I quit facebook. Yes, today morning, that was the first thing I did. I was contemplating my move for several weeks now and finally decided that I should. You might say the timing is awry with all the technology enthusiasts claiming that facebook was indeed the future and Zuckerberg winning all Time’s man of the Year and all,but the fact is that I feel that facebook has gone from fun to addictive to an addiction which you stopped enjoying long back. I remember when I sat in the BITS library one afternoon four years back and my friend created the facebook account for me. “Its good fun, you’ll enjoy it” was my first introduction to what became a fun-filled addiction, and then decayed into a part which I had to go and check everyday without an iota of interest. I sat contemplating my life pre-facebook life and realized it was so much more fun and satisfying. I remember being far less connected to the world and the word “friends” retained its meaning. I took pictures so that I could remember the place and memories, not to create a photo album where seemingly random people could like or post comments. I liked the part where we lived as a huge student community on DC++ but then although it was virtual, people were real and exclusive and that made it so unique. Facebook sadly does none of those.
Contrary to all the blah about getting people together, connecting them or making it a source for targeted advertising, the truth remains that facebook threatens to break the basic construct of societies and communities. It might help to be professionally connected to a lot of people ( I like Linkedin for that reason, that it has a professional touch and aims to do something important rather than just make people pour out secrets just to garner attention), but for so many to invade your privacy, I always thought was a bad idea. You might say that on facebook you can choose what you want to share, but that is not how it works. Friends are supposed to come and go and the really good ones should stick to you, on or off facebook. Instead this just agglomerates contacts and in the process fills a page with information about three kinds of contacts you make: people you know really well( very few and far inbetween and plus for those people you don’t wait for their updates on facebook, you’ll know it otherwise), those you added as a friend because you went to school together (I had 700+ friends when I left facebook, out of those, the ones who knew me..err 50 max?), or those people you dont know at all but are related through a long routed connection which makes it creepy. It was all good in college when you knew a handful, your friends were that exact handful and you wasted summers by playing random quizzes and guffawing at their absurd results. That is one kind of fun. But now as one’s friends’ circle increases, extends to professional contacts, is the extent of information being shared safe? Is it normal? Do you want your college friends to know your past school life? Do you want your current colleagues to know about your ponytail, weird looks, tattoos or your girlfriend back in college? To most people, the answer would be no. The reason behind this is that identities evolve over time as people do. Experience, time and place affect a person and change him/her to a great extent. What facebook sadly does is drag the baggage of your past and splatter it on the walls of people you dont want to share all that with. This isn’t tantamount to split personality or anything, but everyone has a past that remains exclusive to them and I am sure they would want to share their memories and persona then with their friends from that time. It is surprising that I find school farewell photos of some college friends appearing on my wall giving me access to the thread of comments, links of people tagged with the photo and a chance to comment on something that is totally unrelated to me. I choose to ignore it, but someone who is on my friend’s list (added because I studied 15 years ago in his/her same school and have no information about him right now) can do weird things with it. Nothing of that sort happened which prompted my exit, but I find myself subconciously recording people’s experiences and information, and loads of it everyday which seems to be unnatural and wasting space. Who doesn’t like to catch up with old friends (the real ones)? But to see acquaintances’ daily lives publicly bared, seems insane.
The most important part being that honestly, facebook is pushing people apart. It is giving you information that you can get about people without knowing them at all. It reduces friends to a set of data about their location, current occupation and interest giving you no reason to connect with them at all. The phone calls that you would have once made to inquire about their well being is now not needed. It is only a matter of time before orkut-like stalkers appear on facebook gaining access to basic information like your looks and even your email id. Call it however safe you want, I am not comfortable sharing this much information (it wasn’t like I was forced to, but slowly your profile builds up over the years as you add photos, share articles, get tagged in pics) with a bunch of people in California who can give it to anyone they want to. (Anyone= companies). Whatever revolution that Zuckerberg talks about might be happening, but there are severe downsides to it. Robberies have already started ( I know people who posted “bought a Macbook – yippeee” on their walls being robbed the next day or the vacation date-givers surely so) and a lot of faking has already begun. People post and write things out of a compulsion to attract attention. They try to create a virtual image so much cooler than their physical selves (aided by a lot of googling) that it seems absurd at time when you read about unexpected interests from folks you know (World Cups -cricket or football, prime examples). Photos on facebook are a totally different chapter. People post seemingly un-proper photos (in lesbian poses, body-baring outfits being the top categories) without a second thought about their audience. Other photos that seem so private like weddings, honeymoons, babies, ultrasounds( Yes, not kidding. One guy had actually put his baby’s ultrasound as his profile pic to announce his conception! – again someone I hardly knew but a bunch of my friends had congratulated him for the same.) are posted in abandon. How really safe is it out there?
This is just my opinion of it all and of course people will have different things to say or even justify how this is all good or call it fun(which as I have already said,it was but now isn’t). But take a peek back into your pre-facebook/twitter lives and maybe you’ll see what I saw, how much genuine and complete that phase was compared to now. If you feel this is better, I am no one to ask you to quit, but contrary to this social networking being a phenomena, it is also having a huge under-belly propagated by no one but the human psyche.
Plus, I really wasted a lot of time on it. As my friend put it, it had come close to becoming a OCD.
De-facebooking is not like becoming a social recluse. I still am very much alive and active and within reach of those who want to. As Capt. Jack Sparrow said about the Isles De Muerta, “It is found only by those who know where it is”. (Sorry folks, couldn’t resist 😛 )