In which I actively consider quitting Facebook and the pros and cons therein (alternate title: the downfall of Americana)

I’ve been thinking about quitting Facebook a lot recently. In the last 2-3 weeks, it’s become almost more of a when, not if scenario. I still have some hesitations, which I’ll attempt to outline below, but I figured this was something worth discussing briefly because it’s come up a few times recently in the more mainstream media: here, here, here, and here, for example. Here’s my take, more or less.

Privacy: I could care the least about this, actually. I write this blog and if you actually read the entries, I put a lot of personal opinions and thoughts (some not exactly well thought out) into it, so I’m not really worried about sharing my views and opinions with the world, per se. There are some stupid drunken photos of me in the world, sure, but I generally believe that when I hide those, they’re actually hidden — and if they’re not, so what? I think a big deal is made about how those photos can tank you for a job. I am sure they can, but I’ve partied many a time with recruiters and HR people and I’ve seen some of them at their worst too. Everyone has pictures like that, even the devoutly religious (their pictures just take another contextual form). I don’t really think that should sink your hiring potential, but then again, I may be extremely naive.

Probably Need To Have One: This is my own biggest deterrent. A lot of jobs I apply for these days have a social media context to ‘em, because I’ve worked in that space here and there over the past five-six years. I think it would be tough to sell myself as a potential candidate for a job like that without an employer being able to find me on the world’s largest social network. So I struggle with this one — in all likelihood I won’t drop off entirely, but will just check it less here and there. I’d say my peak, maybe 2011, or late 2010 when bored at work — I was probably checking it 20-22 times a day. Now I probably check it 3-4 times a day, and I’ve whittled the friend list down significantly, especially to get rid of those people who need to share something every 30 minutes of their life. That stuff gets …

Boring: Facebook is honestly quite boring right now. I find Google Plus more interesting — the downside being that no one is really active on Google Plus, so that makes it less fun. My top 11 stories in NewsFeed just now contained two ads, two auto-play videos (which are going to steadily drive people away), one person talking about joining a gym, one person talking about a flat tire, someone sharing a Wired article, someone talking about the NFL, someone talking about unroll.me (which is useful, admittedly), and a few other people bitching about the weather. I’m good friends with maybe 2-3 of the people in those 11 posts (maybe 2, legitimately, possibly 1) and honestly, I just don’t care. I feel like Facebook, at some point, evolved to people feeling that it was completely necessary to post any inane thought that you might have on there (I’ve done this too). I don’t really get it.

I don’t really get it: I try to understand this sometimes — if you know a person that posts 6-10 times a day (and you probably do), have you ever asked them what goes through their mind before they post? For example, in that person’s life, probably more than 6-10 things happen per day. What makes those six things FB-worthy, but the other 25 elements of life that happened that day not FB-worthy? Because talking about the weather is inane; it’s literally the definition of “small talk.” How does that merit a post to 400 people, but something bigger or more relevant might not? It’s confounding to me, and it honestly bothers me here and there (about once every three months or so).

Robin Hood: I used to have this thing about messing with people on FB that I tried (inaccurately and self-indulgently) to describe as Robin Hood (“take from the rich, give to the poor”). Here’s the basic idea: people love others to like and comment on their stuff, right? So if you come across a post, 3 hours or so old, from someone that you know barely knows you, hates you, or is lukewarm on you — and it has no likes or comments — go ahead and like it, then make a pithy comment. It absolutely infuriates people to have someone they don’t really like comment on their FB statuses. Honestly. Try it out sometime. There is nothing that pisses a self-indulgent person off more than not getting the right people “liking” and commenting. It’s amazing to watch. Oh, and I had a phase around 2011 when I loved to tell people to “get what’s theirs,” often with an expletive involved. I’ve down-shifted those two modes because I personally care a lot less, but they were funny from time to time (probably much more infrequently than I thought they were).

Depressing: Tons of studies about this one. Here’s one from the University of Utah. Here’s more callouts, from The Economist and The New Yorker. I’ve thought about this one a bit. Does it make me depressed? It definitely has, sure. I’ve had to get over breakups on there, or see groups of friends I thought I was part of out together or whatever, and that stuff can hurt, unquestionably. I actually think the bigger thing that’s made me depressed about Facebook, which is ironically one reason that it’s so hard to get off of, is what it’s done to the notion of communication and sharing in the modern age. About a million words have been written on this topic, but what I mean is — the sentence “Oh, I put it on Facebook” suffices for anything and everything, from big shit (engagements, pregnancies) to little shit (what concert you saw on Friday). If you’re a person that’s not active on FB, then (like my wife), but your friends are (like some of her friends), it’s really hard to stay up to date on their lives without putting in that effort — and people will roll back on your effort with “Well, I put it on Facebook.” That stuff can be depressingly brutal. What if I want to text with you or call you? “But why would you need to, you already know I’m at Kilroy’s! I just checked in there!” People love the memes of old people using Facebook, i.e.:

… but here’s the thing. It’s less about them not getting it because they’re old, and more about them not getting it because they didn’t come up in a world where this would ever fly (and not because of technology, because of bonds). I honestly do feel like, in many social circles of which I’m a part, Facebook did erode social bonds — now, so too did excessive work demands and the desire of people to live in different places, and those latter two things weren’t necessarily realities of the 1940s either. The social bond and communication styles of future generations are completely shifted because of social media (and specifically Facebook), though: you can come up as a teenager thinking that it’s completely OK to share everything you’re doing and thinking with 400-500 people. That’s weird, no? That wasn’t even a reality eight years ago. Sometimes that depresses me.

Here’s a paper from NYU on Facebook quitters, a cohort I may someday join:

Many Facebook refusers actually revel in their difference from the mainstream, seeing it as a mark of distinction, superior taste, and identification with an elite social stratum.

I actually would love to be part of making Google+ a thing, yea … that’d be a mark of distinction.

There’s more info on who quits FB here and here. I’m not surprised at all that the most active age for FB is around 24; that’s a super self-indulgent time in your life (which is the cornerstone of how FB works), and if you’re in the midwest, you might be getting married around then (or have multiple friends who are). That’s a generalization/stereotype, yes, but it also broadly holds up among people I’ve known from the coasts and the midwest.

So I am gonna quit? In the words of Royal Tenenbaums: Good Lord no. Well, at least not immediately. I’m just gonna majorly downshift what I do on there and the time I spend. In the meantime, I need to go scrub a few people who just shared pictures of their food.

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