Facebook Refugee

posted by on 2010.08.27, under Shameless Plug, Technology

In August, I deactivated my facebook account, and temporarily cut myself off from almost 1400 people, becoming a facebook refugee.  I chose ” I do not understand how to use facebook” as my reason for deactivating from the choices shown above and did not explain further.  One month later, here is the explanation.

I had become fed up with the dependence on the website to keep in touch with people.  I had traveled across the country the week before, reconnected with several old friends who I haven’t seen in years, and developed a theory that facebook had cheapened conversations with my normal correspondences.  In addition, while watching the previews for INCEPTION, in Omaha, I was disturbed to see that there is a movie coming out about this thing very soon.

I think that social networking might be getting out of hand, and wanted to see what life was like without it, at least for a month, and thus deactivated my account.  The short term absence from it gave me some ideas for new academic research that I might collaborate with my mentor at U of L.   The alienation from the community is definitely impactful, especially to someone who has moved to a new place with limited contacts in the area.  I realized in my first month, facebook-less in the city of Louisville, that the people I started meeting were forming an impression of me because I wasn’t eligible to be their online friend.  Mostly, these impressions were not favorable.  And it’s this behavior that is fascinating to me.  Too often journalists warn about negative impressions employers, co-workers, friends and lovers form of us based on what we do on the book, but I have yet to see anything talking about the consequences that the offline community faces.  I estimate that less than 2% of my friends are not on facebook.  They’ve missed out on seeing thousands of pictures, getting early notices on earthquakes, invitations to exclusive parties, status updates about their friends dog, and other information that fascinates us in our online lives.

In the process of deactivating my account, I backed up my pictures, obtained email address from 25% of my friends who responded to my going away status message, and did some research on other facebook refugees.  What i found was quite interesting….

Apparently, 1 million people a year try to delete their facebook accounts, but stop when they get to the page shown in the screenshot picture in the beginning of this post.  I found that page to be quite manipulative, showing pictures of me with close friends, and telling me that we will not be able to keep in touch.  Some nerve!  The people shown in this picture include some of my best friends from California, former bandmates, family members, and a business partner.  I tested this out a few times, and somehow they managed to keep the same formula, but replaced the people with my mother, brother, former boss, and best friend from kindergarten.  The notion that I would no longer be able to keep in touch with them is outrageous, and an indication of how this website has outgrown itself.  Mark Z once made a statement about how facebook can do more social good than non profits and individual people

There was a time when if you typed the word “Delete” into Google, the automated text following would be “facebook account.”  To counter this, facebook made it very difficult to deactivate, or even delete.  Accounts are not actually deleted for 14 days, and deactivating an account is just temporary.  Deactivated users still get emails about events and activity on facebook, and in my experience, more of it.  It is nearly impossible to export your contacts (they claim there is a way to do it through Yahoo, but it did not work for me.)  Backing up my pictures took an hour or 2, because I had to save each one individually because none of the applications actually worked.  Deactivating my account also removed pictures I tagged of other people, leading to an angry phone call from my little brother who lost his profile picture of surfing a wave in the pacific.
I maintained contact with many friends during my time off, but I did notice several people missing from my life.  I missed having people share silly youtube links, new music, pictures from a houseboating trip, or others things that I admit enjoying on the facebook.  Although these things were trivial in nature, it was a gloomy stage that I will not forget from my mid twenties.   Is society allowing facebook to have a monopoly over our friendships?

Here are experiences of others turning their backs on facebook….

Web industry leaders making high profiled exits from facebook in May…..(people from Google, Engadget and Gizmodo, and other well known podcasters/bloggers)

ABC Report of deactivating

Video on facebook possible valuation of $35 billion if they go public

Yesterday, I logged back in to my account, after realizing that my family was offended that I had done this.  My grandmother’s brother had reached out to me through facebook from a remote village in the jungles of India the day I had deactivated, and I had snubbed him by not accepting.  The moment I accepted his friendship, he posted a very kind message on my wall saying: “

“Hi Jason, I hope u r keeping, where r u ? and what are you doing ?, keep me in ur prayers as I often rememember u. God bless u always love Richie [ponkey]”

Suddenly I was bombarded with chats from people in Bombay, Hyderabad, Australia, Europe, California, New York, and even Canada.  I got sucked back into the newsfeed, and realized that it was not the time for facebook and me to part.  However, I have a new perspective on this thing, and suspect that someday I will have a better opportunity to move away from this culture without being alienated from the people I care about.  When that day comes, I hope you will be with us.


