Just before Christmas I called time on Facebook, something I ‘d thought about doing for months because I rarely used my private profile and my reasons for having it in the first place (family members off travelling far flung lands) just weren’t there anymore. Deactivating your account is not the same thing as closing it entirely. As soon as I log back in again my account – somewhat miraculously – will reappear, as if I had never been away. Similarly sinister is the last thing you see before you deactivate: a collection of photographs from ‘friends’ who Facebook claim ‘will miss you!’ while demanding to know why exactly you’re leaving. Doesn’t that just smack of Hotel California? You can check out any time you like but you can never leave….
As Facebook has become so enmeshed with the fabric of our lives people’s reactions when you suddenly disappear from digital view are interesting. There’s a presumption that you are in the middle of a major life crisis, for example or that your emotional/mental well being is compromised. While none of these were the case, thankfully, such reactions made me see that for many people when life really does get tough the last place they want to share their woes is on their Wall . To me, that seems like a natural response. There’s only so much comfort comments can provide and scant privacy. There is also no digital equivalent for a hug.
Facebook’s pros are numerous and I wouldn’t attempt to deny them but there is also no denying that it can be a dubious vortex that sucks you in and spits you out a few hours later stressed, discombobulated, with nothing scratched off your to-do list. There’s the friend requests you don’t want to respond to, the photos that make you gag, the asinine status updates… when you don’t have an account, all that nonsense just vanishes. You are free.
Are you ‘out of the loop’ when you deactivate? Yes, a little bit. Instead of emailing or texting, lots of people use the event function to send out invites, something I always overlooked, suddenly panicking when I noticed that the party was yesterday. My rationale now is that my closest friends know I’m no longer on Facebook so they’ll throw me a text or call. I haven’t missed a party yet and anyway, I like old fashioned ways of keeping in touch, like email (har har) or that Gmail chat all the kids are raving about.
Facebook’s new Timelime and the gold rush frenzy around the IPO are more than likely going to give people pause for thought regarding their relationship with the biggest social networking site on the planet. Part of the reason I said ‘goodnight, Facebook’ was my dissatisfaction with the precious nuts and bolts of my life – or anyone else’s – being uploaded freely into a corporate realm that stands to make billions on the back of that content. I wasn’t thrilled with the privacy policies and the repeated format changes just annoyed me. Being annoyed by something as unimportant as a website built on voyeurism, showing off and gossip is not something I wanted to do anymore, especially because I don’t think anyone lying on their death bed wishes they spent more time playing Farmville.
Facebook should only ever be a compliment to life, not a replacement for it. When the fun stops, it is time to get out. You can get more information on how to do that here. And before you ask, yes I am on Twitter but that dear reader is a story for another day…