A book of faces you say?

Yeah.  That.

Yeah. That.

I got rid of my facebook account recently.  Committing social-network suicide wasn’t so hard, merely a case of logging onto my account via my phone’s browser, heading to the relevant page and hitting the appropriate button.  I didn’t need to brace myself, nor am I having intense withdrawal symptoms from being without the big blue leviathan.

I joined facebook less than a year ago with the same idea as every other hapless individual; meet / get friends, talk to friends, hear what they have to say and have some fun in the process.  I’m no stranger to social networking and I quickly grew fond of facebook.  I enjoyed its subtle shades of blue, its clean lines and its neat, well thought out site plan.  It looked great and was a joy to use; far superior to Myspace, Orkut, Bebo or Friendster – sites that I grew infuriated with and ended up cancelling my account or abandoning early on.  I continued the seemingly endless task of finding people to befriend and adding them to the ever expanding list of people I knew in one way or another.  The rate at which I checked my profile increased steadily and at the height of my usage I even wrote a small script for my mobile phone to refresh my facebook’s home screen once a minute so I didn’t have to do it manually.

Ridiculous.

The more I used facebook, the more I realised what was going on.  The time i spent sending emails or holding conversations on peoples’ walls could have actually been spent with the person in real life (which I shall call RL from now on).  It could have easily been a quick phone call to catch up or even a meeting for lunch, anything other than what it was – a faceless meeting of text and impersonal, often forced, chit-chat.  I think back to the times where I would spend a good hour or two trawling through photographs of friends, then the photographs of their friends and so on until it got to the point where I was looking at photographs of people I didn’t even know doing things with more people I didn’t know.  Instead of giving people up to the minute updates on what I was doing or posting links to people who didn’t even care I could have spent the time emailing my friends in RL and arranging real meetings and having real conversation.

Toward the end of my relationship my wall steadily became a place where people exchanged bitchy or snide comments.  The groups I’d joined previously bared no meaning on anything in my life – mindless free-for-all forums where anyone could and often did say whatever they wanted, their mindless, poorly thought out and badly worded opinion bandied about the Internet like a cheap whore.  Of the 85 or so people in my friends list, I could only name around 10 to 15 people who I could honestly say I spoke to on a regular basis.  The endless stream of information on the home page just disintegrated into a place for people to bitch and moan at each other about all their differences.  Friends of mine would snipe at one another through their status updates and their friends would join in and their friends would join in and so on and so on until the endless clusterfuck of human society and modern civilisation had well and truly raped its way through the nooks, crannies and crevices of the Internet onto my screen.

I do not want a representation of the thing I despise so viciously splayed across my monitor.

Facebook is caustic.  It is faceless and by its very design is crafted to lull the user into a pit where an almost permanent connection to your ‘friends’ is required.  The need for streamed information is all well and good, but facebook latches onto the addict in all of us, with some even going so far as to use it as a means to organise or at least publish their entire lives.  Facebook relieves the user of face-to-face interaction to the point where people feel more comfortable behind their monitor or above their mobile phone, poking away at their ‘friends’.  This ‘grooming’ of the user  has become yet another one of the millions of influences that drives people in subway cars to avoid eye-contact at all costs.  It soothes the facebooker with its subtle blue tones, clean lines and squircles, making you feel safe and like you’re taking part in something that just feels natural and oh-so-easy.

I understand that I have a somewhat addictive personality and people who know me well would tell you that I pick up things and cling to them rather easily, but I don’t think this is entirely my fault.  At the beginning I found it rather hard to be left out of something so popular.  The need to follow the crowd is a strong one in a society so driven by the media and a constant message that there’s nothing more important than being #1.  I would imagine that if all the people were taken and lined up in rank of coolness, the guy (or girl) at #1 would almost certainly have an active facebook account.  When someone asked me if I had a facebook page within 10 minutes of knowing me, I pretty much realised on the spot that this is something that’s not going to go away.  It’s normal, much like having a mobile phone or an iPod, but this makes me wonder what life after facebook is going to be like.

One final thought.  A friend of mine once said;

For every friend you have on facebook, that’s minus one friend in real life.  You have 86 friends.  That means you have negative 86 friends.  Your life sucks.

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