The last day I have been exploring the media around Facebook this year. I’ll be honest, I don’t quite understand what has been going on but some of the things I have read have disgruntled me a little. On the other hand I use Facebook quite cautiously and always have. I guess I came into the digital age at a time when these things were new and it was natural to question them.
I recall receiving invitations from a friend to use Facebook, and I really wasn’t interested in the idea. I was travelling at the time and away from friends and family. I ignored them for quite a while before I decided to give it a go. I didn’t quite get it. I didn’t understand why I should post status updates and didn’t understand why anyone would care about what I was doing. I would see friends posting all day and then informing people something along the lines of “Right that’s it for me today, I’m off to bed”, followed by a series of people posting to say goodnight. It felt weird. And accountable. Did that person really have to inform people that they were getting into bed in a form of clocking off?
I played along to a degree. Posting the odd comment and shared notes on my trip. I guess what I was doing was an early form of blogging for me. I began to really enjoy the feedback I got from my sharing. People complimenting my photography and sparking discussions about travelling. Each picture was now an opportunity to see if that style of picture was something people liked to see as well as a conversation starter with people who know the location of the scene or those who wished to go there. I loved sharing my travel tips and encouraging people to see the world.
When I returned from travelling I signed up to a website where I could connect with others who liked my favourite band. I spent most of my time either on there, or Skype, chatting with voice and/or video with those I met on the website. Facebook was just a formalisation of those relationships and expanded my online network. After a while it then became a source of pain. I briefly began an online relationship with someone I met on the band website. As the distance put a strain on us and broke us apart, I was left with his ghost on my Facebook. Of course I blocked him, but I didn’t hate him. I just needed time to heal. Blocking felt cruel and final, so I would block, unblock, block, unblock, wishing I could have a friendship with him but still hurt that he ended things between us. The ‘block or unblock’ was now a topic of conversation between myself and friends. A conversation that would never have existed a decade before. It felt ridiculous. My decision seemed to carry serious repercussions about the future of what else would happen/not happen between us.
At the same time all of those friendships made through that website went through an unstable time. We were regularly meeting up in person and personality clashes were occurring as we got to know each other in reality. I wanted an online space that I could use to connect with other friends, so I tried out Facebook a bit more. I started to find my voice and found I was quickly shot down and insulted by people I had considered friends. I couldn’t understand what was happening. In person these things would have never been said, but being online seemed to make it okay. I quickly retracted and have kept Facebook at a distance ever since. I don’t want digital drama in my life and want to protect the friendships I have.
My current relationship with Facebook is with a great deal of caution. I don’t have the app on my phone and have never allowed it to scan my emails or my computer for contact details etc. I don’t use my Facebook login to sign into anything other than Facebook. I rarely post or share anything. I found that over time people seem to see less of what I do share. When I share photos of a recent travel I hardly get a comment. So I stopped taking the valuable time to upload them. I also noticed that when I go on Facebook I am flooded with posts from one friend, and barely see anything from another. I now have approx 550 friends. I’m never going to have a snapshot of how they are all doing in the space of 15 minutes anyway. I also know that some of those friends use their connection with me for their own exploitative reasons. It feels like a job having to work out who those people are and then decide whether to restrict them or place them on some sort of list, when all I wanted to do was connect with my friends. I now own a business and use Facebook for promotion and expanding my network, so deleting my account is no longer a wise option.
So I have come up with my own solution!
I have downloaded all my data from Facebook to my computer. My plan is to check this data and remove anything that I wish to keep, and do a form of clean sweep with my account. I want to have a clean profile and keep the connections I have made. The majority of these people are important to me. My friends list is already hidden and I have already restricted the view of some people I consider to potentially inflict danger to what I do share. As I am running a business, I am not about to delete anyone unless they cross a clear line. As an INFJ I give everyone at least one chance to screw me over 😉
I have no interest in boycotting Facebook. They have acted inappropriately but they have also offered something that everyone needs. Connection. It is up to everyone who uses social media to use it wisely. Educate yourself. When you agree to an option, are you clear on what you are agreeing to? Are there other mediums that you can utilise more? Is Facebook a source of happiness or stress?