I’m Thinking of Quitting Facebook

A simple statement to make; and I certainly would have believed once upon a time; a simple thing to do.

But once I think about it, it does not seem so simple a thing to carry out.


Let me start by stating that this is not a response to all my previous criticisms of Facebook – surrounding privacy and such forth – whilst those may underly some of my thought patterns on the matter, my reasoning is more fundamental.

The internet is a great tool. I could maybe even argue it is the greatest. Like many of you; I embraced it in my teens, as this exciting cyber world grew up around me. Through university it is fair to say the majority of my friends were online – and in fact most of my ‘local’ friends also socialised with me more online.

But that was because the internet was fresh and exciting; free from the structure of the real world around us – my creative side exploded with websites galore and IRC chat bots. I could battle space aliens with my fellow Master Chiefs one evening, and play an acronym game with friends based all over the UK the next. Conversation was uninhibited and diverse; forums offered a pseudo-anonymous arena to offer and challenge opinion on just about anything. And MSN was a way to chat with friends with a newfound ease – after all, they had already typed “rofl” after your silly/offensive jokes in the chat room, so you knew you could talk about just about anything with them and it wouldn’t phase things.

In short; I made friends over the internet and it turned out okay. Pretty damn well in fact.

And along came Facebook. A brilliant idea if only I had the foresight and technical knowledge to come up with it: A platform that ties all your disparate friends together in one place that you can keep abreast of their lives in as much or as little detail as you wish. Sure there are the occasional targeted advert, often reminding you how single you are; but that’s what Adblock is for, right?

The important thing is you can use this tool to keep in touch with almost all of your friends (as long as they have it too) – all it takes is a few clicks of a button; heck you can even integrate it into your mobile phone. It’s even fairly socially acceptable to be browsing Facebook on your lunchbreak at work (unless it’s still being filtered out by your employer of course).

And of course, it engenders a feeling of belonging – of a constant community. You feel plugged into what all of your friends are up to. Someone’s got a job interview? Post ‘good luck’ on their Wall, and they will happily give you a ‘Like’ in return. It’s their birthday? Post a lolcat on their profile with a humorous message.

You feel connected to people who may or may not live nearby. Without the internet – without Facebook – you couldn’t possibly sustain this number of connections and relations.


It’s Not You; It’s Me.

Now don’t get me wrong here – I have fully embraced the perks and social easing that Facebook has brought. After an initial resistance, I dove right into creating my profile; tagging my friends; and controlling my social agenda through Events and Messages.

During my time in hospital abroad, and recovery back in the UK, Facebook was a invaluable thing to read and review, as almost every other contact with my friends was restricted by distance and – at the time – physical mobility.

So why thing of leaving Facebook behind?

Well, although there have been occasional patches of doubt over the past 5 years that i’ve been on Facebook (5 whole years!), doubt about committing much of my life to data files housed in the bowels of Menlo Park. I’ve taken reasonable steps to restrict the amount of personal info on there, and become comfortable with the almost annual attempt to change the site “for the better” without my involvement – and, incidentally, rightfully so, seeing as I haven’t put anything monetary into the site, save consumer information hard to capitalise on.

I have come to terms with what Facebook is, how I can best use it, and whether to continue using it or not.


Ultimately I am unsure about my dependency on Facebook. It is unsettling that I have to have such a large internal debate about simply logging off a website for one last time. My use of the word ‘quitting’ in the blog title implies the drug-related difficulties of moving away from this online addiction.

Now I don’t imagine for one moment I am as addicted as others stereotypically are to Facebook – I do not integrate it with my phone for one thing – and whilst I have been on it a lot lately to reduce wheelchair-based boredom, I would normally only check the site once or twice a day.

And the laziest part of me wants to stay on Facebook.

For reasons already mentioned; I can stay in touch with a plethora of people I have had real life experience with, and reminisce over photos over events past.

Even though I don’t see my family and friends as often as I might have done before the internet, I open up much more and feel more connected than I have ever been.

So why this underlying unease?

Why is my need for Facebook involvement a bad thing?

Well, I think, it is precisely because of this “need” that I am concerned.

Do I want to be conducting my life over the internet in 10 years time? Or 20, 30, 40 years time?

Is there a danger that Facebook will become the go-to integrated tool that everyone uses to socialise in the future? [You may laugh but what is your current primary source of information about your friends…?]

I’m not suggesting I abandon the internet in its entirety - it would be Luddite suicide to do such a thing – it really is a magnificent tool for humanity.

But – in social terms – is it really the way forward?


One Step Beyond

I should step aside and remind myself, and any of you left reading, that this is just about Facebook.

I totally understand the benefits of communicating over the web – most obviously when physical distances are involved.

I should also say that I think some of you have Facebook managed much better than I: You aren’t on it as often, and don’t necessarily use it as much as I do to keep in touch. Which is why this is about me – it’s not about you:

For me, personally; Facebook imbues a social laziness. I ‘Like’ someone’s ‘happy moment’ status on Facebook – therefore I electronically shake their hand for the day/week. If I’ve read a ‘Liked’ article on a person’s wall, plus the 16 comments attached, it feels like I’ve had a meaningful discussion with that person, even if I haven’t posted a comment myself.

By posting a witty comment, which is then ‘Liked’, I feel like I’ve contributed to that friend’s happiness, so needn’t bother again until next time I see their name pop up in my Newsfeed, or when the moment takes me.


Facebook Demands Attention and Wants to be Fed

Irrespective of their ultimate financial goal of making money from our details {as a sidenote, please note all the hoohah in the news recently about the value of Facebook stocks…} – the site craves interaction.

Just the other day I saw an article that claimed people who don’t have a Facebook account are deemed socially suspicious: Aside from the sneaky pro-Facebook marketing bent to the article {“you’re WEIRD if you don’t use THIS”}, there was a simmering truth to that:

These days it is the older generation who don’t ‘get’ Facebook/the Internet; they are sneered at for not having profile – but as their generation didn’t grow up with the internet, its a standard prejudice to have.

But what of future years if Facebook evolves into an almost-mandatory ‘hub’ of the internet (if it hasn’t already)?

By not having Facebook anymore, I will feel alienated. Not just from the ‘rest of my class’, or the other geographical alienations that the internet was originally a refuse from; but from a community of over a billion people all over the world…!


The Fear

If I leave Facebook, I doubt anyone will follow.

I am almost guaranteed to miss out on various social events; news, and interacting with my online acquaintances, who don’t really figure in my real life.

Which will suck, I know that for sure.

I fear even the best willed of you will accidentally exclude me from some event.

I fear I will become more lonely – missing out on the daily trivial, but fun, interactions.

I fear that people I am in touch with on Facebook, because of the technological ease it affords us; will no longer be in touch.

But I also fear that I am too engaged with a pseudo-reality existence online which isn’t a true reflection of me living in real life.

I think this all boils down to one fundamental question:

Can I exist without the use of Facebook?

To my logical self, both answers are thus:

A: No. In which case, there are some serious questions to be done about humanity’s future.

A: Yes. In which case, why do I need Facebook?

Ultimately, I don’t want to live a part of my life in some memory banks of Zuckerberg HQ.

I don’t want to live in a world where anecdotes begin “Do you remember that time on Facebook when….?”

But what am I risking by leaving it all behind?


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