Un-liking Facebook for good

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WEB-facebook sucks-mark burnham

Through my relationship with Facebook, the site acted as a passive watcher, aside from the regular reminders of ironic “pokes” or suggestions to “be the first to like this page.” It was witness to my superior two-line status updates, my “liking” of important pages concerning hugging or peppermint tea, and the creation of an alter-ego, consuming minutes from almost every waking hour.

But during our last few moments together, it was far from silent; Facebook kicked and weeped, asking “are you sure?” reminiscing about our history that will be deleted forever, and trying to entice me with pictures of “friends” that would “miss me” if I left.

Let’s dismiss the arguments that everyone has already heard about social networking sites, but ignores: they’re time-wasters filled with dull, lifeless information. I imagine that many people don’t let the sites consume their lives, and have enough self-control to not wade through the ab pictures, “spiritual” status updates, and ironically-capitalized comments. They get in, find  kernels of vital social data (or at least birthday dates), and get out. Maybe you are such a spiritually enlightened, well-rounded person. You still support an egotistical, antisocial society.

Take Facebook’s “Like” system for instance. “Liking” asks users to measure their personal wealth by the quantity of approvals accorded a given posting. This discourages clever observations or significant events in real life, which rarely receive such instant audience approval and gratification, in favour of posts designed for mass appeal.

Rather than signifying a mutual interest between two people, “Liking” enforces popularity and, by extension, an egotistical attitude. Pictures and clever comments are not appreciated for their own merits, but as a means to the popular end.

Facebook users are even given a physical means to track their ego — timelines. This too becomes more than it seems: beyond a personal scrapbook, timelines are a  public display of one’s life.

Yet, in spite of promoting faux-popularity, the site encourages antisocial behaviour. The most obvious example of this is the network of user postings and profiles. The ease with which one can scour personal information from others’ profiles means that Facebook users need never ask anyone direct questions about themselves. This is stalker-esque and, despite being termed “creeping,” it is the purpose of the network.

By foregoing personal questions and conversations, people miss opportunities to develop the trust required for such sharing. They share only what they are comfortable sharing with their wide list of acquaintances — who Facebook, of course, lovingly dubs as “friends.” Disclosure, a vital aspect of social behaviour, is lost.

Maybe it takes an extreme case to make such negative conclusions about the site. Maybe some personality types work with Facebook, and some just don’t. But those who remain on the site are fostering an egotistical, anti-social, arguably stalkerish and generally weird social environment, even if they personally steer clear of those traits. These traits will only continue to develop with prolonged use of the site.

No one can avoid it or discourage it except for those who belong to the online society. If that’s you, it’s time to call it off, to end your dependence on Facebook, and to talk to friends (and acquaintances) in real life. 

3 COMMENTS

  1. I couldn’t disagree more strongly. The idea that social media fosters antisocial behaviour is very over exaggerated. I couldn’t even count the amount of times I found a concert or event on Facebook and ended up going–an outing I might have missed out on if I hadn’t seen it online.

    It also makes planning social events ten times easier. Instead of sending out a mass text and hoping people remember or see it, you can create a event page and let the communication roam freely. You don’t need a Facebook event for everything but it makes planning larger gatherings a lot easier.

    I know I spend too much time on Facebook but you’re focusing on the negative parts of it. I’ve had good friends that I essentially lost contact with because they didn’t have Facebook. I’d lose or break my phone and suddenly I had no way to contact them unless we shared other acquaintances. Maintaining long distance friendships is also much easier and helps you share things like new phone numbers or mailing addresses. It’s not an antisocial enforcer; it’s a social enabler.

  2. I deleted my Facebook account before I went to SFU because I suspected I was spending too much time gawking at the newsfeed. As a result, I found equally useless ways to waste my time, except now I stopped getting invited to events.

    It wasn’t that people didn’t like me and didn’t want me to come to their event. It’s just easier to look through a list of people and click the names of who you want to come than it is to text message the details of the event to everyone you want to come. Half the time you don’t have that persons phone number, you just have them on Facebook. The details have changed? Time to send another text, but the list of people who are coming has changed too. I don’t blame them for not bothering with texts, especially since so few people are not on Facebook.

    Reading a person’s profile should inspire questions, not eliminate them. You know their hobbies and interests, now ask them questions and get them to talk about them. Maybe you just met this person and talked briefly, but now that you’ve added them on Facebook you discovered you share a passion for table tennis. Look at you! You’ve just found yourself a partner for doubles on Sundays.

    It took me months to realize that my problem with Facebook wasn’t really Facebook’s problem, it was my own lack of self control. Facebook was just ‘where’ I wasted my time, not ‘why’. Facebook offered me opportunities to expand my friendships by providing me with an avenue to send messages. It gave me an opportunity to learn a little more about a person before I decide to spend more time with them. It offers me an easy way to persist what might be a fleeting friendship and allows me to watch as people’s passions and interests evolve.

    Facebook is only as anti-social as you make it. It can be a valuable tool for facilitating meaningful social interactions, even if the interactions on Facebook aren’t meaningful in and of themselves. It’s easy to see the flaws in Facebook, but deleting your account is like throwing out the sandwich because you don’t like olives.

    Oh look at the time, I got to get back to work at the job I got when somebody posted about a position via Facebook.