Where’s the Facebook “like” button?

This question was asked of me in a spam comment, but I thought it was worth addressing.

As best I can tell, in order to have a “like this on Facebook” button on a WordPress site, I would have to have a Facebook account.  I am boycotting Facebook.

I tend to be skeptical of anything that “everybody” is doing, such as cell phones.  While I’m pretty sure Facebook does not cause brain cancer, I’m seeing on an almost daily basis that it has negative effects on people’s ability to socialize normally in real life or to do what they’re doing without being detrimentally distracted. For example, last night the people in front of me turned their backs on the gorgeous fireworks display in order to show each other on their cell phones the Facebook accounts they had set up specifically to demean people they don’t like.  (They were talking so loudly about it that everyone in a ten-foot radius had no choice but to hear about it, complete with the obscene nicknames they’d made up, even as we kept our eyes on the show.)  I’ve been on the Internet via desktop computers for 20 years, and I know its lure is powerful and I can easily be sucked into spending far too much time online.  I don’t want a new time-sucker, especially if it turns me into a jerk.

Furthermore, from what I hear from friends and family and online acquaintances who are Facebook users, Facebook’s much-vaunted ability to put everyone in touch often translates into a much more indirect and superficial form of “in touch” than I prefer.  It seems that many people think looking at their Facebook wall is just as good as receiving a personal note from them, so they need not bother actually communicating with you directly anymore.  In my own direct experience, long-distance friends who used to e-mail me every few months got onto Facebook and no longer communicate with me in any form, not because they stopped liking me but because I don’t exist in their new world.  That’s chilling.  I don’t want to get into that.  I mean, I like e-mail, but when I had e-mail 5-10 years before some people I knew, I didn’t stop calling them on the phone or writing them paper letters.

There are also security risks with Facebook.  All the people I most respect for their knowledge of computers and Internet sanity either do not use Facebook or have a very basic profile just to help people find them and connect to Facebook only under carefully limited circumstances.  That speaks volumes to me.

If you like one of my articles and want to share it on Facebook, that’s fine.  It is possible for you to do it without my hosting a “like” button–that “Share” button at the bottom of the article offers the option of sharing via Facebook.  I thought my qualms about Facebook were worth explaining, but if Facebook is just one of the ways you communicate, you are welcome here and welcome to tell your Facebook friends about me.

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9 thoughts on “Where’s the Facebook “like” button?

  1. FWIW, I’ve found some benefits to the more “indirect” type of contact that Facebook offers, compared to the more direct communication of e-mail:

    1) Asking for advice. I can put a question out there and it’s not directed at anyone specific, so sometimes unlikely people will respond. One time I was working with a freelance client and needed help editing her Wikipedia article, so I put out a call to my Facebook friends and somebody I knew from my school newspaper in college responded. It was a lot quicker and more helpful than using Google, but I never would have thought to send him specifically an e-mail and say, “Hey Tyler, could you help me with this?”

    2) Sharing things (like blog posts!). In the days before Facebook, I used to find it irritating and intrusive that friends and family would constantly send out mass e-mails of interesting things they’d found, like recipes, jokes, news stories, etc. Now they share on Facebook instead. When I get on Facebook, though, I don’t feel like anything is directed at me specifically, but I still have the option to view articles that look interesting and strike up a conversation about them with my friends. Similarly, it eliminates the awkwardness of friends wanting to show you their vacation photos, because they all post them to Facebook now and I only have to look at them if I’m actually interested.

    3) I’ve actually gotten to know some people better through Facebook than I ever did in person. There are some people I became Facebook friends with because we had a superficial connection–a family friend’s daughter, or someone I was in a scholars program with–and through status updates and the articles we share, we learned that we actually had a lot of the same views on certain issues and have engaged in more meaningful conversations via Facebook than we ever would have without it.

    This is not an attempt to convert you to Facebook by any means, but just my POV on why this type of communication can be more beneficial than it might seem!

  2. I tried FaceBook for a while. And for a while I really liked it. It’s seductive in a way. I found it to be sort of like the virtual water cooler at work. And if you wanted you could just hang out there all day and a whole host of random insignificant interactions would ensue. But it turned out to be a HUGE time sink for me, especially since self control is not my specialty. Plus I think it gives people the illusion of friendship when in reality it’s mostly just inane meaningless interaction! At least in the blog world I feel like I can connect with people that I actually have something in common with.

