3 months ago I announced this on Twitter:
I've deactivated my #Facebook account… Looking forward to spending my idle time elsewhere!
— Sanjay Sinha (@sanjerelli) February 11, 2014
This wasn’t a spontaneous decision, I’d been deliberating for some time and after a severe bout of ‘Facebook fatigue‘ I decided to call time on the #1 social network.
I should be clear at this stage and just add that I haven’t decided whether this is a completely permanent move yet. I’ve ‘deactivated’, not ‘deleted’ so have left the door open. Reasons for that will hopefully become clear over the course of this article but for the time being life without Facebook is pretty good and here’s why.
When I joined Facebook in 2007 its main attraction, other than the fact everybody was on it, was that it was supposedly a much more user centred and accessible social network compared to its peers at the time such as Myspace and Friends Reunited, the Google equivalent for a social media platform, driven by user needs rather than commercial gain (oh how things change).
It was an exciting time – initially I thought only a handful of my friends were on the platform but then David who went to my primary school requested my friendship, as did Hannah who I once knew when I was 16, and so did Gurdeep who I kinda knew once, possibly… So it continued, but it was exciting and fun poking and posting and finding long forgotten friends.
The novelty lasted quite a while particularly as during that period Facebook genuinely sought to add features to improve the platform from the user’s perspective and, as more of my close friends became members, it became a great distraction from work and an increasingly useful way to organise social events and generally stay in touch.
Cut to the present day and I’m afraid the novelty really has worn off.
Where do I start with this. Login to Facebook right now and spend 5 minutes looking at your news feed and you’ll see why it’s time to take a break from the social media megasite.
My news feed would quite often look like this: Baby photo, photo of someone I don’t know, picture of a friend’s child with measles(?), questionable political observation from person A, bad photo from person B, Buzzfeed article share, UpWorthy article share, amusing post from person C (rare), baby photo, another post from person A in response to a comment on their post with an even more questionable political viewpoint…
I appreciate I’m not painting a very balanced picture here but am just trying to highlight my major gripe – the content I was receiving wasn’t content I wanted to see and as a result I became very disillusioned with the whole experience.
There is a 90/10 rule that could be extrapolated: 90% of the content in your newsfeed will be contributed by 10% of your friends. Of those 10% 9% will post utter rubbish and only 1% will actually contribute something you’re interested in (adapted from Why I left Facebook). This is clearly a vague hypothesis but there was certainly more then a hint of truth to it as far as my news feed was concerned and perhaps yours also.
Yes there are features and settings that can help filter your feed – you can choose to ‘follow’ or ‘unfollow’ those you have befriended but maybe for similar reasons to me, those I wanted to follow simply weren’t posting anything.
Aside from a news feed that had become irrelevant there were also some deeper social and psychological issues which were emerging and beginning to effect all of us engaging with social media:
Facebook makes you a worse friend
There’s no need to ring someone or meet up with them anymore you can just ‘Like’ their posts. Interaction complete, effort noted, job done.
Facebook turns you into a voyeur.
Why am I looking at someone’s holiday photos who I haven’t seen in 20 years or in fact haven’t met at all? 10 minutes later I’m still there, fascination bordering on the unhealthy draining valuable time from my day.
Facebook promotes narcissism.
It’s turned us all into self-promoting and vain beings. We worry if people don’t ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ our posts, social media anxiety sets in when what we contribute does not meet with approval from our network. As a result we have become experts (or not) at managing these online personas and have effectively become mini PR gurus.
Facebook makes you feel boring.
You experience FOMO (fear of missing out) like you’ve never had it before even if the people who are posting their experiences might not actually be having the ‘best time.’ Yes, they might just be exaggerating the experience to make themselves look good and you feel bad. It gives us pleasure to do this it seems.
Facebook gives you a distorted sense of reality.
Time that you may have spent looking at mainstream news sites which admittedly have their own flaws might well be spent reading posts about chiuauas saving hamsters and watching videos of cats doing hand stands. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
There are other well documented issues with Facebook as well mainly around privacy and the evolving, scary nature of their advertising strategy but there are plenty of other posts you can look at to read about those. I’m just trying to offer a personal perspective which might strike a chord with you.
It wouldn’t be fair to continue without including some of the positive experiences I’ve had with Facebook and why part of me does miss it.
Facebook gave me a bit part into the lives of dozens more people then I ever would’ve have managed through more conventional communication channels. I was able to use technology to scale the amount of ‘friendships’ I could manage and thus, to a degree, was able to participate in some of the key moments that were shared through the platform.
Births and birthdays, engagements and marriages, career milestones and sadly sometimes bad news and deaths as well – being able to send a message or a ‘like’ was a small gesture but giving and receiving them meant a lot to me and my friendship group I’m sure.
There has also been instances where the power of Facebook has been utilised to great and good effect by my friends.
Most recently a friend’s sister was run over by a motorcyclist in Bangkok and, with a relatively rare blood type, the hospital was struggling to find enough blood for her after the emergency surgery.
My friend posted a message on Facebook and within 24 hours there were 30 donors with the right blood type available in Bangkok. I was able to contact a friend through Facebook based in Thailand who I hadn’t seen in 15 years and who was also able to contribute.
How would that have happened 20 or even 10 years ago?
On a different scale the recent ‘No makeup selfie‘ campaign for cancer awareness has also been a positive Facebook phenomenon raising vast amounts of money in a very short space of time for charity.
When human power is harnessed in this way and put to positive and effective use then it’s genuinely inspiring. So much can be done when we put our minds together and Facebook, at times, has certainly helped facilitate that.
Honestly, I do miss Facebook just a little bit.
It was an effective way to stay in touch and also filled the idle time during work lunchtimes, waiting for a bus, on the loo…
Most of all though I miss some of the people who were a part of my life on Facebook but who I saw very little of in real life. I now have absolutely no contact with them and I suppose in that respect both parties are slightly poorer for it.
The major plus though and one of the reasons I’m going to stay off the social network for now is that I feel this will force me to be a better friend.
A big (and slightly cheesy) statement I know but the people I do want to see I will now seek out and text, email, phone and actually meet face-to-face rather than just experiencing their presence on a social network, interacting with them through Facebook’s very public forum.
So, if by leaving Facebook I succeed in becoming a better friend then ultimately that must be a very good thing.