Hi, my name is Shannon and I don’t have a Facebook profile. I’ve been Facebook free for two weeks.
Two weeks into this Facebook-free experiment, I don’t know how many of my friends got engaged last weekend, and I’m not sure which childhood friend of mine celebrated their quarter-centennial birthday yesterday. But so far, it seems that I actually don’t give a shit.
If you asked me last year – or even last month – if I could ever live without my Facebook profile, the answer would’ve been a resounding NO. Facebook has been my primary social network for almost six years: my most cherished photo album; a complete journal of my whereabouts, travels, and trips; a record of the evolution of many of my most important friendships; my primary news source.
But recently, Facebook and I have developed a dangerous and codependent relationship… I’d open a web browser and my fingers, with a mind of their own, would begin typing F-A-C-E. Before I knew it I’d get sucked down a Facebook wormhole that had me reading the innermost thoughts of people I can’t even imagine sending a Christmas card.
The hasty deletion came after a particularly disconcerting session on the site, when I found that the most interesting post on my Newsfeed concerned the excretion habits of my mother’s best friend’s daughter’s son. I finally realized that Facebook and I had been growing in different directions for a long time.
You see, when I first got a Facebook in 2006, the social network was in its early stages of evolution. It existed mostly as a portal to facilitate offline communication – during the early weeks of college, you’d friend everyone you met at a party so you could learn their relationship status, see if you had other friends in common, and decide whether to pursue a friendship (or something more) IRL. On a bad day, you could post “Shannon is… stressed from a night of studying for calculus!!!” and Roy from your calculus class would come up to you after class and say “Oh yeah, me too.” And then you’d go get coffee, and he’d invite you to a Facebook event for the rager he was throwing on Saturday night.
There were no comments, there were no likes. Heck, you couldn’t even join “The” Facebook if you didn’t have a .edu address. Now, my grandmother likes-my-status regularly, and Diet Coke tells me “good morning” each day.
Don’t get me wrong, the evolution of Facebook as a tool to facilitate offline relationships into a powerful marketing and personal communication mechanism is impressive, important, and mostly positive. Facebook drives my company’s social media directive, Facebook kept my dad and I in constant contact when he transferred to Canada three years ago, Facebook does a bang up job of organizing my personal photo collection.
The problem, though, is that my social network is out of control. I haven’t seen Roy since he vomited in the bushes at that rager he invited me to, but I know he got married in Seattle last year and has a daughter on the way. This announcement was wedged between a rant from a childhood friend about Chick-Fil-a’s corporate policies and a Virgin Mobile post inquiring about my favorite color. (“Liking” Virgin Mobile was a requirement to enter a contest to win free tickets to a music festival I wanted to attend.)
My biggest concern about deleting my Facebook was that it would affect my friendships with those friends that I still keep in touch with. But I’ve noticed that Gchat (fine, “Google Talk”), text messaging, phone calls, and brunch are an excellent replacement for a Facebook like. It’s actually my online life that stands to suffer.
For one, I’ve had to change the way I interact with many of the other websites I use on a daily basis, Hulu, The Daily Look, Buzzfeed, and TechCrunch among them. According to Facebook over 400,000 websites have installed the Facebook Comments plug-in, over 400,000 websites have installed the Facebook Comments plug-in and use it as either their primary or supplementary commenting system. And according to Mashable, more than 250 million people use Facebook Connect each day… and that’s a statistic from back in 2010. It’s simply more difficult to get around on the Web when you aren’t a member of The Social Network.
A new study even suggests that abstaining from Facebook threatens to label you as “more suspicious,” in light of recent mass murders in Norway and the United States in which the perpetrators were woefully disconnected. (Who but mass murderers and sociopaths can resist a constant inundation of marketing messages and meme-based status updates, right?)
Not having a Facebook profile even threatens to affect my performance at work negatively. While I’m no longer browsing my Newsfeed on company time, it’s impossible for me to update our corporate Facebook page either. If I don’t want to deactivate my Facebook to post (“reactivation” simply means breaking your willpower and logging in again), I’ll need to create a separate profile and be granted administrator access on the dummy profile. And a dummy profile practically seems like a gateway drug back to my old Facebook’n ways.
So while I currently have no personal drive to reconnect with Facebook, the network’s continuing value proposition is its inextricable integration to so many other aspects of my personal and professional identity. And unlike breaking up with a person – when deleting him, his phone number, and his entire social network is a proven way to get over it and move on to someone better – breaking up with The Social Network itself proves to be a constant reminder of how disconnected you are without it.