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You Did What?

March 19, 2009
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So I get a text message from my friend. “deleted my facebook”


WTFYOUDIDWHAT?!

I kind of freaked out a little, and of course had to check to make sure she was telling the truth.

I really didn’t get it at first. I’m always a little bit shocked when people tell me they don’t have Facebook or AIM or are never online. It’s so the norm that someone who isn’t an avid user of (all of) these social technologies better have a damn good excuse as to why they are being so rebellious. It’s like the new version of the sixties counterculture is making yourself unavailable to modern communication technology.

Or is it?

My friend got rid of her Facebook account because “it doesn’t let me avoid people.” So true. The problem with our technology is not that it allows us such easy access to one another…it’s that it allows us too much easy access to one another.

Sure there are some pretty good privacy options. But what about when you need a break? What about when you don’t want to see someone you are no longer friends with? Defriending is a social taboo; taking such drastic action is just being immature. But logging on is basically being forced to encounter updates and wall posts and pictures and lifestreams of a person who makes you throw up a little in your mouth every time you see them is just not okay for me.

The fact is, it is so hard for us to turn off the access to this goldmine of information. There is so much information– so easily accessible–we really don’t even have to do that much to get to it. It doesn’t involve anything sneaky (although Facebook stalking is certainly an art form) and it doesn’t involve anything that should make you feel guilty. But it does. It’s added stress, and sometimes the costs of such valuable and relied-upon technologies are not outweighed by their benefits.

I’m thinking about giving up my Facebook. I couldn’t do it though. When I want an outlet, it is there (although I should probably be more tactful in posting status updates.) While some of the best advice I have ever gotten is to “cut out the fat” — i.e. just get rid of the things in your life that are causing you problems, it is so difficult. I can’t stop checking Facebook. It’s just too easy. I’m just too used to it. Hell, it sounds like I’m trying to get myself off cigarettes. It’s ridiculous. But I don’t know what to do. Should I get rid of my Facebook? Would it make me a happier person? I wonder…

As it turns out, this seemingly extreme action of removing oneself from the Facebook world is more common than I thought. And many people share my sentiments about the website that we all once lusted for in high school (because that was when Facebook was only for college students). It would be good for me to focus more on real life…not the Facebook real life, but the real real life. Going outside. Getting to know myself. Spend time on things that are more important, like studying rather than figuring out who my ex is now getting with. Facebook is self-mutilating, and it needs to stop.

“I deleted my Facebook”

“YOU DID WHAT?!” “I’m so proud of you!”

Image from Facebook

[Addendum]
Because my laptop+browser+Blogger do not get along, I can’t post comments. I wanted to post this in response to the people who left me comments below:

“These comments are all great. thanks a lot!

Vinal: good point about “hide” functions of facebook. I think I’ve taken advantage of it once. I feel like it’s a big of a cop-out, just like defriending someone is, but I don’t know. I think with the new layout and engine behind it, facebook will give you more of the people go you looking for and less of the people you don’t. So maybe it knows….

and the balance between new media life and real life is becoming increasingly blurred. So much so I’d argue that for some people, they are almost mutually inclusive. This is probably not a great thing.

Allison: I agree with everything you said. But yes, we always end up going back. I guess it’s not a bad thing, so long as we’ve learned how to control ourselves haha. Thanks for the luck :)”

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Benjamin J Friedman permalink
    March 20, 2009 1:01 AM

    I think you hit it on the head there. Facebook is obsessive and self-destructive. Yet, to remove one’s self from the digital community is anti-social and utterly abnormal. We want to see the pictures posted and have the ability to look up info on people we may be interested in, but it can become too much, quickly. Why does the newsfeed always favor people we wish to avoid? It’s a damn curse.Recently, I’ve stopped myself every time I’m about to log on. Sure, I occasionally sneak a peek (birthday updates and the like), but I never come out feeling satisfied. So, what is the point? To answer my own question, it may be more of a name tag than anything else. If someone says “I’ll Facebook you” to easily continue interactions of real real life, you’d have to explain why you don’t have an account. Everyone has one. Peer pressure and mass culture at its finest.Bottom Line: Keep it, but wait for it to message you. No need to go looking for trouble.

  2. Dan permalink
    March 20, 2009 11:35 PM

    Brett, I’ve thought about this a lot. My Facebook use has decreased enormously. But I couldn’t imagine actually pulling the trigger and deleting mine.It can be more overwhelming how easy it is for so many people to talk to you. Sometimes I wonder if my friendships are spread too thin. It’s nearly impossible to drift apart from someone. It’s overwhelming.

  3. Brett permalink
    March 23, 2009 4:51 PM

    BJ-I wrote a really great response to your comment but Blogger is stupid and screwed up when I tried to post it, and now I’ve forgotten it. I like the bottom line a lot.

  4. Vinal permalink
    March 28, 2009 4:15 PM

    Brett,Great post! I love the tone you’ve established–it’s frank, yet conversational, and fun to read.Anyway, this is an interesting topic that is completely relevant to what we’ve talked about in class. New (ESPECIALLY social) media as a whole allows you to lay it all out on the table. What you look like, who you’re dating, what you think, what you enjoy…all of the above (and so much more!) can be found on Facebook. And that’s kind of scary. It can also be, like you said, self-mutilating. You find out things about people (like your ex) that you really don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) know. But here is where I can offer you some advice. I don’t know if you know, but you can control who shows up on your newsfeed. There’s a “hide” function that allows you to exclude people from it. I have definitely hidden some people from my newsfeed, and I’m a happier person because of it 😉So maybe you don’t have to go as far as your friend did and delete your Facebook. (I could never do it!) But maybe you do have to exercise some more self-control. I think the key is “everything in moderation.” Too much Facebook (too much new media, for that matter) is never a good thing. It’s up to us to find a balance between “the new media life” and the “real real life.” I know it’s easier said than done…but you can do it! Good luck 😉

  5. Alison permalink
    March 28, 2009 6:49 PM

    Hey Brett,I couldn’t agree with you more when you say, “Facebook allows us too easy access to one another”. I agree that lately, with the newest features of facebook, the social networking device has become increasingly more voyueristic and much less “social”. Using facebook with caution and self-control is very important. I’ve quit Facebook for short periods for some of the reasons you listed above, but I have always returned to it in the end. Post-break up though, it’s icredibly inportant to stay away from Facebook. And if it’s any added incentive, the least they know about your life, the more you’ll drive them crazy. Anyway, good luck with your Facebook-fasting.SincerelyAlison

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