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Facebook Fatigue

Earlier this year I decided to close my Facebook account. I had been on the site a total of nine years which is an eternity for online services.  Joining the site in its infancy was interesting. There wasn’t a news feed. There wasn’t a mobile app. It wasn’t even called Facebook, it was The Facebook. A person had only their profile and a way to easily find people who were in the same college courses. A lot has changed since inception, a news feed was added that initially had everyone up in arms calling the feature “stalker book” but eventually people fell in line and since then, every update has been a calculated move towards openness on the site. Facebook has matured into a large platform that has added value, but has also made me very concerned with the future of the web.

I could write in great detail the many reasons why I left the site, but it really just boils down to a few key points: privacy, social obligations, and happiness.

Let me first discuss privacy. I’m a reserved person by nature. Perhaps one wouldn’t think it because I have a website dedicated to myself but let me explain. In my eyes, Facebook’s usefulness is cut in half simply by the fact that I don’t like to share too much about my daily ongoings. The latest gadget I bought or the smoothie I drank isn’t pertinent news. Consider it modesty or perhaps indifference but I don’t get a kick out of collecting “likes” for the updates I make. If I do want my friends and family to know what I’m up to, I’d prefer to use existing channels like email or something I have more control over, like this website.

There is also the looming issue that there is big value in “big data.” There is a reason FB is valued at $194 billion and it isn’t because they are selling physical items. The platform has done a wonderful job of translating likes, interests, and other factors into effective data metrics that can be utilized for marketing and other purposes. I’m not saying that FB is being nefarious with the information they are willfully being given but I do want to raise awareness that information is power; and with the recent uncovering on government agencies abusing privacy rights, it should give people pause.

Another reason for my departure is simply the social obligation. I found that all communication was being done through the site. All parties and events were orchestrated through FB. When I did attend, much of the surprise of catching up with people would be tarnished because I already knew about a friend’s promotion or engagement from the site rather than from them directly. And while I’m happy for them regardless, I would prefer to share my joy with them for the first time in person, rather than from behind the keyboard. Additionally, I found it oddly amusing that even while in the company of friends, so many of us would be distracted by our tiny screens, all pictures taken immediately headed for digital albums.

Lastly, I was simply an observer in many peoples lives but it became white noise, something routine in my day but never something that made me happy. It became a chore to seek out important pieces of my friends lives from the rest of the posts and the feed controls never helped much. I just wasn’t getting as much out of it as I was putting into it.

Once I closed my account I felt relieved. The urge to check in on my acquaintances was gone. And while I stand here on my internet soapbox and proclaim that am glad I did it and wish I had done it sooner, I definitely have missed out on social opportunities and information that would have been easily available to me had I remained connected. A casualty of unplugging. The additional effort to keep in touch is something I’m willing to do in exchange for my privacy. Something I hope others will consider if they feel the same way.