Once upon a time, I did have a Facebook account. I filled out all the necessary profile sections. I poked people and left cheeky comments on their wall. I gave virtual birthday “gifts” to “friends.” As I watched my time and energy slipping away into the superficial social sieve, I realized something very important: Facebook did not, overall, enhance my quality of life. If anything, it contributed to stress, anxiety and negative thought cycles. So several years ago, I blew up my account; I haven’t looked back since. I have no regrets for leaving that social media platform. (Wait, that’s a lie. I have one minor regret: Keeping up with my favorite local events is not as effortless as it can be on Facebook. If Facebook offers me anything I consider great, it would be the ability to get info and reminders on events in the area. That’s it. Really.) Below are the detailed reasons I chose to leave, and why my life is better without Facebook.
1. It’s a colossal distraction.
Like its social network cousins, Facebook is hungry for attention. Every time one signs into Facebook, a barrage of updates, invitations, comments and photos floods the individual’s brain. What to look at or respond to first? Yeah, maybe I DID walk over to my desk before lunch to check my email, note down pertinent information, finish that review, pay bills, organize my calendar for the week or look up a paper. Facebook is just one more thing to check up on in that extensive electronic to-do list, but once I am in its clutches, hours and life escape me in the favor of voyeurism and gossip. And that to-do list? Forget it. I already did. What did I come to my desk to do anyway? Ah well, it will come back to me later. Must not have been important, right? (3 hours later: “Oh, fuck! The review!” Two days later: “What time did I say I’d turn my samples in the other day? Hmm… I wonder why I didn’t take note.”)
2. It fosters destructive behavior.
There are many unsavory temptations that Facebook makes it all too easy to indulge. Some are listed below, but everyone has their personal favorites.
Stalking: That awesome stranger you briefly and superficially met at that party. Y’know, the one with the sexy walk and mysterious eyes. Look at that! S/he’s friends with your friends. You’ll just check out their page for a second… just to get an idea of music they like, who they hang with, what books they read. Maybe you two would really hit it off! Seconds become minutes become hours after days of revisiting the photo stream and profile. Surfing all the tagged photos, the displayed banter and little tidbits of info here and there, you are able to construct an image of this person from their public, virtual self. In your head, you two are vacationing on sandy beaches or rocking out at a show. They’ve appeared in your dreams, and you wonder why some of the people you meet can’t be more like your crush. Should you friend them? You know they will be at X’s party; you saw the RSVP. Maybe you should go, too, even though you’re not particularly fond of X… All of this, and you’ve only had one or two insubstantial conversations with your crush. You don’t even KNOW them. Really, you don’t.
On my end, I am the Stalked, not the Stalker. And I hate that shit. I’m not putting my life out there for others to eat up, twist around in their heads and regurgitate back out to someone else I may or may not know. Which brings me to the next point:
Gossiping: Want the dirt on someone? Well, thankfully, Facebook allows just about anyone to display tasty morsels about anyone they may know, even superficially. Got photos? Got opinions about friends of friends? Why not use their real, full names in the nasty comments? See them drunk at that party? All the better!
Passive aggressiveness: I think the adult general public can all agree that passive aggressiveness is typically “not a good thing.” As in, it usually isn’t conducive to open communication, understanding or bond-forming. It usually acts as a wall or an abrasive stimulus, driving people away from each other. Facebook provides yet another forum for us to express passive aggressiveness. Angry at someone? De-friend them; they’ll get the hint. Block them. And then if/when other “friends” ask about the virtual separation, dish the details. Passive aggressiveness gone public! Oh, and if you’re in a relationship that seems to be souring, just change that relationship status. Maybe your S.O. will see it. Maybe they’ll try to have a talk about it, and maybe part of the conversation will go this way: “But all these virtual indications of relationship status aren’t “real” anyway. They don’t matter, really, baby.”
These secret or subtle actions have a profound influence on our psychology. Stalking online, though more effortlessly covert than real life stalking, holds the same power to distort images in the mind and enrich to-be-unfulfilled (and sometimes dangerous) fantasy. The imaginary relationship often holds no promise, and, more likely, damages any future potential by feeding the Stalker’s unfounded expectations and by righteously pissing off or scaring the Stalked.
Is this what you want?
Stalking is a term commonly used to refer to unwanted, obsessive attention by individuals (and sometimes groups of people) to others. Stalking behaviors are related to harassment and intimidation. The word “stalking” is used, with some differing meanings, in psychology and psychiatry and also in some legal jurisdictions as a term for a criminal offense. It may also be used to refer to criminal offences or civil wrongs that include conduct which some people consider to be stalking, such as those described in law as “harassment” or similar terms.
Again, actions online have a very real and potentially significant influence on our non-cyber lives. By changing our relationship status online or de-friending someone, we’re sending out a signal to the public as well as reinforcing our own thoughts and intentions. We can become wrapped up in online responses (or lack thereof). Are these online responses or behavior really genuine? Would they be different face-to-face?
Oh, gods, the the dumb games with the ridiculous updates. No, no and no, I don’t want to play your ninjas-eating-babies vs. vampires-wearing-silly-hats games. And I really don’t care who is playing them and what is happening over there. Also, I don’t need Facebook to suggest to me with whom I should be friends or may know (refer back to the Stalking section, please). There should be a way to filter out all status updates that have to do with any bodily function, this includes everything from eating food to being ill.
4. Sponsored Stories
Retch. If data mining and incessant advertising aren’t enough, let’s give corporations one more avenue into our lives. ‘Cause, you know, Starbucks needs some advertising help. Really? Really.