    Plus, the privacy side of it really started to creep me out. It wasn’t long before I started to get friend requests from people I’d really rather not engage with. I didn’t want to be rude, but I also really didn’t want to deal with those people, nor give them an open door to intrude in my life. It started to feel like they should rename the site “Voyeurs Incorporated.” I started to remember that there’s a reason my phone number is unlisted and that I only use my cell phone for emergencies. Plus… some of the FaceBook policies regarding privacy seem really lax to me…. every time they’d roll out a new invasion of privacy they automatically opted you in… it just seemed like an open invitation for marketing BS and weirdos. And the new stuff like facial recognition really creeps me out.

    I cancelled my account about 9 months ago and it was a WONDERFUL decision. I’m thoroughly enjoying my anonymity.

  3. “All the people I most respect for their knowledge of computers and Internet sanity either do not use Facebook or have a very basic profile just to help people find them and connect to Facebook only under carefully limited circumstances.”

    So… I guess I must not be one of the people you respect for my knowledge of computers and Internet sanity. My years of leadership at Twin Cities Free-Net and other community networks that paved the way for Facebook do not lend me credibility on this matter. My close associations with David Woolley, who invented online forums as we know them today, and Bob Alberti, who developed Gopher and now runs a leading network security consulting firm, both of whom are active Facebook users, are just exceptions to the rule. Is your respect for people’s knowledge of security conditional on their rejection of Facebook? If so, that would seem to be a circular statement.

    Sarcasm aside, the article you cite about Facebook security concerns is over a year old. Facebook addressed those concerns immediately after people objected, and the article was not updated to reflect the change, making it inaccurate as a source of current information. Furthermore, the Share button at the bottom of each of your posts allows people to share your posts on Facebook without requiring you to have a Facebook account, so clearly the assumption that begins your post is incorrect. And then there’s the fact that I logged into your site (or rather WordPress.com) with my Facebook account to post this comment. So as principled as your stand against Facebook may be, it does not appear to be based on fact.

    I’m not saying people don’t use Facebook in stupid or naïve ways; they definitely do. And to a large extent Facebook’s business plan counts on a certain percentage of their users being stupid and naïve, but they’re hardly unique in that respect. But for those who give a little attention to the privacy settings and a little thought to what they are posting, Facebook is a valuable tool for connecting with people and is in my opinion a much better use of time than, say, watching TV, in that it is interactive and engaging. Will something better replace it? Inevitably. In the meantime, I’ve just rekindled two old acquaintanceships — face to face, that is — with people who live here in DC and whom I wouldn’t have known were living here without Facebook, and it’s only the 30th or so time that has happened since I joined Facebook. If you don’t need to reconnect with people, or if you can do it as effectively without help from Facebook, more power to you.

    • As I think about this some more, I guess a Like button is distinct from a Share button. A Like button causes the blog entry to have a separate existence inside Facebook, where the Share button just creates a link from someone’s Facebook “wall” to the blog entry. However, once the link is on their “wall,” other people can Like that, so the only real difference is that you as the content creator can’t track the statistics on who has Liked a link shared on other people’s walls, whereas if you had a Like button you would be able to track those statistics. At least I think that’s the distinction! 🙂

      And BTW I know no offense was meant by your “all the people I most respect” statement. None taken.

      • I can’t track who has Liked the link, but when someone uses the Share button I do see in the site stats which article has been shared on which service. It doesn’t tell me who shared it. That’s okay with me.

        Have you considered that when you link your comment on a blog to your Facebook page, readers without a Facebook account cannot access that page at all (it gives an error message) and thus can’t read any of your stuff (unless they are motivated enough to Google you and sort you out from other Ben Stallingses)? If the URL on your comment is instead your business, your personal blog, or your page on benstallings.name, then any Web user can see it. The question is which of those sides of yourself you intend to present as the person who is commenting. In this case, since you’re presenting yourself as a loyal Facebook user arguing that non-users are missing out, I guess it makes sense to use that URL….

      • “Have you considered that when you link your comment on a blog to your Facebook page, readers without a Facebook account cannot access that page at all (it gives an error message) and thus can’t read any of your stuff (unless they are motivated enough to Google you and sort you out from other Ben Stallingses)?”

        Ah, but you see, that’s because I set my Facebook privacy settings. If I had left them on the defaults, you would be able to read my stuff by following that link. I don’t want my Facebook stuff indexed by search engines or viewed by strangers, so it is private. Excluding my sister as well is an unintended side effect. Even Facebook users can’t see my profile unless they become my “friends” first.

        “In this case, since you’re presenting yourself as a loyal Facebook user arguing that non-users are missing out, I guess it makes sense to use that URL….”

