Facebook & I: FB Revisited
My old Sunday School teacher used to say: a little honesty goes a long way. In the spirit of that honesty, and at risk of sounding like a complete Luddite*, let me make a public confession: I still don’t use Facebook.
I have a Facebook profile (in fact, I was one of the first to have one in my circle of “friends”.) I just don’t use it much. As in hardly ever at all.
I’ve tried to get into it, I promise. I just haven’t been able to. I am still trying to at the moment. And it’s still difficult.
I think the thing that really gets to me is how all-pervasive the whole “FB scene” seems to be. Everyone (well, mostly everyone) I know has a FB profile. Many of them, very regularly, make a point of asking me why I’m never on the site to chat. Why I never update my status, respond to the messages left on my wall, post and tag photographs, or pretty much anything else. And I can’t truly explain to them why not.
It’s strange to think that if Facebook was a nation, with its 200 million+ members, it would slot in ahead of Brazil as the planets’ 5th most populous country. If my maths is vaguely up to scratch, that represents about 3% of the entire planet! And what a multi-cultural global superpower nation it would be at that.
Based on Facebooks’ own statistics, half of their membership login at least once a day and spend a collective 4 billion minutes on the site each day. Again my rusty mental maths suggests that that equates to an average of 40 minutes per user per day. That’s a lot of time in anyone’s language for one site to hold an internet users attention.
I took out FB citizenship in mid-2007. At that point I spent about 3 hours within its borders. Then I went into self-imposed exile. In my time away, I have received a number of email requests to return to its shores and to connect with some or other past acquaintance whom I have, in many cases, only very feint recollections of.
During my exile many a “Disciple of the Book” struggled to understand why I had not been completely enraptured by the lure of its simple login screen. Why I refused to spend obscene amounts of my waking hours within its walls. My ability to completely ignore each of the Please Be My Friend requests perplexed many. As I mentioned earlier, this confusion seems to continue to today.The fact that I had set up a message rule in my email client to automatically delete any incoming messages containing the word “Facebook” in the subject line meant that I was blissfully ignorant of these requests.
Truth is I felt absolutely no desire to poke anyone in cyberspace. No urge to supply people with virtual gifts or beers. I can only wonder what a “super snowball fight” involves. (I only wonder very briefly about it though, it must be said.) Ultimately I simply did not sense any obvious reason to share my movements and mood changes with all and sundry.
Contrary to the nature of my professional life in hospitality and training – both, by their nature, very public pursuits – I am an very private person when it comes to my personal life. I think that this was the issue central to much of my resistance to FB.
At the time (back in the heady days of ‘07), Facebook simply did not have the privacy options that it does now. And whilst reading about the minutia of other peoples’ lives has a strange sense of voyeurism about it, I simply could not see myself ever sharing that much detail in a open environment.
I did update my profile once earlier this year. But then I went back to my happy existence outside of the Facebook world, where I have been living peacefully ever since. Blissful in my Luddicity you might say.
Perhaps things are better now, what with the myriad of privacy options and settings available to FB users these days. Still, I continue to feel very disinterested, almost disconnected from it all.
Once in I did consider updating my profile, adding something to the page to show that I’d been there, leaving some sign of my acceptance of the hold FB has over me.
But then I saw the pile of “Requests” waiting for me. I saw the indicator showing the 11 unread messages, and the little “protesters picket sign” thing down the bottom right-hand corner of the screen that was just dying to tell me that I have “3 Notifications” – whatever they are.
And that’s about when I left again. The realisation that if I started with any of those requests and messages that I would feel obligated to respond to them all. The subconscious fear of possibly ignoring some people while replying to others is just too strong. I mean, these are people I count as “Friends”. How can I consider insulting, offending, hurting any of them? My simple thinking: better and easier to ignore everyone equally than to ignore some selectively.
And there’s the reality of it all, I guess. I am a lot more comfortable now with my privacy concerns. Instead, I am now a heck of a lot more concerned by the seemingly covert power and influence that the whole of the Facebook world continues to have on so many people. And that it continues to attempt to have on me.
*A Luddite is a person who fears or loathes technology, especially new forms of technology that threaten existing jobs (So now you know too!)