Techno Llama: “Why I’m Quitting Facebook”
Long time readers of Law Actually will be well aware of my general dislike for social networking and Facebook in particular. While I have mellowed slightly in my feelings towards certain forms of social media in the last few months, I’ve still kept Facebook at arms’ length.
Naturally, then, when I stumbled across Techno Llama’s post entitled ‘Why I’m quitting Facebook’ I just couldn’t resist a peek. Author of the blog, Andres Guadamuz, makes a number of excellent points:
[Through using Facebook I’ve] ended up with “friends” that I would probably not recognise in the street if they crossed my path. Unsurprisingly, by the time close friends and family had joined, my list was a bloated and unwieldy collection of former friends, former acquaintances, former work colleagues, former students, and former girlfriends.
Facebook is changing the way in which we interact with one another, and not always in a good way.
Maybe there are good reasons why we lose touch with old acquaintances, yet Facebook offers a space where the past and the present blur in ways that we are just starting to navigate.
I’ve long voiced similar ideas, reasoning that, in the main, personal relationships are self-regulating. The nature of the dynamic between people regulates the longevity of the relationship: you remain in contact with those you like and relate to and lose touch with those you don’t. Facebook is frustrating this process whereby the wheat and the chaff are no longer sorted. Instead, people are left with an ever-increasing list of people ‘hanging on’ which blurs the concept of friend, acquaintance, relative stranger and complete stranger. In the longer term, this could mean that the ingrained social and personal skills people rely on in recognising ‘real’ friends are dulled and made ineffective. The damage could be particularly far reaching for children as they develop social skills. That surely can’t be a good thing for society going forward.
Another point from Andres:
Face it, large part of people’s profile pages are nothing more than an exercise in gloating, showing-off the best version of themselves they can find.... to flaunt and to compare profiles... [and use Facebook] to gleefully go through someone’s profile to laugh and ridicule them in private.
If I’m honest, I’ve long suspected that the real reason I’ve stayed clear of Facebook is because I’m so contrary and didn’t want to be seen to ‘follow the masses’. I’ve maintained this stance for so long now that I’ve made a rod for my own back and feel unable to capitulate. Facebook for me always represented everything that was bad, corny and stereotypically insulting about social networking. While the current user base has now transcended the original Facebook demographic, my feelings are neatly summed up by a fantastic quote I found as part of my IT law course on the LLM entitled ‘Say Everything’ from New York magazine:
Kids today. They have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy. They are show-offs, fame whores, pornographic little loons who post their diaries, their phone numbers, their stupid poetry—for God’s sake, their dirty photos!—online. They have virtual friends instead of real ones. They talk in illiterate instant messages. They are interested only in attention—and yet they have zero attention span, flitting like hummingbirds from one virtual stage to another.
Perhaps I’m just old before my time but I know that a lot of people in my age bracket flock to social networking sites for precisely these reasons.
While I’m sure that Andres made the right call to leave based on his personal reasons, I think it’s pretty clear that social networking isn’t going to be disappearing any time soon; arguably, all the indications point to the contrary. I’m not sure that a mass exodus is the right way to go about this as users will simply flock to the next ‘big thing’ in social media. Social networking users need to understand and appreciate the complex relationships going on through Facebook and other social media services and the way they are different from conventional relationships. It’s common practice to accept the majority of friend invitations, leave the hangers-on in place and ‘defriending’ contacts is regarded as a personal affront. As I highlighted earlier, this is blurring the concept of ‘friend’ and potentially frustrating the ability of people to identity suitable subjects with whom to forge strong and dependable relationships. Put another way, I believe we’re at a stage where dangerous social norms are at risk of entrenching themselves which could have implications that spread far wider than just social networking sites.