Why I Quit Facebook

Nowadays it’s hard for the majority of people under the age of about 30 to even consider their lives without Facebook. It’s wonderful world of social networking has kept you in touch with old friends you thought you’d never see again, before reminding you why you never thought you’d see them again. It lets you share what you’re thinking, at any time, and in any place, with a whole bunch of people who are apparently interested. It lets you do so many things – and for so little apparent cost.

In early March this year I deleted my Facebook profile. I wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to work out, nor was I sure that it was the right idea given the amounts of personal history I’d amassed on that site via photos and writing. It’s all tied to significant parts in your life. The longer you’re on there, the more personal info you amass and the more you feel attached to your ‘profile’ – subsequently when it comes time to terminate it these are the things you realise. Not only that, but when you attempt to delete your Facebook profile it asks you a variety of things – like are you SURE you want to delete it, and if you’d like to back up all the info you’ve saved on there over the years. The purpose of the latter is to make you realise how much you have on there, how long it would take to back it all up and to generally stir up the warm feeling that comes with thoughts of friends and the last few years. It is designed to stir these feelings up in you so that you don’t delete your profile. Anyway I digress, there are, for some people, valid reasons to keep a Facebook profile.

The reason I’m writing today is to explain to you why I quit.There are a multitude of reasons that I quit. Some are personal, some impersonal, but I consider all of them valid.

Distraction – Anyone who seriously doesn’t think Facebook is a distraction is a dolt who is in denial. Next time you catch a train to work in the morning, next time you wait for a bus, next time you see someone with a smart phone with 5 minutes idle time on their hands anywhere, go and see what they’re looking at. In 90% (at least) of instances I can guarantee you they’ll have their phone in front of them, checking out Facebook. From the ages of adolescence to early-to-mid-30’s, and in many cases over, this is the new addiction. Your addiction to Facebook is as routine as my addiction to smoking, but at least I still talk to people when I’m having a smoke.

The same goes for people at work. In my job I don’t get the luxury of sitting at a computer and the convenience of being able to check my Facebook randomly. Many people in office/desk jobs do, however. Perhaps it’s less so with the prevalence of smart phones, but either way. These people are often on considerable amounts of money and for what? Doing some reception work and spending the rest of your day on Facebook? While I’m calling it a distraction, the pervasiveness of Facebook use in the work place is perhaps harming productivity and efficiency as well.

You might find this poppycock – and I know what you mean. I’m also a university student and, while not overtly, part of me considered FB a distraction to my studies. While not the sole reason I deleted it, I can tell you that since I deleted my profile my uni marks have improved considerably. They weren’t bad to begin with, but they’re better now, after one semester. Results have been immediate. I’m not attributing it solely to the removal of my FB profile, but for me to say it had nothing to do with it would also be horribly naive. Facebook distracts you from what you’re supposed to be doing and absorbs you in a world of bullshit.

Friendship – What FB has done to the word ‘friend’ in the last few years is truly incredible. A friend is no longer someone you see often, hold a good personal relationship with and care about – a ‘friend’ is someone you might have met once before, hold little personal relationship with other than occasionally ‘liking’ each others’ status updates and truly DO NOT care about. I know people, primarily women, with people on their friends list they merely have there because it makes them feel better about themselves. They have no desire to communicate with the person, but still love the idea of being able to watch how comparatively ‘miserable’ someone else is. Particularly if it’s someone they didn’t like from school. But why would you be ‘friends’ with someone from school you didn’t even like? It’s because of Facebook. 

I deleted my profile about 3 weeks before my birthday. I’m not insisting that people remember but what also needs to be considered is that my birth date is pretty easy to remember (April 1). The last few years I’ve received in excess of 100 birthday msgs on FB every year from a wide range of people – the ones I care about to the ones I barely even remember. This year I received about ten messages on my phone. I’m not bemoaning this at all because the fact these people were able to remember without the aid of a website takes me back to decades past. It’s interesting to note that two of the guys I considered my best friends both forgot. I don’t blame them. I blame FB for making everyone too lazy and complacent to even remember things about people when you can just look them up online. That’s what FB is doing, not just to friendship but to personal relationships in general. The phone is becoming obsolete as preferred communication at the hands of FB.

Predictability/Repetitiveness – As mentioned before, FB becomes an addictive routine. Quite often people will wake up in the morning and, before even getting out of bed, check their phone for FB updates and to check out what the word is. Is this from general interest, or because of the development of addiction? It’s probably both. After a couple of weeks though, it all becomes incredibly formulaic. You know that out of the 500-odd people you have on your list there’s someone to tick every box.

There are people that have to post a million photos of their children every day, despite the looseness of the laws surrounding redistribution of your photos. There are those people that think everything is a conspiracy theory and that everyone who disagrees with them is uninformed. There are people that post ridiculous meme’s and shitty ‘funny’ photos every week. Out of every single persons friend list there are probably a maximum of 20 GENUINELY interesting people. These people might still annoy you from time to time but at least it’s for different reasons. That’s not to say that all the people from the aforementioned categories are screwed but the majority of them are.

One of the things that started to irk me towards the end of my tenure on FB was the ‘photo a day challenge’. A novel idea in some ways, I don’t begrudge anyone their right to participate. When you have 12-15 people you’re friends with participating, it gets fucking inane. Do they coordinate beforehand? Because they all post at the same time every day and anything potentially interesting in your news feed is lost behind multiple photos of the fucking sky. You might just say ‘so block these people’ but some of them I care about and would like to still converse with.  But here’s something. Stop calling it a ‘photo a day for a month’ when you roll straight over to the next month anyway! Call it ‘an indefinite period of time where I upload a photo of something pointless EVERY FUCKING DAY’

The other, and perhaps most predictable of all the aspects of FB is the art of ‘conversation’. You might have different histories with people, an array of great memories but you can be almost guaranteed that any conversation you hold with ANYONE on Facebook that you haven’t seen in the last 5 or so years will be rather formulaic

You:       Hey man
Them:     Hey man, long time
You:       Too true man, how’s it going? What’s new?

