Why I Deleted My Facebook Account

As of this past Sunday, June 7, I am no longer a member of Facebook. No, I don’t mean that I deactivated my account. In Facebook terminology, deactivated means that although no one else can see your profile or interact with you, your account is basically dormant, sitting on Facebook’s servers and waiting for you to log in again, after which it will not be deactivated. Deleted, on the other hand, means that at the end of a two-week waiting period, your account is gone forever. You can’t log back in and retrieve it after that two weeks. Your data is gone, too, though I’ve heard it can linger on Facebook servers for up to ninety days.

I signed up for an account a few years after it started and became A Thing. With the exception of a months-long period during one year of college,* I’ve had an active account the entire time. But over the years, I grew tired of Facebook. I started to get sick of seeing obnoxious political debates, inane “trending stories,” stupid photos, and all the other silliness that populates the average person’s news feed.

I also was increasingly sick of the company’s policies. The privacy settings were never intuitive (and that’s coming from someone who’s pretty internet-savvy) and often switched to allow more people to see more things on your profile than you originally allowed. I dislike the CEO both as a private person and a businessman and I really don’t like the idea of Facebook owning everything you do on the Internet. Dealing with the site was mentally draining for me. Towards the end of my time as a Facebook user, I was logging a couple times a month, if that. And no, I never had the app on my phone.

It’s embarrassing how much time we, the millennial generation, have spent on Facebook. Based on talking to my friends and seeing stuff online, I think I spent less time on Facebook than the average person—and even that was way too much. If you took all the time the average young person has spent on Facebook since its inception and added it up, I’m willing to bet it would be enough to learn a foreign language, acquire a new skill like a musical instrument, or read enough books in a certain field to be an expert on said field. As someone who has done the first two, there’s a lot of time required to do that!

Understand that I’m not anti-social media. I love Twitter. It’s through Twitter that I found a writing group I’m always talking about (because it’s just that awesome). I like Pinterest a lot, too. I don’t interact with many potential blog readers on there, but I like finding new knitting and crochet patterns. And I absolutely adore Goodreads. It’s the most amazing website ever, if you ask me. It’s only on Goodreads that you’ll find people as equally disappointed as you are about the final book in a series you really liked is just really bad. I used LinkedIn, too. These days, it looks kind of strange if you don’t have an account and honestly, I kind of like LinkedIn.

For a while, I lived with all of the Facebook problems enumerated above. I knew they were there, but I just sort of stuffed them into the back of my mind. The thing that really pushed me to quit—the straw that broke the camel’s back, as the saying goes—was a new feature Facebook introduced. I don’t know when it went into effect because, as I said, I was rarely using my account. I noticed in the past few months that there was a search history whenever I clicked in the search bar. I assumed it was only the past five or ten searches, but upon further exploration, I discovered that Facebook had my entire search history in my account, just sitting right there. Obviously they were recording it from day one, but hadn’t made it visible to users. It may sound like a strange thing to get hung up on, but that really bothered me. Having the entire history of my Facebook stalking staring right at me creeped me out.

Some people may be wondering how I’m going to stay in touch with friends and get invited to things without Facebook. Luckily, the second issue isn’t a problem for me: my social group doesn’t really use Facebook Events to plan things. I don’t know why; we just don’t. As for the first issue, I already have the phone numbers, email addresses, Skype usernames, etc. of people I want to stay in touch with. I text most of my American friends and use Skype and/or email for people abroad. That’s also another reason I have the LinkedIn account: if someone I haven’t talked to in a long time really wants to get in touch with me, they can do so on there.

If you like Facebook and want to continue to use it, all the more power to you. If you don’t like it, I’d highly suggest following my lead and deleting permanently, if you can. It’s liberating. Whether you decide to stay with it or not, there is one thing you should do on a regular basis: log out and go do something in the real world like call a friend, take a walk, or—my favorite option—read a book.

*Note: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my Facebook-less period was also one of the most productive and intellectually rewarding times in college.

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Spring Cleaning?

The Daily Post says we bloggers should consider changing something about the look of our blogs in order to re-energize for spring. What say you, readers? Do you think I should change my blog theme? Or should I stay with this cheerful yellow?

Wattpad

Any other writers out there have an opinion on the popular writing website Wattpad? I have such mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I think it’s great that a ton of people use it because that means a ton of people are getting together (virtually) to talk about reading and writing and to actually write and read each other’s writing.

