I recently decided to disable my Facebook page. I only created an account to track down a novelist for a school project in the first place, and aside from the general privacy concerns and bevy of reasons you can read about here, here and here, I found that it was a negative influence on my life in general.
For example, I recently realized I was getting most of my news from Facebook. When something major happened, like a war breaking out or an earthquake, I’d read about it on Facebook first. This means a couple of things: first, I was only getting the news that the 300+ people on my friend list found compelling (and there are really only 100 or so who post regularly). Given that a large chunk of those people are folks I grew up with or went to school with, this means I’m getting the vast majority of my news from people who are, essentially, exactly like me in regard to socioeconomic class, race, etc. That’s not a very good way to learn about the world around me. Second, as was the case with the Casey Anthony trial, I was not only getting the opinion my friend group supported, I was getting it over and over again. I’m not above being influenced by public opinion, so when I found myself parroting Facebook posts as truth I became understandably concerned.
While the “people just like me” argument applies to socioeconomic class and upbringing, I am a very different person than I was when I hung out with all these people. Since I attended Catholic schools, most of my “friends” on Facebook are Catholic. I’m an Atheist, and it was often a struggle not to impart MY belief system on those around me the way others’ beliefs are often imparted on me. However, that brings me to my next anti-Facebook concern: drama. If I had a nickle for every time a conversation involved the term “Facebook,” well, I’d have lot of nickles. People getting upset in the “real word” about posts, pictures and relationship status updates that all take place online … it’s just gotten a little silly. Also, I ended up “friends” with people I barely knew and oftentimes didn’t even like very much, but I hesitated to delete them for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. I also refrained from calling them out on their often misguided or completely uneducated ramblings, because I didn’t really know them well enough. That left my news feed filled with drivel I’d rather do without. I know you can hide posts, but eventually that, too, becomes silly.
As many anti-Facebookers will note (but I feel bears repeating) Facebook is just a huge time-suck. I realize I should be able to police my own online activity and stop myself from getting sucked in when I have better things to do, but I’m a master-procrastinator, and Facebook provides just the type of distraction I like to abuse. At a certain point, I could predict what people are going to post, how often they were going to post … hell, I could probably have told you what they were going to have for breakfast. Do I really need this amount of information about people I haven’t spoken to in ten years? Nope. Do I really need to get worked up because some ultra-conservative Christian Republican who I met ONCE is dumb enough to support Sarah Palin? Definitely not. I’ll save my spikes in blood pressure for more worthy adversaries.
In the end, it was Facebook’s decision to use its considerable power to stop protests in Israel that made me angry enough to disable my account. That sort of action just goes so far above and beyond what social networking sites should be allowed to do, I found it appalling. My decision was reinforced by Facebook’s disable process … it would NOT LET ME disable MY page with MY information without telling it why. I filled in the answer “I shouldn’t have to.”
Anyone who really wants to stay in touch with me shouldn’t have much trouble doing so. I may give Google+ a fair shake, if for no other reason than to see if someone can get it right when it comes to social networking. Regardless, I imagine my friend list will be much shorter on Google+ than it was on Facebook, and it isn’t going to include people I don’t actually care about.