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Facebook: the social not-work

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Hannah Froggatt reflects on whether it’s in in our interest to part with our profiles…

When you looked at the title of this piece, you may have noticed an inherent paradox – a life without Facebook is not a proper life at all, you might be thinking. But until I came to university I had never used Facebook, even though it hit its popularity peak in the middle of my secondary school years. I had some good reasons for staying away, as well as a few stupid adolescent ones, and I would like to give you a tour down my personal rabbit hole into a life without FB.
Firstly, I don’t suffer from spasms of self-hate when I look back at my thirteen-year-old self’s old posts. I don’t even have spasms of self-hate when I see yesterday’s posts, because I wrote them when I was older and my head wasn’t quite as far up my own backside as it once was. Sorry, 15-year-olds, but the social incompetence of teenagers are myriad and severe, and I’m glad I left school with less to regret, and less digital evidence of my immaturity.

I’m glad I left school with less to regret, and less digital evidence of my immaturity.

Facebook also introduced a whole set of social vices that didn’t even exist before its inception. “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbours’ Social Life” for one. Once you’re on Facebook, it’s easy to torture yourself with other people’s photographs of parties you weren’t invited to, and fun you didn’t have. “Thou Shalt Not Lurk on The Pages Of Thy Enemies” is a much bigger problem for me personally, once I realised that literally everyone I know is on Facebook posting stupid embarrassing stuff 24/7. Yes, I was definitely mentally healthier without it.

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I haven’t even mentioned the most common complaint about Facebook; it’s an inescapable time-sucking black hole of procrastination. Facebook becomes the most attractive for me in the weeks leading up to a big deadline or important exam, with predictable consequences. And the trouble with spending too much time on Facebook is how over-informed you become about the social lives of all your Facebook friends. You lose so much respect for people baiting you with vague but miserable statuses or working out their emotional issues through drunken posts.
That is all before you get into issues of privacy. There’s a knot of unease in my stomach that grows every time I think about the growing demographic profile Zuckerberg has of me to be sold to advertisers and Korean gangsters. Where once it was very much accepted that people who spent all of their time on Facebook must have no social life, at some point we underwent a cultural shift. Now it seems to be the other way. The biggest rub of going without Facebook is not getting invited to stuff. Most people rely entirely on the events function to do basically everything, and I can’t shake the feeling I would have gone to a lot more parties in sixth form if I’d given in a little sooner.

You lose so much respect for people baiting you with vague but miserable statuses or working out their emotional issues through drunken posts.

For me, graduation is now looming and I’ve been toying with the question for a while now: should I delete my Facebook after uni? The obvious question is “How will I contact people?” to which the obvious answers are “Phone, Twitter, Tumblr, Skype, or meeting up every once in a while” Because, really, there are a million better methods for keeping in touch than Facebook. The website burrows uncomfortably deep into the fabric of actual social relationships, so that people are no longer able to draw the line between being ‘Friends’ with someone, and actually being their friend.
My inner rebel is screaming that we’ve sold our social lives to a corporation, but that’s also the big annoying un-problem of Facebook. It’s ubiquity and utility mean that it remains unparalleled as a social organisation tool, and though it pains me to say so, no one has come up with a more efficient way to herd us sheep than those guys. And that will be the most difficult thing to lose.

So will I delete Facebook after I finish university? I haven’t decided yet. Talk to me in a year, preferably through a tweet.

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