No, I’m not on Facebook.

It seems as though I get this question at least once every week: “are you on Facebook?”

No, I’m not on Facebook.  I have no desire  to be on Facebook.  But of course, this just isn’t a good enough answer.  “Why not?” squeal the masses.  “It’s so useful!” they plead.  “I’d never know what was going on with any of my friends if I didn’t have Facebook.”  And therein, of course, lies half my problem with social networking sites:  the idea that they replace other, deeper and more meaningful forms of communication.

Is a friend really a friend if the only way that you ever get updates about them is through a site like Facebook?  Yeah, it looks like you have 200 friends.  They’re all there, alphabetized in your “friends” list.  But how often do you see any of these people in person?  How often do you phone them — or even send emails?  A message through Facebook is impersonal.  That same status update that you just gave is being sent not only to your so-called friend, but also to classmates from high school who you haven’t seen in five years, coworkers who you don’t really enjoy being around, and distant third-cousins who you met once when you were seven.  All of these people are being given exactly the same value by Facebook.  Shouldn’t you value some of them a little more?

The next problem, of course, is the lack of privacy.  Yes, supposedly you can make your profile un-searchable, so that employers or other awkward folks can’t see those pictures of you dancing with a lampshade on your head and your junk hanging out at your best friend’s birthday party.  But what about those people who you’ve accepted into your circle of “friends”?  Do all of those people really need to know what you had for dinner yesterday?  Do you want them to see the photos of you while you were on vacation?  And what if something more drastic happens — what if you lose your job, or break up with your long-term boyfriend?  Does everyone on that list of “friends” really need to be involved in that sort of personal drama?

You can say that you just won’t post about things that you don’t want to share, but really, how easy is it to hide a major, life-changing event like the breakup of a serious relationship?  Suddenly all of your friends will see your status go from “in a relationship” to “it’s complicated” and start leaving messages about it on your wall.  And all of his friends, who are also your Facebook “friends”, will start commenting as well, with potentially nasty results.  Yeah, you could just leave your status unchanged for a while, but eventually you really would have to change it, rather than leaving a great big lie out there for all to see.

And of course, it’s not just you yourself controlling the content that gets shared.  You may personally decide to suppress all embarrassing photos, but who’s to say that some “friend” won’t post up an unpleasant shot, tagged all over with your name so that everyone knows who it is?  You’ll un-tag yourself as soon as possible, of course, but just how vigilant can you afford to be?  Unless you’re willing to check Facebook a dozen times a day, an embarrassing image could be up for hours and hours before you see it, visible to anyone and everyone who you count among your “friends”.

So, no, I’m not on Facebook.  I can’t say for sure that I won’t ever give in to the temptation — I’m only human, after all:  I do feel a certain need to be special and important, and Facebook does fulfill that need by making us all into mini-celebrities.  But for now I’m content to update my friends through email or phone calls, and the occasional blog post or angsty poem on deviantART.  And while I may not be able to say that I have hundreds of “friends”, I can be confident in knowing that the few friends I have are real ones, who will answer my phone calls and be truly concerned about what’s happening in my life.

So stop asking me why I don’t F-book, okay?

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One Response to “No, I’m not on Facebook.”

  1. katemahar Says:

    Amen, sister! I just wrote about this subject myself – though not nearly as well as you did earlier this year. Nicely put!

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