So, one of the things about my life for which I’m grateful is that all the awesome people I’ve come to know and love over the years have attracted other awesome people into their lives, whose awesomeness I am then exposed to, to the enrichment of my own life. A dear friend from back in the day who I recently got to spend some time with seems to have married such a person, new media artist Ben Grosser, who’s got quite a few cool projects (I really dig the painting machine), one of which I started using about a week ago. It’s called the Facebook Demetricator, a little detournement hack that removes (almost) all the numbers from your facebook interface.
No more little red numbers for messages and updates. No knowing how long ago something happened (it’s either ‘recently’ or ‘a while ago’). No friend count on your home page, or any indication other than singular or plural how many people like something, or how many comments an update or link has. It’s surprising what a difference it makes. It’s changed my relationship to the service in a seriously positive way.
Thanks to a streak of obsessive compulsion in my psychological makeup, facebook with numbers can be really addictive for me. Given especially how I use facebook as a platform for public engagement and carving out a small niche for myself in the informational ecosystem, having metrics, however meaningless they really are at the end of the day, gives me something to obsess over, and obsess I do unless I expend mental effort not to. Even if I’m here on the blog working, or browsing another site, the tab open to facebook keeps a tally of events for me to go check on, and I find myself drawn back (and away from whatever I was supposed to be doing) with every upward tick. I almost can’t help it. Now, though I still have a tab that says facebook, there’s no number. If I want to slack off for a minute and click on it, I can, but it’s proactive rather than reactive. I am choosing to do it, rather than responding to a stimulus.
Even just that would be liberating enough, but the removal of specificity from everything from timestamps to friend-counts relaxes me. Used to be, every time I’d click over to my homepage, I’d check my friend count, which fluctuated oddly. I wasted time and mental effort tracking it, though the specific number itself is largely meaningless.
In all it’s been really nice, and if I want to backslide, or need numerical information, it’s got an easy little button right there at the top that turns it off and on. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still plenty obsessive about facebook, but the demetricator takes the edge off the more useless and distracting aspects of my obsession. I’m glad I discovered it, and will continue to use it.
If you want to give it a try, you can download it here.