It’s one of those things you think about every time your mother comments on a photo of you, or a high school buddy boasts about a new business venture, or a good friend feels the need to fill your day with his newborn’s bowel movements. The first time I gave it any serious thought was when it was reported that facebook had developed face recognition technology, my initial reaction was. “So who cares? It was bound to happen eventually.” So what if I have shared so much of my personal life online that a computer program can recognise my face? So what if I “like” a product that I’ll never buy and get news feeds from brands I have no interest in, this is what it takes to maintain an online presence.
My fb friends outnumber those I could actually rely on in a fight by three hundred to one; if facebook were Tron I would be dead. That’s irrelevant though as long as I poke them every so often to remind them that I still exist and keep up good neighbourly relationships in Farmville.
I no longer share my real life online; instead I shape my offline antics by invites on facebook. How long till I start living completely vicariously through others and give up entirely on personal interaction. I am aware that this sounds like the ranting of our fathers when the internet first became a meaningful form of communication however they could never have guessed how much personal freedom we were about to give up.
I don’t have a problem with the fundamentals of social networking. We all, as human beings, need to interact. The language that we are starting to associate with networking, however, has become severely perverse. “Friend” no longer bares the weight that it used to. “Sharing” doesn’t involve the consideration it should and “Like” is no longer an emotion it’s an action.
These sentiments are not new, in fact they’re rather boring, and when I expressed them to a colleague I was told in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t like the system I was welcome to leave.
That was when I first decided to quit facebook. It wasn’t the invasion of privacy or the annoying updates about a month long break up, it was as simple as exercising my freedom. The old advertising adage goes (and it feels apt to mention marketing in an article about facebook even though I promised myself I wouldn’t) “if you don’t like what they’re saying change the conversation.” Well I can’t change it so I’m going to the bar. I would no doubt be saying the same thing about Google+ had I ever bothered to use my account, in fact part of me prefers Google+ largely because I don’t know anyone that is using it.
Part of this exercise is incredibly self-indulgent I really just want to know who is going to miss me. I have always been fascinated by who would come to my funeral if I died today; the fact that I view de-activating a facebook account on par with a funeral is an indication of the impact it has had on my life.