        I’m hardly a loyal Facebook user, any more than I was loyal to Red Dragon BBS or Great Lakes Free-Net or Twin Cities Free-Net or FUUSE or any of the other social networks I’ve used in the past 18 years. It just happens to be where the party is right now. I’m sure the party will move on to Google Plus or Diaspora or something better in the future. And I’m not intentionally linking to my Facebook profile; WordPress is doing that.

        The party is not at any of my blogs, so linking to them would do little good. For better or worse, Facebook’s style of “microblogging” suits my available time better than blogging did. Since it also suits the available time of my friends, I get much more positive reinforcement from posting stuff on Facebook than I did from blogging. I’ll grant you, I’m not putting as much thought into what I write, but when I did put thought into what I wrote, nobody read it (present company excepted) and I got bitter and frustrated. Nobody’s ever going to collect my Facebook posts into a book, but nobody was going to do that with my blog posts either.

    • You are someone whose computer knowledge I respect, Ben, but not in my top echelon, given the large number of computer uber-geeks I know. Perhaps the other people are exaggerating their security concerns because of their overall low opinion of Facebook. If I didn’t also have the other objections, which I mentioned first because they are more important to me, then maybe I would shrug off the security concerns. As it is, I haven’t been all that interested in following the issue and have read only the articles that happened to come my way, until I was writing this and felt I ought to link to something on the subject. I quickly selected that article as “good enough” to give some idea of the problem. Clearly it’s not good enough for you. Within the past two months I have seen more of the same kind of news about Facebook in my newspaper, so I view this as a continuing problem. Just because a company apologizes for one lapse doesn’t mean it won’t keep pulling the same kind of stunt.

      Furthermore, the Share button at the bottom of each of your posts allows people to share your posts on Facebook without requiring you to have a Facebook account, so clearly the assumption that begins your post is incorrect.

      Do you mean the assumption behind the spambot’s question? It is correct that my site does not have a “like this on Facebook” button such as I have seen on other sites. A person who truly was looking for that button (presumably, a newcomer to Facebook and blogs or an incurious person who doesn’t check out the other buttons) wouldn’t see it here. The Share button does not say “like” or display a Facebook icon on the button.

      Or do you mean my statement, “As best I can tell, in order to have any Facebook-related button on a WordPress site, I would have to have a Facebook account.”? Depends on what “Facebook-related” means; maybe I should edit that. The Share button is “Facebook-related” exactly as much as it is “Yahoo!-related” or “StumbleUpon-related.” So I guess I should edit that to, “…in order to have a “like this on Facebook” button…” because that is what I mean.

      I did edit my last paragraph after posting the article. I had written something like, “I know it is possible to share my articles on Facebook because I occasionally see in my site stats that readers are coming in via Facebook, but I can’t tell you exactly how it’s done.” Then when I read the published article and noticed the Share button, I realized–duh–Facebookers can use that!

      So as principled as your stand against Facebook may be, it does not appear to be based on fact.

      What do you mean? Are you saying that because my site enables people to send information to Facebook and log in using a Facebook account, I am open to 100% of the security risks I would be if I had my own Facebook account, had authorized it to interface with my WordPress account, and was logged into it while doing other work on my computer? I don’t think that can possibly be true, but if it is, I’ll certainly remove everything that allows Facebook any access to me.

      It’s fine if Facebook is IN YOUR OPINION a better use of your time than watching TV. I rarely watch TV, either. I do spend several hours a week following links from the Works-for-Me Wednesday blog carnival, reading articles which are often informative or at least fun, and writing comments which I hope will be helpful to the authors and/or their readers. Many of those comments draw readers to my site. Some people consider that a waste of time. In my opinion, it isn’t. But from what I see of Facebook from the outside, it likely would use an enormous amount of my time for relatively little real gain, in MY opinion.

      When I need, or even frivolously desire, to reconnect with people, I generally can find them using the last contact information I have, mutual friends, or Google. The people I’ve failed to find all have extremely common names (which must be problematic on Facebook too) or have made a real effort to cut ties with everyone (which means they wouldn’t be on Facebook or at least wouldn’t respond to me). My ability to find people who’ve fallen out of touch has improved so vastly in the past decade that I’m quite satisfied. As for people who want to reconnect with me but can’t be bothered to look anywhere but Facebook, that’s THEIR LOSS. In addition to missing my stellar companionship, they are missing the fun of doing a little detective work!

      Ben, I’m glad Facebook has brought you something good this week, but within the past year you were one of the people who complained wistfully to me about this indirect and superficial form of “in touch” that’s replaced letters or even personal e-mails among your friends. It can be good; it can be bad. Just like cell phones.

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