On the other hand, is it so bad that I want at least some remuneration for my work? I definitely agree that hardcover books from the major publishers can be quite expensive. But surely a person can afford $2.99 for an ebook, right?

Which, of course, leads to the problem of Wattpad: it’s all free. The company is rolling in cash from venture capitalists (Tech bubble? What tech bubble?) but none of the writers see any of that money. This is why I have very conflicted feelings about posting my work on there. I really want to share my writing with readers. But I’ve worked a lot on the current novel I’m writing. Giving all of it away for free makes me feel slightly sick inside.

A Russian Coincidence

I have noticed a strange phenomenon. There seem to be a plethora of Russian nationalist websites all featuring similar design and graphics. Observe: Sputnik & Pogrom (the most popular) looks very similar to Pyotr i Mazepa (a site with a Ukrainian bent), which looks similar to Baltiski Avangard Russkogo Soprotivlenia (self-described as a pro-monarchist group based in Königsberg, which is now called Kaliningrad). All these sites are also somewhat similar to PolitRussia, at least before PolitRussia got a new site layout.

One wonders: are the same people behind all these websites? You have to admit, the graphics work looks remarkably similar.

Why I’m Not Renewing My Foreign Policy Subscription

Shout out to Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov, who made it onto an FP cover.
Shout out to Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov, who made it onto an FP cover.

Last fall, I was fortunate enough to win a contest sponsored by Russia Direct, a great website for all things Russia-related (and it’s written in English!). The prize was a one-year subscription to Foreign Policy, a magazine I’ve read for years. FP recently put up a paywall, forcing readers to sign up for an account. Signing up is free, but the free version gives access to a limited number of articles per month. I was skeptical about this business model—it seemed like it would greatly reduce readership—but I continued to read, thanks to my subscription, which gives me unlimited access.

Over the past year, I occasionally have wondered what would happen when my subscription runs out. I hoped to win another free one from Russia Direct, but so far, no more contests have been offered. In a couple of months, I’ll have to start shelling out $4.99 a month if I want to continue reading FP.

The problem is, I don’t think I want to continue reading it. Once a fantastic magazine, I have recently found FP to have insipid, click-bait articles that offer little real analysis. There are so many other websites out there—Foreign Affairs, The American Interest, The National Interest—that offer the kind of insightful analysis on issues I’m interested in. It could be me, but it seems like FP is trying to cater to a bunch of dilettantes who don’t really know what they’re interested in. I question this strategy, both because catering to dilettantes isn’t the most sound business idea, and because it alienates truly interested readers like me.

And then there’s the website design. Web design is one of those things you don’t notice unless it’s really, really bad and trust me, FP’s new design (I think they rolled it out in 2013, but I could be wrong) is really, really terrible. Not only is it ugly and unintuitive to navigate, it crashes my browser on my iPad about half the time (and freezes my desktop browser on occasion). Simply put, navigating through this insipid design is nothing short of torture sometimes. Even if I liked the content FP published, I still would despise this design.

Once my account is downgraded to the free version, I will be able to read eight articles a month, so not renewing my subscription doesn’t mean I will never, ever read FP again. I’ll try the occasional Russia-related article. I’ll just read the magazine a lot less often. Unless there is a radical editorial policy change at FP, I will be happier spending my valuable reading time elsewhere, where more rigorous analysis is offered.

Website Hosting Woes And Domain Names

The WordPress logo, superimposed on some... futurey space stuff.
The WordPress logo, superimposed on some… futurey space stuff.

This October, I will have, as I have every year, the opportunity to make a decision about my web hosting. Right now, I own a domain and I also have a web hosting account with GoDaddy, the only web hosting service I have ever used. With this hosting account, I have the WordPress blogging platform installed and I use it for all my blogging purposes.

I’m actually considering doing something radical and new with this site’s hosting once October arrives: switching to WordPress.com hosting. I would keep the domain name the same (though I may be switching off my subdomain, but don’t worry about this, I will put in code to redirect you to the site if necessary). However, WordPress offers a domain mapping upgrade for $13 per year. This is significantly less than what I pay to GoDaddy each year for hosting (about $50, depending on what kind of coupon I can find on the internet).

Switching to WordPress.com hosting will definitely cut down on the features I have available (I can pretty much do anything with the current hosting I have). But right now, I don’t actually use a lot of the features I have. Since I like making lists with pros and cons, that’s what I’m going to do for this.

