Last week I waved goodbye my Facebook account. It wasn’t for the first time; anyone else who has deactivated only to end up coming back, knows how easy it is to return. Facebook keeps everything just as you left it so you can just pick up where you left off.
But this time it feels different. I use Facebook a lot less, and it’s easy to see why. Firstly, the platform itself has changed; the News Feed seems to show only a small selection of the almost 700 friends I’ve collected over the years; whereas before, a notification meant that someone had actually interacted with you in some way, now I can be notified just because someone has uploaded a photo or updated their status. The feeling that Facebook is trying to manipulate me into interacting with people is off putting.
Secondly, I have changed. I no longer think it’s appropriate to share my innermost feelings, or personal experiences with virtual strangers. And yes, I consider the majority of people on my “friends” list to be strangers, added during the “friend grab” phase of my early twenties when meeting someone for the first time was a good enough reason to “friend” them on Facebook.
That’s why for me, the best thing about the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, is that is finally pushed me from contentedly finding Facebook boring and bizarre, to completely being over it. However, before news of the scandal even broke, I had been conducting my own mental analysis of the social networking site.
If we didn’t already, we now all know the extent to which our Facebook data is shared with third parties. I shudder to think just how much of my data has been gathered over the 12 year period that I used the site. But Facebook has taken so much more than just your data. It has taken your time, your development of social skills, the importance you attach to privacy and so much more. I now consider it completely insane that people are willing to share the most personal details of their lives with virtual strangers. Though only a handful people will actually respond to something we have posted, we forgot about the hundreds of others lurking silently in the shadows, watching our private lives play out in the open, and witnessing our triumphs and tribulations. And the only effort they’ve had to make for this open access to our lives, is to sign in. It is one of sadder consequences of Facebook, that people are less willing to reach out to people by actually picking up the phone to call them, or even more revolutionary, meeting up with them in person (*shock horror*).
Still, there was something else about Facebook that began to sit uncomfortably with me, after a lightbulb moment occurred a few months ago. A “friend suggestion” appeared and it was someone I had known many years ago. What was so remarkable about this moment, was that until I saw the “friend suggestion” I had completely forgotten that this person even existed. And so I should, because that’s what’s supposed to happen as you pass through various stages in life. You do forget people from your past. Or at list you did before Facebook was invented. Now, even that person you met one time at a party is forever with you because you “friended” her, and 10 years on you know every country she’s ever visited, “met” each successive boyfriend, and know what the inside of her fridge looks like.
Facebook has taken away that experience of bumping into an old face, taking a few seconds to piece together where you know them from, and sharing in a brief moment of nostalgia as you realise how much you’ve both changed. Now when I bump into an “old face”, there is no surprise, only a feeling of awkwardness as you know you can’t even pretend not to recognise him because he commented on your post the other day, and you already know the names of his three children and respective baby mothers. The taking away of the ability to forget certain people, should not be overlooked.
Since leaving Facebook this time around, I’ve not looked back at all. A final reminder as to its oddness came as I was taking the final steps to deactivate. “How will you keep in touch with your friends?” Facebook asked me, as a desperate attempt to try to manipulate me into staying. That won’t be a problem Facebook; I’ll call them.