I’ve left Facebook.
Oh, but how will you keep in touch with all those friends?
I’m not convinced that I really was.
What does being “friends” with someone on Facebook really mean? It means that one of you clicked on the invitation link and the other person, for whatever reason, clicked to accept. Does this mean they really care about keeping in touch with you? hmmm… maybe if they did, you wouldn’t need Facebook, you’d be at least emailing each other if not phoning/skyping/texting/meeting up.
Sure, some of the people I was FB-friends with are people who are what I’d call real friends. That’s why it took me so long to decide to leave. But with those who are real friends I can keep in touch in other ways. Yes, I am aware that this takes more of an effort. You have to deliberately choose to email someone in particular, rather than the general posting on FB, where you just release your updates into the air and leave it to each person to choose if they want to respond. But FB doesn’t show all your updates to all your contacts – even if they’ve signed up for it. So even if you really care about your friend Jemima and want to know all her news, and even if Jemima really values you as a friend and includes you in the access to all her updates, you may still find yourself hearing on the grapevine that Jemima had a baby and yes, she posted about it on FB, but FB chose to filter that out of your feed for some reason and only show you her photos of what she had for lunch.
There’s a lot about the concept of Facebook that appealed to me. I like the idea of just posting updates in a general way, which means you can share trivia from your day-to-day life – stuff that you wouldn’t dream of emailing all your friends with. But the privacy issue makes it far too stressful for me, and there’s also the issue of it simply not working all that well – like I said, they don’t show you everything you want to see, and you just never know what you’re missing. And of course the other side of the same coin is that you don’t know what your friends are missing. So you might share really important news and get no response, and you can’t know if that’s because everyone is ignoring you or if it’s because FB decided your update isn’t important enough.
So there are technical downsides in terms of how Facebook works, and then there’s the issue of interpersonal relationships: sharing bits of your life with a bunch of people when you don’t really know how many of them actually care, how many of them regard you as a friend at all.
I’m tired of that. I’m tired of posting stuff and getting hardly any response. I’m tired of not posting because hardly anyone responds anyway. I’m tired of seeing cryptic updates and wondering if I should ask what it’s about or if it’s some kind of inside joke that only this person’s friends would get. Or asking a question and getting no reply, and never knowing if it’s because that person just didn’t get an alert for my comment or if it’s because they don’t want to answer.
Not to mention all the emotional blackmail. How many times have you gone onto FB and not seen any demand that you must reshare yada yada yada to prove that you are a caring human being or whatever?
I’m tired of all that.
So how will I keep in touch with all these friends? I won’t. I will keep in touch with those who care enough to use other means of communication, and vice versa.
That’s how it was, wasn’t it, in the pre-Facebook days? People didn’t stay in touch with everyone they’d ever met, did they? I feel that FB is kind of muddying the waters, it’s making it a lot less normal to say things like: oh, Jemima? yes, I was friends with her at college and we kept in touch for a while but then it fizzled out.
I’m going back to that. I think it’s much healthier than having a whole load of people who are kind of in touch with you but not really. I like knowing where I stand, even though it can sometimes be painful – yes, it hurts when you find that someone you regarded as a friend is no longer bothering to keep in touch with you, but I’d much rather know, and deal with the pain, and move on. I don’t want a whole bunch of question marks as FB-friends.
P.S. Those who know my love of online social networking may wonder how come I’m saying all this. But what I love about it mostly is the connections I make with people I don’t know offline. On Google Plus, I post whatever I like and I don’t worry about whether friends from real life would like it or not – there are plenty of other people who like reading my stuff. Friendships do happen there, but they’re not the be all and end all, they’re not a necessary part of what we’re there for. On Google+ you can add someone just because you find their posts informative on a subject you’re interested in, or because you like their writing style, or whatever. I have got to know some people there who I regard as friends now, but there are people who read me just as you might read a blog or a newspaper column, without any personal relationship involved. The expectations there are totally different. It can be as personal or impersonal as you like. Whereas Facebook is mainly for keeping in touch with people you know – and I’m not convinced it’s such a good way of doing that.