  • If I switch, I’ll be constrained to WordPress.com themes. Some of these are paid; others are free. I’ll miss trying out random themes from the internet, but my favorite theme, the one I use anyway, is actually from WordPress.com, so I will be able to continue using it.
  • I won’t be able to use plugins if I switch. That’s sad, but WordPress.com does have a ton of widgets, most of which I use anyway on this blog (through a service called Jetpack that gives non-WordPress.com users features we are missing out on). I think the plugin I would miss the most is the Simple Social Icons plugin that I’m currently using in my sidebar. There is a workaround to have something like this if I switch, though.
  • The comment form will be different from my current one. Personally, I think the WordPress.com one is sort of ugly, but I know a lot of people like it. Perhaps I’m in the minority here and my readers won’t be bothered.
  • If I switch, I’ll be on the WordPress.com social network. This is a huge plus, in my opinion. WordPress.com was started as a free option for people who didn’t want to bother with buying hosting space and setting up the WordPress platform (I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not for the faint of heart). It has blossomed into a social network over the years, always centered around blogging, but it also offers people the opportunity to interact with each other. (And the best part is it’s a non-annoying social network, like Twitter, not like Facebook, possibly my least-favorite website in existence).

Looking over that list, it seems like I’m really leaning towards switching. 🙂

Another completely unrelated issue I have with this blog is the URL. I plan on keeping the fluenthistorian.com domain. My question is whether I should drop the subdomain. See how the address for any page or post on this blog is http://blog.fluenthistorian.com? I am debating whether to get rid of that bit that says ‘blog’. I originally set it up that way so that the domain without the word ‘blog’ (i.e. http://fluenthistorian.com) could be a homepage of sorts for me. The only problem is I never actually use that homepage. I sort of wish I had just never set up the whole ‘blog’ subdomain in the beginning because if I do decide to switch it, it will be a huge headache for me with databases and important and such.

So, dear readers, any opinions on either issue I’ve discussed? Should I switch to the cheaper hosting at WordPress.com? Should I drop the ‘blog’ from my URL?

Banned At Work!

This is hilarious. Today, after my group finished our analysis of the current project we have, I was browsing the internet. Or rather, I was attempting to browse. You see, at work we have what I call the Great Firewall. It doesn’t just restrict porn sites (I fully support restricting these)—it restricts pretty much anything fun. Dropbox? That’s on the blacklist. Amazon? No online shopping for you, not even during lunch! Sputnik & Pogrom? No Russian nationalism for you, young fool!

Yes, it’s true: that website I blogged about just the other day is apparently on the blacklist of our firewall at work. Every site that’s on there has a reason listed for why it’s blocked, and for Sputnik & Pogrom, it says “adult political content.” I’m really not sure what that means.

What I want to know is how someone even found this site to block it. 99% of employees at The Bank don’t speak Russian. How would the IT department even find this to block it? Enquiring minds want to know…

A New Site About Ukraine (In Russian)

BBC Russian wrote yesterday that state-run Russian media giant “Rossiya Segodnya” [Russia Today], under the leadership of Dmitry Kiselyov have launched a new Russian website about Ukraine. The site, appropriately enough called Украина.ру [Ukraina.ru] can be found here. Of course, it has a pro-Russian viewpoint, but I thought I’d share in case anyone is interested. If I like it enough, I may translate some articles from it… (That means I’m taking translation requests, so let me know if there’s something from Ukraina.ru that you want to see in English!)

How To Be Popular On Pinterest

Go me.
Go me.

I logged into Pinterest about a week ago and saw this: 34 notifications!

Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale, 2006
Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale, 2006

How am I so fabulously popular on Pinterest, you ask? Easy: I have an entire board devoted to Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. He is amazing and is everything every man ought to be. I have a small but devoted following of that board and those followers constantly repin my stuff.

Moral of the story: pin photos of attractive (foreign) actors and you too can have 34 notifications next time you log in. Oh, and don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest if you have an account.

Poets and Quants is Addicting

I have found yet another to obsess about: Poets and Quants. This website is dedicated to all things MBA and I love it (even though I’m not getting an MBA right now, it is something I am considering in the future).

My favorite page on Poets and Quants is this one. It is a list of all posts in which an overpriced business school admissions consultant (who knew that such a job even existed?) rates people’s chances of getting into top business schools. Sometimes, he is quite harsh in his assessments, but they’re certainly interesting to read.

(A side note: I’m not sure where to categorize this post. I think I need a new category on this blog for business and finance sorts of things!)