Three weeks ago today, I did something which I thought was fairly non-controversial.
Apparently, I was wrong.
I deactivated my Facebook account. And not just the half-hearted deactivation option Facebook offers, where your account remains dormant and can be reactivated at any time ~ I completely deleted it!
Here’s the really crazy part: I’ve spent the last three weeks fielding emails, Skype and text messages from family, friends and business acquaintances ranging from mere curiosity to utter disbelief I’m no longer on Facebook. No one, it seems, can understand why I would ever want to disconnect myself from the (unfortunately) ubiquitous social network.
Well, here’s why.
Is Facebook turning us all into socially retarded, emotional shallow, narcissistic wannabees?
I spend roughly 13 hours a day staring at flat, glowing, LED screens, toiling away in the limbo of cyberspace. And my evenings, more often than not, centre around exactly the same thing. So in my copious free time, I want to actually experience things in real space ~ in the flesh and blood ~ and in a three-dimensional world. If I feel the need to discuss an event or something of interest, I prefer to do so by engaging in personal conversations with significant people I legitimately care about.
Or go get a beer down at my local and ‘ave a larf with the lads.
My inclinations are the opposite of the behaviour Facebook reinforces. One of the things which really niggles about the core Facebook demographic ~ oddly enough, I call them “Screenies” ~ is their entire joie de vivre seems to be centred around documenting their moments on Facebook’s screens. The Screenies derive their real pleasure from assembling a two-dimensional record of the (often insignificant) day-to-day minutiae of their lives.
Everyone’s always complaining about the neighbour’s dog which shat on their driveway again, Big Brother idiots behaving disgracefully (is there any other kind?), The X Factor karaoke contest, Paris Hilton Keeping up with the Kardashians, or with some other variation of people being famous for absolutely nothing of any value.
This same principle is what pisses me off about Facebook ~ it’s like the Screenies want their turn to be reality stars, and Facebook has granted their wish by providing them with a screen and audience for their very own reality show. It reminds me of Mike Teavee in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ~ the kid who loved TV so much he volunteered to be transmitted through the airwaves into a little tiny TV set. The Screenies love to focus their attention on screens so much they voluntarily shrink their lives down into little scripted chunks on the Facebook screen.
Cue the Oompa Loompas!
In truth, I am also profoundly embarrassed for them, by the oversharing Screenies constantly engage in. I do not care you made “yummy Tuscan vegetable soup for dinner”, and I definitely don’t need to see a picture of it. I don’t feel any real sympathy about the fact you have ‘man flu’, whatever that is, and are “all blocked up”. And I’m guessing the cute picture of your cat doing a silly thing you just mobile-uploaded would’ve been a lot more meaningful if you hadn’t been standing on its tail. But there again, I’m only guessing.
What makes it even worse is this phenomenon feeds off itself and isn’t just limited to the Screenies. Think about the last time you went out in public. Chances are you were involved in a conversation about what someone posted on Facebook, and/or you posed in a picture you immediately uploaded to Facebook. This is the big triumph of the Screenies generation ~ they’ve successfully reduced life to little more than posts and status updates and mobile uploads and tagging, likes and dislikes, and now they’re cheapening actual in-person interactions by redirecting the focus back to their beloved screens, even when we’re not sitting in front of the them. We’re even carrying them in our pockets with us, now phones are really just tiny iPads.
Hopefully I’m not the only one who feels this way. I would love to find out there are at least a few other people who prefer living life to living life for the sake of capturing it on a tiny screen. But judging from the disapproval to which I’ve been subjected ever since stepping off the grid three weeks ago, it’s safe to say I’m in some sort of Luddite minority when it comes to disconnecting.
OK, I hear you ask, when I make my living from the Internet and preach a sermon from the book of Social Media Marketing, Chapter 101, every week ~ which I do ~ how come I speak out and challenge the validity of using Facebook?
The answer is very simple. I don’t.
The purpose of Facebook is to make a profit for its investors. It does this by charging for advertising space, point-casting (sending customised ads to demographic targets), and possibly from selling demographic data. Most of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising. Microsoft is Facebook’s exclusive partner for serving banner advertising, and so Facebook serves only advertisements which exist in Microsoft’s advertisement inventory.
The information and services based on this activity are typically sold to marketing firms, corporate advertisers, possibly government entities (not necessarily domestic or openly identifying themselves), political entities, and so on.
What the user gets is attention from other users with similar interests, the ability to connect indirectly with millions of users quickly, globally, and in some cases the ability to transmit information that would otherwise bring a repressive government down on them. For some users it is merely a vehicle to promote themselves, particularly so with professional celebrities, politicians and even good and worthwhile causes. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
I don’t think Facebook is the problem, its the Screenies who are the issue. Typically someone with a low self esteem but pretending they’ve got their shit together and their life is just fabulous, or not, as the case may be. Facebook is not there so that they can convince other Screenies that they’ve actually got a life. It’s not there so that they can show us, in all its glory, the AMAZING dump they just took ~ yes, someone actually did that. It’s not even there so those who don’t give a damn about what others think of them, except their fellow Screenies, can behave like idiots and say what they like. Although they can, and they do, of course.
But for entrepreneurs and organisations, social tools like Facebook are a powerful way to gain clarity: better, faster information about what’s happening not just in their world, but in the real world. A way to test opinion. Put the word out. Check the temperature. Its just that this kind of relationship inflation is an obvious sign of social media decay.
But so it is in life. There are some folk you would rather cross the street to avoid. You still need to walk down the same street.
If I could only make them see, if they would just contribute to Facebook hopefully, substantively, positively and with integrity, good things will happen.
I might even sign-up again.
What do you think about Facebook and its relevance to you and what you are trying to accomplish in your life? Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. This post is not exactly the whole truth. I do have a business account still, but no longer a personal account in my own name.