July 11, 2014
Leave Facebook Forever, Turn Paranoia Somewhere Else
I found myself a little wound up by an article on the normally thoroughly enjoyable Mashable about how to remove Facebook from your life forever, delete all trace of it, as far as that is possible, and join the ranks of the high and mighty in the kingdom of enlightenment. To be fair, Mashable didn’t talk much about the philosophical reasons why somebody might want to leave Facebook behind; they simply gave a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to do so, if you so choose. My main beef is with the idea itself, in many of the people who have it.
It’s not that I am hopelessly in love with and devoted to Facebook, and I don’t use it every day. I also do dislike a few of the features, such as telling people when I was ‘last active,’ so they will know that I am choosing not to respond to their message just yet as opposed to just not having seen it, and the same applies to telling them that a message has been “seen.” But if the thread is that important maybe we should reply, or if not we could just not go on Facebook at all for a few days and catch up with people later. It can also occasionally be problematic when it comes to behaving a little questionably, but so can, you know, the law. It’s not really Facebook’s fault if we choose to bare our behind drunkenly in a public library, and it is probably our just deserts that our boss finds out.
I understand that some people don’t like the invasion of privacy that Facebook brings, and understand that it can make our lives feel too public (but then again the coming of the telephone must have made people feel awfully obligated to be more sociable than they’d like). Mashable also mention the possibility that more and more of us would like to “avoid digital distractions.” But in regards to the invasion of privacy, I think this is more paranoia than genuine concern. As much as we, naturally, are turned inward and obsessively focussed on our own lives, the reality is that most people quite simply don’t give a shit about us, or our kids, or our pets. The NSA don’t give a shit about the vast majority of us, despite their widespread snooping, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about our holiday snaps, and even our friends don’t give that much of a chuff. I have disagreed (indirectly) with Louis CK on the subject of social media before, when he said that smartphones are bad for us, but I do agree with him that if you posted a video of just two minutes of your wonderful thing that happened, then a further six minutes of yourself with your finger up your own ass, the comments would be exactly the same: “Wonderful, so proud of you babe.” “Great work buddy, knew you could do it” etc. (I am paraphrasing Louis, FYI)
I suppose the only people who care about us and our Facebook activity are advertisers. And I admit it can be a bit concerning when you search for hotels in a random city in Lithuania, for example, then ads related directly to that start appearing on all kinds of pages you visit. But I am pretty confident that would happen without Facebook. It doesn’t mean you have to click the ad, or buy anything, and hey, maybe you’ll be given some great deal. I used to wonder why there were so few ads for kids’ toys on TV compared to when I was a kid, before I realized that advertisers just put them on at the times when kids watch TV. They know that kids get up early and then watch TV after school, you see, creepy isn’t it? Not really.
Fair enough if somebody really thinks there is a clear and present danger to themselves and their family from Facebook, or if they think they will be at one with nature only by deleting it completely instead of just logging off for a bit and going for a walk. But I suspect most people’s motivation for permanently deleting Facebook is to be able to proudly tell others they have done it, and feel a bit special for going against the grain. If it is to remove the fear of prying eyes, don’t forget that there are other places where that can happen, like the street. Where we are also targeted by unscrupulous advertisers. But I suspect if people told their friends they weren’t going to use the street any more, rather than Facebook, instead of a “good for you, girl/buddy” they would get a “err.. right, sit down, what awfulness has befallen you?”
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