Louisville State of Mind

posted by on 2010.08.23, under Academia, Shameless Plug

Last month I bid farewell to the home I created in Los Angeles, packed up the Camaro, and drove cross country with my father and brother on an epic road trip.  We left comfort out of the equation, yet had 4 solid days of bonding time while driving through deserts, mountains, and cornfields.  I spent a weekend in Chicago and a week in Kalamazoo before arriving to Louisville, and had an opportunity to spend a weekend on a houseboat on Lake Cumberland Kentucky with my Kalamazoo buddies and watch Federer and Roddick play in Cincinnati before getting settled into my new home in the South.

Over the next four years I will be enrolled in a PhD program at U of L, specialized in Entrepreneurship.  The program is designed to turn us into ‘social scientists’ that publish in top academic journals while teaching college level Entrepreneurship and Business Strategy classes.  My initial research interests are in Social Entrepreneurship, however I am keeping an open mind, and will likely be influenced by mentors and the seminars throughout the program.  The next time you see me, I will probably need to wear reading glasses, as my vision is fading with each empirical study I read.

Academic life has surrounded me since I was born. My father is a Professor of Finance and I developed close mentor/mentee relationships with professors at LMU.  I have a new perspective on the profession, especially regarding research in Entrepreneurship.  There are some interesting questions being asked by these folks.  The scientific research applied to build economic theory is starting to fascinate me, which is a bit shocking if you knew me over the past 8 years.    I have a long way to go out here, but I am confident that I am surrounded by the right people and resources to build this career… I just need to work hard at it. 

I am still getting used to life in Louisville, but have found a strong community in Butchertown where I am considering moving to next year.  Louisville is packed with interesting history, and I am just scratching the surface of it.  There is an odd obsession with the movie THE BIG LEBOWSKI, which I noticed in recommendations on my Netflix account when I moved here (It was the most popular movie rented in the city)  There is an annual festival to pay tribute to the movie in addition to numerous posters and books for sale throughout the town.

Also, I recently learned that the most popular song in the world GOOD MORNING TO ALL was written by Kindergarten teachers in Louisville.  It later became known as the HAPPY BIRTHDAY song. So it’s not just fried chicken, baseball bats, horses…there is more…much more.  The Kentucky Derby Museum is phenomenal, with a 360 degree movie theatre unlike anything I have ever seen before.  IDEA FESTIVAL is coming up in a month, and will feature 5 days of talks given my global scholars and leaders to encourage innovation and creativity to an audience of hundreds of thousands of people. 

There is vibrant entrepreneurial community that is closely tied into the university, and just like California, people ride bikes everywhere and love their dogs.  There is a style to the city that blends a small town charm with a progressive mindset of a big city.  Yet, as a custom frame store owner from New York described to me, invisible boundaries still exist here, and there are clear differences between geographical regions of the city that can be startling on first impressions.  Near my apartment, boarded up buildings resemble Detroit, and kids on campus have already reported being robbed at gunpoint 1 week into the semester.  Still,  the art culture and local music seems to be thriving, with an art gallery open 24 hours a day.  There is so more for me to see, and it will be interesting finding a balance between work and play out here.

I have an idea for a new business venture that is inspired by recent research into the field of social entrepreneurship.  I hope to launch the venture within 2 years after I raise enough capital and make the necessary strategic alliances – It is a fun idea incorporating my passion for the guitar, education, and building a community to help lower the enormous high school drop out rate in Kentucky. 

I am the new guy in town though, so it will take time to create synergies, I am still trying to learn the local language and suspect that the difficulty of my coursework will be slightly more challenging than the MBA program I just finished.  Our cohort is comprised of 5 other folks, all highly educated with global experience in venture capital, hedge fund management, and corporate marketing.  I am likely the least serious out of the group, and need to be disciplined in time management to succeed out here, the program has failed 2 students in the past 4 years. 

Recently I submitted an abstract for our research in Europe this summer to a conference hosted by NYU on Social Entrepreneurship.  If it is accepted, I will have an opportunity to present our findings in New York to the academic community this November.  I won’t start teaching classes until my third year in the program, but will be working as a research assistant to an active researcher in the business school that may give me an opportunity to get published before starting on a dissertation.  Calculus and Statistics are vital to a few of the Seminars I have this semester, so I am switching gears from what I was used to before, which is taking a toll on my social life.  However, I am very optimistic about what lies ahead, the people I am going to be working with, and becoming part of the Louisville community. 

It’s not quite a concrete jungle, but dreams have been made here…. just look at Tom Cruise, Muhammad Ali, Colonel Sanders, Diane Sawyer, Papa John Schnatter, Hunter S. Thompson, Phil Simms and Thomas Edison – He left Louisville after getting fired from spilling sulfuric acid on the office floor, only to have his invention of the light bulb demonstrated in Louisville 16 years later.