Consider Leaving Facebook

I’m fortunate to be married to one of the smartest people I know. She’s also a co-founder at Defiant, our cybersecurity biz that makes Wordfence. Kerry and I have been tech co-founders since around 2003 with many successes and failures.

We are both very much technologists and have been since we started our careers in the early 90s. We’ve seen tech come and we’ve seen tech go. We met at eToys, one of the biggest dot-com busts of the early 2000s, which peaked at around 6B market cap and fell hard.

I left Facebook a few years ago, but I was surprised to hear Kerry did the same a few days ago. She’s out of town right now, and of course, I miss her. We hadn’t chatted for a few days, so on our call this morning we went deep on just thinking through being on FB, leaving FB, implications for individuals and society, and so on. She suggested I write a post, so here I am.

I’m going to try to keep this short, but I’d like to make the case for why you should leave Facebook – and keep in mind this is coming from two technologists who have been in tech for 3 decades, run a successful tech biz and firmly believe in the transformative power of technology.

Online text-based communication is new for most people and it doesn’t bring out their best side. It’s not because those folks are evil, vindictive, etc. It is merely because they are uncalibrated for text-only communication online, and it tends to foment extreme conversations. People say things they’d never say to someone’s face.

It has also become the norm to try to achieve outcomes – be they political, environmental, foreign policy, societal – by sharing extreme content or posting extreme views. “Society will totally collapse if you don’t….” or “All the evil around you is caused by this one thing…”. This is a relatively new phenomenon and it has caused folks with the best of intentions to selectively present data, and frame it in the most extreme terms.

There was also a shift in PR and News that happened about 10 or 15 years ago where marketers realized that having a million fans is way less valuable than having one-tenth of that number of people, really really angry about something. The former provides you fans. The latter provides an army. And thus anger became the name of the game. Get them angry and we’ll keep their attention. Or, get them angry and we’ll achieve our outcome. So, much of the content on social media is about creating anger – and that is what is shared.

I live at 856 Buckhorn Rd on Orcas Island. I have a public path next to my house that goes down to the beach. While my partner is an introvert, I am all extrovert and I’m constantly chatting to people visiting the island who are heading to the beach. I’ve made many friends on the island and some I’ve kept in touch with either via text or WhatsApp or some other 1 to 1 communication system. If you visit Orcas, say hi if you visit our beach. Just shout from the path and I’ll hear you, assuming I’m not on a call or anything.

I’m friends with my neighbors here and in rural Colorado, where I spend winter. Orcas is what one might call ‘progressive’ or ‘liberal’ or whatever. Rural Colorado is politically on the other side of the spectrum. I’m friends with my neighbors in both areas – and by ‘friends’ I mean face-to-face friends. I don’t use social media so I don’t see what they’re posting. And I don’t really care because I understand that the medium facilitates and engenders extreme views and extreme interactions. I don’t want to know their Facebook selves. I want to be friends with their real selves.

Funny thing. Ever noticed how when you meet someone new in real life, you don’t talk politics that much? I’m talking about the USA – the rest of the world is quite different in this respect. Politics here is divisive and when we make new friends in the USA, most of us are calibrated to avoid politics at least for the first few interactions. Not so online. Oh boy. Definitely not so.

What caused me to leave Facebook was a conversation I had with a friend in real life. I don’t remember which friend it was, but it was someone I’d chat to every few months one on one. They said: When we chat, I feel like we don’t have much to talk about because I follow you on Facebook and I know about your various adventures.

Poof! That sucked the air right out of my lungs. Facebook was robbing me of the privilege of sharing my news with my friend – and the other way around. Ugh! It’s such a pleasure to excitedly meet someone at an airport and fall all over your words as you share everything that has happened since you last saw them. I realized Facebook was monetizing stealing my adventures, and my life failures and successes.

There’s also this weird shift in the definition of ‘friend’ and ‘family’ when you’re using Facebook. My friends and family these days are the people I talk to – usually one on one. When I was on Facebook, my ‘friends’ were everyone with who I had a logical connection on the social graph. In other words, people who were added at some point who I had not talked to in years. I hadn’t reached out to them. They hadn’t reached out to me. It’s all good. We drifted apart. But there was still this vestigial Facebook connection that never goes away. Maybe we’d reconnect if that was removed, because we’d have to, to get an update?

But I think the most value I’ve gotten out of leaving Facebook is to no longer have to see these extreme uncalibrated text based human interactions that show the absolute worst side of people or a community. It’s just not part of my reality anymore.

I left Facebook years ago. I have real friends who I treasure and continue to make more. Sometimes we lose touch. Sometimes we reconnect. Sometimes not. We like each other. We are civil. We have amazing conversations. And I’m happy. I think you can be too.

PS: Lest you think I’m a luddite, I do run a 38 person high growth tech business that is 100% remote and uses the best tools in the biz to facilitate mostly text based interactions via Slack, Github, Fogbugz etc. But we regularly connect voice as a group, and one on one, throughout the week. I’d also add that a professional environment is very different to a ‘social’ network, in that the need for professionalism has a profound moderating effect on interactions.

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Categorized as General

N275CM and N678HC in Two Ship Formation

I caught these two birds flying over my house on Orcas Island.