Now, the reason you ask people what’s happening is not because you’re genuinely interested. There might be a very rare instance where that might be the case but they’re few and far between. You’re asking either out of politeness or because you’re secretly hoping that you’re doing better in life than the other person. It’s petty, petty shit. At the end of the conversation you each say you should catch up for real ‘sometime soon’ before you part ways, never to talk again, except for maybe THE EXACT SAME CONVERSATION a year down the track.

Invasion of Privacy – This works on multiple levels. First of all, and in a much more official sense, FB ends up owning the rights of much of what you put up on there. They have the right to use your photos (although they say they won’t) and they have the right to extrapolate data from your personal information and target you with specific advertisements to provide more appeal. I’ll never forget reading the story of an American family photo showing up in a store window in Prague merely because the store owner ‘found it on the internet’. Bottom line is, the more you put up on Facebook, the more data they can collect off you. The longer you’re on FB in terms of years, the easier it is for them to work out certain trends and fluctuations related to both markets and individuals that you probably don’t even notice yourself! 

The other point of interest here is the continual changing and evolution of privacy settings which ultimately result in the fact that, while you think you may have kept something private, chances are FB came along without your knowledge and changed the setting. The most annoying and intrusive aspect I found towards the end of my tenure was that, if I had 2 ‘mutual friends’ who were having a conversation with each other on a post, I was exposed to that entire conversation, even if I wanted nothing to do with it.

Another annoying aspect of privacy invasion is that you have no control or knowledge of who is looking at what on your wall at any given time. People go through your photos and your timeline to work out things about you. It can be used to generate distrust and it can be used to facilitate overbearing insecure people who can leap at anything you say or someone says to you, all the while knowing that the context of typed word on a place like FB should matter little. I should probably change the title of this section from ‘invasion of privacy’ to ‘complete and utter lack of privacy’ – from FB themselves, from their corporate sponsors and the advertising companies that pay them, to the fellow users who are rifling through your info for one reason or another as we speak.

How do I conclude? Facebook has some truly wonderful features, it does. My father uses it to connect with family overseas in Holland for the cost of, well, nothing. Bands can use it as a great means of promotion, reaching a wide audience. Companies can develop marketing strategies and deal more directly with the consumer. If anything the potential commercial uses of FB are the best. What it has done to the individual though is made them lazy. We put up a post because we don’t want to have to tell the same story 15 different times to as many different people anymore. We send out a message on FB because we can’t even be bothered picking up the phone anymore. The worst thing about it is that it’s happening to you almost unknowingly. It is an ADDICTION – I don’t care what you say. It doesn’t affect everyone to the same degree, of course. Like any other ‘addictive substance’ some people can handle it, but the majority can’t – and with everyone addicted to the same thing you can’t expect any intervention. 

What saddens me the most is what FB has done to the notion of friendship. Some people would call it a ‘redefinition’. People aren’t as close as they used to be, people rarely need to engage in the art of conversation anymore because they know what you’ve done all week because you’ve been posting it. Conversations on Facebook are stale and repetitive, the posts many people make are stale and repetitive. It’s merely a distraction from the other things we all used to do with our time. This is the bit where I sound like an old man but I’m only 27! I fear to even contemplate what the notion of friendship is going to be like for those who are currently just making their way into Facebook.

Know this – Facebook doesn’t want you to leave. With its multiple confirmations, the difficulty of actually finding the page to ‘delete’ INSTEAD OF ‘deactivate’ your account and the fact that, even when you do that it still keeps your profile up for TWO WEEKS (in case you change your mind) is all there to harness the weakness – a weakness that FB itself has provided. It shows you pictures of your friends and tells you they’ll miss you (I am not making this up), the whole process of deleting your account is basically an attempted emotional rollercoaster that I doubt many current FB addicts would be able to endure.

I did it, I waited my 14 days and my profile has now been gone for nearly 5 months. Do I miss it? Not in the slightest. I have seen what Facebook looks like since and it’s truly a joke. Sure, I definitely hear from alot of people less, and if anything the percentage of ‘friends’ in my life has dropped lower than ever before but does this upset me? No. I’d rather the friendship I had when I was younger, hanging out with my mates and enjoying life without the need for constant reassurances from a bunch of people who don’t REALLY care about you. Facebook, despite its certain advantages, is a detriment to modern society, but I think that was always the purpose. Just like smoking will never be banned because of its economic effects, Facebook will never go away due to the fact it’s become a modern social institution. It’s not going anywhere, so the onus is on YOU to leave, if you want to. I’m not here trying to rally people to quit their FB accounts, I’m merely telling you why I quit mine.

The only time I ever miss Facebook is when I write a blog like this. It is much harder to publicise yourself without it, sure, but it’s a small price to pay to be free of its invisible clutches. I think it would be a great thing for the world if Facebook just collapsed one day and never came back, but thats not to say I’m going to do it. What I can tell you is that, while it hasn’t improved my life prospects or made me more attractive, quitting Facebook has led me to feel freedom – and it feels nice. You might think my ‘addictive substance’ simile is disingenuous but that just tells me you’re in denial.

originally posted by Javid van der Piepers on ‘Thinking Out Loud: The Potentially Offensive Ramblings of a Madman’

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