Social Media: My concerns and why I quit Facebook
When I was just a little boy, there wasn’t yet a personal computer. Although we had a game computer (a Commodor 64), my brothers and I preferred to play with LEGO or Playmobile and we went very often outside playing with other kids living in our neighborhood on the streets.
But then, when I was about 8 years old I think, our first Personal Computer was a fact: a 386SX. And about 6 years later, we had an Internet connection via our telephone line. After finishing secondary education the developments were gaining momentum. The study I chose was New Media Design, which was quite new at those days. It wasn’t that common that company’s had their own website, or wanted a cd-rom presentation with video and animations in it.
A online forum as meeting place
At the same time Internet was developing, and much more people had broadband Internet connections. I got to know about Internet forums, places where a lot of scholars and students came to help each other with their homework, computer problems or other stuff teenagers care about. It was really funny, but for me it had a counter side. Instead of making my homework, or sleeping at night I was on the forum all day long. For me it was a safe place to meet new people. Sometimes we had meetings with people somewhere in Holland, which was very scary but also very nice and sociable. But after three years I had to quit for several reasons: First, It took too much time so my study was suffering from it. The second reason was more personal. I didn’t really like it anymore. I realized that people occur differently on the forum, than that they actually are. That was very hard to realize. But it was true!
Nowadays a lot of communication on the Internet shifted from those forums to the Social Networking Sites. In Holland we have a site like Hyves, which is very popular but they’re loosing it from Facebook. As we all know, Facebook is one of the biggest (international) social networks today. When I started studying at the University in 2009, I changed from Hyves to Facebook. And off course within the study of New Media, we’re talking a lot about social networking sites and Facebook. But several weeks ago I had the same kind of feeling as I had with the forum. Maybe a bit different, but I had to quit. So at the moment of writing this blog post, I don’t have Facebook anymore. A lot of friends that I talk to outside of Facebook and the ‘world of Internet’ asked me why I stopped, why I deleted my Facebook page. They have problems with the fact I did stop using Facebook. Why? An example: “Well, without Facebook I can’t chat with you anymore” or “Now you don’t get invitations for party’s and other meetings anymore”. Well…. If people really think so, that these kind of things are not possible without Facebook than we all have a problem I think. People can’t live without the use of social media, at least that’s how a lot of people act.
Communication or Connection
About a week after my ‘quitting’, there was an interesting television program on the Dutch television, an interview with Sherry Turkle. And she said a lot of things, which I agreed with. For more information, watch the program here (if you don’t see a videoplayer, please reload the page and it will show up):
The beginning of the program is introduced by Daphne Bunshoek, where she is stating: “We’re communicating a lot with each other these days, but do we really talk with each other?” This is an example of something that scares me. People are talking to each other, but in de meantime reading the latest news, watching the status of their shares, texting their friends and updating Facebook. And what scares me most is that I do it as well as others. Can we multi-task better than a few years ago? I don’t think so. I think that we all (yes, including myself) use our telephone in the wrong way. It looks like the telephone is getting more important. More important than the person we’re talking to. It is getting harder for people to live without the possibility to be connected to the Internet and to other people (friends, colleagues, family). But is it just about this connection? Or is it the feeling to stay in contact with everyone on the same time? Sherry Turkle gives another example of parents having breakfast with their children but meanwhile texting to their friends as their children wait for some attention. Being connected is getting more and more important. Turkle states that we are moving from conversation to connection. With conversations we learn how to negotiate, how to read expressions. But with connection it is just about the connection itself.
What scares me about using Facebook is that for me it feels a kind of fake. The status updates people are posting, the photo’s; everything is positive. You only see the bright side of people. That might be not a problem, but the social media view on the world is a positive one. But that world doesn’t really exist.
Turkle says in the same program that people “on Facebook think that they are their selves, but in fact that they are performing their selves. Their ideal self. In real life you have your ups and downs, on Facebook they don’t want to say anything negative.”
There is a change going on in social network sites. As danah boyd heard from Laura in her research in 2008: “In urgency, I use texting. If it can wait, I use MySpace. [S]ometimes you only need to say one little thing that doesn’t require a whole phone call.” (boyd 2008, p. 111) 1 In those days, kids are using the internet and social media as a extension on the way of communicating. But today they use Facebook or other sites, or their cellphone to communicate. Talkin to each other in a ‘normal’ face-to-face conversation is outdated or something. They don’t know how to communicate anymore. It’s all via social media. Because our smart phones are always connected to the internet, they have become a part of the social media. Facebook is used on the computers, but also in apps on mobile devices when kids (and also parrents, as Turkle stated).
Just share my stuff!
But there is more. I know that a lot of research on social networking sites is about privacy. And that’s a good thing off course, but a lot a people using sites as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other are not aware of anything. They just want to use the service and don’t want to think about how it works. But that’s really scary! Yes, the privacy matters are really important. But isn’t it scary that most of the users do not really care? That they just push a like-button, or Google ‘plus’-button because they like what they just watched? And with the new Facebook Timeline function, Facebook is using the goodness and kindness of their users. It look pretty cool, so why don’t upload the entire collection photo’s of your childhood, and tell Facebook (and the rest of the world) all about your life? And because it looks very great, and all info is on one single place people do not want to leave that site. And Facebook has a lot more information about their users, which they can use for everything they want (as every one is agreeing with the terms of condition without actually reading them). Nowadays we don’t need to register on sites anymore, we just need to login with our Facebook account. What?! Yes, that’s right! Just use your Facebook account to login at other sites, and give both the companies your private information for free!
So researching Facebook and other social media sites is indeed helpful, and I think everyone is doing a great job to do research on different perspectives. But I think it is more important to warn people about the risks. The risks of what companies or hackers could do with the provided information. But also to warn people that social media are not an replacement of social life. Of course, we can use it as an extension, the way we communicate changers all over the time. But till know it was still about communication, to communicate and understand each other. Today it is more about the connection, to be connected to everyone.
- danah boyd, Taken out of context. American teen sociality in networked publics. 2008 [↩]