Last Friday, I deactivated my Facebook account. I have been complaining about Facebook for a while now, so it was time for action. I opted for deactivation first before deletion because I wanted to see how a trial breakup would go. As it turns out, Facebook will still keep and mine my data! So hooray. Except the opposite of that.
To be clear, Facebook isn’t evil, but it is a deeply flawed tool, and my use of it was making me more negative, paranoid, passive-aggressive, and a whole host of other things I do not want to be. I feel sad yet certain that I need to add this disclaimer: this post is about me and my opinion of Facebook. Perhaps you will relate to it, and perhaps not. I am not advising that you quit Facebook. Your comments, as always, are encouraged.
Now that that is out of the way, here are some of the reasons why I left …
Status updates, photos, “likes”, and links are not the most valuable parts of someone’s persona. The assumption that they are is a dangerous one; people not immediately engaged with Facebook are forgotten about quickly in this fast-paced, information-dense world. Facebook itself helps with this amnesia by providing a news feed option that only shows updates from people one interacts with the most. These self-perpetuating blinders are clique-enforcing, not community-building. Since I already use better tools for communicating with cliques — like Twitter, Plurk, and Flickr — dealing with Facebook’s news feed and messaging is a consistent waste of my time. I would rather spend that time actually interacting with friends.
Speaking of friends, the concept of friendship as interpreted by Facebook is so removed from its offline counterpart that I often hear people distinguish between “friends” and “Facebook friends” in conversation. I understand that language is mutable, but I take issue with the use of “friend” for “contact” when they are obviously not interchangeable. Has friendship already changed in the wake of blurred terminology? Perhaps I am just shaking my fist at the kids on my metaphorical lawn here, but I believe that the decline of nuanced language impacts nuanced thought.
Related to the friend issue is “de-friending”, or severing Facebook ties with someone else. De-friending is done silently, absolving the de-friender from the awkward friend-breakup. Is this an acceptable type of social lying, or is it connected to the dilution of friendship? I have been both the de-friended and the de-friender, and I can see no long-term benefit to this type of anonymity. De-friending isn’t even its most objectionable incarnation. Far more worrisome are sites like AboutEveryone.com, where people can leave anonymous comments about Facebook users, and BreakupNotifier.com, which alerts a user when the object of one’s affection changes relationship status.
I shouldn’t be all that surprised at the ethical ambiguities around Facebook. After all, it is a product of a company interested in mining and monetizing personal data, and it changes its core functionality because of this, regardless of usability and in open defiance of privacy. (Who could forget last year’s privacy fiasco, or that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that the age of privacy is over?) Perhaps the most insidious part of Facebook is how it preys on the desire to be a part of a larger community, invited to events, up on all the latest music and movies, and visibly connected to people one admires. One of the reasons why I did not want to leave is because I knew I would no longer be listed on FunkyPlaid’s profile as his spouse. It had no bearing on our actual relationship, but it felt like it did. That is how much the mentality of belonging permeated my life.
It has been almost a week. My Twitter usage has increased as I find myself replying to people in lieu of “liking” their Facebook status updates. I have a hell of a lot more free time, which is time I should have been spending on homework and writing anyway. And I am hyper-aware that now I only see part of the conversation, but I tell myself that when my friends want to connect with me, they know where to find me.