’s how I know when and where to hang with friends, talk to them about it before and after, see the pictures that were taken, and share them with others who were unable to make it. The social scene in New York is as wide spread as the number of startups and it would be impossible to keep up with everything otherwise.
The answer is not to just delete your account, but for an alternative to arrive. Like Facebook supplanted Myspace, a new contender needs to enter the ring. A couple of NYU students announced a Kickstarter project for a new social networking site called Diaspora. They have raised almost $200,000 by just saying they are creating the project and outlining what they are thinking of doing. Without any verifiable prototype, they raised the equivalent of a round of angel investment without the accountability investors would require. The question now is if they will deliver, fail or if it’s an elaborate ruse that allowed them to raise far more money than most college kids do. I wish them luck and look forward to seeing what happens with this project.
While it is easy for a “big name” like Leo Laporte or Jason Calacanis to delete their Facebook accounts with minimal impact for their brands or social interactions, it is not quite so true for those of us who don’t have their networks. We need Facebook to connect with other people and to continue to build our own brands until something better comes along. On May 31 and beyond, I expect to continue to communicate with friends and family on Facebook until another social networking site comes along to replace it. And if the privacy issues are truly are a concern, just do not post personal information to Facebook (or any other social network) that you do not want out there.