Facebook Accountwalling — what now?

Well, if you’re already a member of Facebook, this won’t concern you. If you’re not, like I am, you know somebody that isn’t, or you’re just interested in what my workday today was like— read on.

Today, I woke up at 8:20am, ate some toast, washed it down with tea, then look at the internet. Firstly, I look at the BBC and Guardian, my favoured sources of information (along with the Dafty News, which I check after work — who knew, for example, that Jeremy Corbyn’s bike contains Communist links?). Then, I check, perhaps update my Twitter account (@thatcornishlad, in case you want to follow me there). And finally, I check the Facebook feeds of the major (and some of the minor) political parties, to look at their latest soundbites and whatnot. Then I change my clothes, go to work as the resident IT technician, do that for 6 hours (before being replaced by the second IT technician), then end up back here.

Now, you may be wondering how I am writing this at 11:30pm UK Time on a Friday. Well, here’s the thing: Firstly, my work doesn’t start tomorrow until 10am. And secondly, I don’t have a Facebook account: I just scroll through the pages, looking for any soundbites, funny comments, and other stuff. I have no intention to create a Facebook account in the future (but, if it carries on like this, I may do). However, for the past few days, Facebook has been penalising non-members by restricting access to their content. This is the reason why I wake up 20 minutes later nowadays (although I have been mooting checking the Dafty News in the morning, too).

By “restricting access”, I do not mean that you now have to pay for Facebook — that was disproved by them as long as 2 months ago. I now mean that you must join Facebook, not just to get the ultimate Facebook experience, but to get any Facebook experience that doesn’t tell you to log in or sign up to receive updates from users.

You must now join Facebook, not just to get the ultimate Facebook experience, but to get any Facebook experience that doesn’t tell you to log in or sign up to receive updates from users.

This practice is what I call “accountwalling” — paywalling is limiting access to news for those who could subscribe to the newspaper, so accountwalling is limiting access to (in this case) Facebook for those who can sign up to Facebook. Over the last week or two, from being an open-access platform where anybody can read Facebook content (but only members could post), Facebook has become an elite club of Facebook members. Which, regardless of your Facebook membership, you have to admit is a bit worrying.

While you let that sink in, here is the extent of accountwalling now. This happened to me as soon as I scrolled down — yes, even one teeny-tiny scroll down will lead to this. For the purposes of this picture, I scrolled back up again.

Previously, accountwalling used to be progressive — the amount of space the notice took up increased as how much you scrolled down increased, but it still heavily obstructed the text in that way. Now, accountwalling is flat — no matter how much you scroll down, the notice telling you to log in will still occupy the entire space. Until 3 months ago, I did not even have Twitter (and even then, to express my opinion on stuff). Twitter used a bit of space, which still obscured the screen a bit, but it was opaque, conveying a similar message. Twitter is still an open-access platform like Facebook used to be, not an elite club of Tweeters like Facebook is now (well, substitute “Tweeters” for “Facebook members” and you get the idea…).

SO, WHAT NOW FOR ME? If you have a Facebook account — relax, this does not affect you. If you don’t have a Facebook account but you really want the Facebook content, join Facebook if you’re confident. If you don’t have a Facebook account and don’t need it, stay on Twitter or check other places on the internet — unless you change your mind…