N275CM and N678HC

N275CM and N678HC

N275CM (the following plane) is a Cirrus Vision Jet – a plane that only hit production in 2016 and is a really cute single engine jet that seats 6 and will cruise at 300kts up to 31,000ft. It also includes the CAPS parachute system that Cirrus is famous for in the SR20 and SR22 planes – but this is in a jet, which is pretty cool.

N678HC is a Cessna Grand Caravan which is pretty common around here, AKA the Cessna 208B. No offense Hotel Charlie, but it’s the jet I’m drooling over.

I’m guessing they were doing a photo shoot. It was a gorgeous day out here, at golden hour, with a roughly 6000ft broken cloud base, mostly sunny.

Cirrus has offered the Garmin Emergency Autoland system in these jets, as part of the G3000 avionics system, since 2020. It will determine if a pilot has been incapacitated, notify ATC, and automatically land the plane. Welcome to the future!

Sea Spray

Windy day off Matia island in the San Juans.

Parsing Signals on Remote Work From CEOs

Recent remarks of numerous chief executives suggest the culture of workplace face time remains alive and well. At The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit this month, JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said remote work doesn’t work well “for those who want to hustle.” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has called it “an aberration that we are going to correct as soon as possible.

WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani—whose business relies on office space—sparked an uproar on social media and beyond after he said employees who are “uber-ly engaged” with their companies would want to go to the office at least two-thirds of the time. So did the CEO of Washingtonian Media, which publishes Washingtonian magazine, when she wrote in an opinion piece that business leaders had a strong incentive to change the status of staffers who are rarely in the office from full-time to contractor.

Wall Street Journal – May 23, 2021

Lets face it, most leaders are manipulative. If you’ve ever been part of a group being led by someone, you’ve experienced it. A common example is the reframing of your views that starts with the phrase: “The reality is that…”. And you are surprisingly receptive to that kind of direct manipulation because you realize it’s one way to get it done. So you allow that utterly nonsensical phrase to wash over you as you align yourself with the team and focus on the task at hand.

But fuck that. We’re individuals with our own preferences. Sovereign individuals if you like. A better way to persuade thinkers is to assume they’re at least as intelligent as you are, trim away the cliched propaganda, and tell it like it is: Here’s where we’re headed, this is why, this is how we’re going to get there, this is what you’re contributing and this is your reward and skin in the game. At this point we’ve all read Cialdini, Kahneman, Dawson and friends and we know the game so we shouldn’t have to put up with it.

So why do we? Lets parse Jamie Dimon: Remote work doesn’t work well “for those who want to hustle.”:

  • I’m introducing you to a word “Hustle”
  • This word is framed to sound like personal ambition and to describe someone who is goal oriented
  • Having you think of it that way works for us because…
  • It stimulates a competitive response in you. “Do I have ‘hustle’?”
  • When in fact what we’re seeking is control
  • We get that by putting you in an office environment where we can monitor your availability and behavior and modify both with inducements and enticements
  • We want you to think that to have ‘hustle’ i.e. ambition and goal focus, you should want to work in an office
  • We’re also implying that the opposite is true of those who work remotely
  • If office workers have ‘hustle’ then remote workers must be ‘slackers’ or a similar antonym
  • So by wanting to work remotely, you must not be ambitious, not be goal focused and are probably a slacker
  • And we won’t hire or retain you unless you comply with our requirement that you work in an office and buy into this idea that winners work in an office and losers work remotely.

This is obviously bullshit because knowledge workers who put in a full 8 hour day are extremely productive no matter where they are, as long as the environment works for them personally. But Dimon has done a great job of casting the reality distortion field far and wide with a single phrase.

I find myself both excited and relieved by these utterances because our team is 100% remote and it has been a competitive advantage for us in hiring. Having companies that employ tens of thousands go back to the office lets us retain that competitive advantage. Go Jamie!

Goldman CEO David Solomon just takes it head on by saying that remote work is “an aberration that we are going to correct as soon as possible.” – Solomon is so myopic he doesn’t realize that for most of human history we haven’t clustered in the human infestations we call cities and the labor megaclusters we call offices. It is the office that is a post industrial revolution aberration. For most of human history we have worked as individuals, families or in small groups. The Internet has enabled us to return to our unaberrated state of living where we want, spending our time with who we want and doing what we love on our own terms. Goldman will come around as their recruiters find it hard to compete with rational companies who are focused on outcomes rather than overlords.

Mathrani said employees who are “uber-ly engaged” with their companies would want to go to the office at least two-thirds of the time. He is CEO of WeWork who, surprise, rents office space where they use cringe to try to make an office appear hip.

Source: Twitter

Anyway, at this point you get the idea. Mathrani signaling you’re a loser if you’re a remote worker and fully engaged if you rent their office space with their skate ramp that’ll never feel the pleasure of a skateboard truck grinding that rail, but will instead stare longingly out the window of a high-rise at an urban landscape filled with skate rats that it will never experience. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep at night thinking of that ramp.

Lets dispense with the bullshit, the mind games, the doublespeak and the manipulation. The reality is that 😉 remote is better for productivity, better for the environment, better for mental health, cheaper for companies, and those savings can be passed on to the team, and remote lacks the toxic control and manipulation mechanisms that infest the office environment.

Don’t believe their lies.

Ship at Sunrise

Ship at sunrise around 5:30am in the Strait of Georgia heading towards Canada with the Canadian Cascades in the background.