Techno Llama: “Why I’m Quitting Facebook”

FacebookLong 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.

Comments

  1. Michael,

    I love facebook and hate it at the same time. I read Andres article earlier this afternoon and I can totally see why he quit. When I first got fb it was still students only, it was a great way to keep in touch w/ those from home as we'd each gone to the far corners of the UK. It was good before everyone got it... now it's like you're on a night out, "have you got facebook? I'll look you up" - after a range of experiences with that one, I'd prefer to give out my phone number and be called 30 times a day - at least after a week it stops.

    Don't get me started on children on facebook and social media and the impact that has on their development - I rant about that ALOT. :P fb and me, a very love /hate relationship. If it wasn't the only way I'm still in contact w/ good friends (due to the sheer expensiveness/my hatred of a phone, and my recent intolerance for instant messaging)I'd quit too.

    x

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  2. I've always had strong views about Facebook so I'm just calling it as I see it. :-) Who knows, though: I might just cave in one day and sign up just for the hell of it.

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  3. I really don't understand all this 'drama' about random people added as friends in facebook.

    Just 'ignore' their friend request and stop moaning! :P

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  4. You're back then, Andro! I thought you'd 'gone to ground' :p

    I think people feel compelled to pretty much accept virtually all friend requests, regardless how tenuous their connection with them might be. And then, before they know it, they're inundated with more 'friends' than they can cope with.

    I guess having that self-discipline to refuse all requests apart from those from people you know well is the only way to avoid the problem. But most users don't seem capable of that.

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  5. I think what Andres wrote is fully correct yet I am still on Facebook. I like the fact that I can keep in touch with friends/family that are living in different countries.

    I am very very strict on who I accept. If I don't know you I will not accept! Whereas on twitter I am not too fussed as I've not included anything personal about myself like I have done on fb with my pics. I think I prefer Twitter now than fb...damn I may have moved to the dark side!

    At the end of the day fb has helped me to keep in touch with those I probably wouldn't have done if it wasn't for fb. I am grateful for this but then there are the bad side of things like fb having eyes,ears, a nose and a mouth!! However with the new design it's harder to stalk and less and less comes up on the main page.

    It is true that sometimes people may brag about certain things but often people express themselves more online than in person? Maybe their shy?

    I used to be on fb all the time at uni and recently I just gave in. I hardly used to sit there and check peoples profles anyway. Its bad enough having to check my own profile now!

    I don't think I could ever delete either fb or twitter. Each has their own benefits, to me anyway. They are both good in moderation.

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  6. i don't get the accepting everyone thing, I delete people all the time too if I don't talk to them anymore - not like they are ever gonna notice as we never actually interact. FB good or keeping in contact with distant friends and family, but that's all I use it for.

    Twitter on the other hand - i'm feeling the addiction.

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  7. Andro and Travis: Clearly you both have the sound sense to selectively filter your friend invites and maintain a sensible list of FB friends. Anecdotally, an awful lot of FB users don't seem to share your good FB practices and get entirely bogged down with contacts.

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  8. I use facebook but never faced any problem.Its good way of keeping in touch with our friends.

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  9. that is very true Michael - most people aren't as organised as myself and Andro - which does in many respects mess up the experience for a lot of other people.

    Oooh I feel the need to do an how to organise friends and be ruthless on fb post... lol.

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  10. I don't think that fb, twitter or other networking sites are a bad thing, or threaten socirty - as with any other media it is down to how they are used. With facebook, it isn't difficult to manage - I don't automatically accept friend requests, and I manage my groups and privacy settings so not everyone sees eveything.

    With Twitter, I don't block my updates, so when I write anything I know anyone who wants to can read it, but I don't automatically follow back eveyone who follows me, which means that I only reeie the updates from people I am interested in keeping in touch with.

    I am uncomfortable with the division being drawn betwen 'virtual' and 'real' friends. I have friends - some of them I meet up with regularly in person and mainly interact with face-to-face, some I meet up with regularly on line and mainly interact with online - they are all still real friends.

    Of course, I agreee that there is a difference between people you are friends with and people who have friended you on facebook, but I don't think that there is any evidence at all that having a 'cloud' of people you know on a networking site in any way impairs ability to recognise and form strong relationships.
    Do you have any evidence to back up your suggestions?

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  11. Ah fakebook. A wonderful way for encouraging and feeding identity theft.

    Be like Elmer Fudd: vewy vewy careful. Put too much info up about yourself and who know where things might lead.

    (And you can always ignore friend requests. And even remove them.)

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