I disabled my facebook profile (call the police!)

Last week I did something radical…


And so far – it’s been interesting.

Facebook has experienced huge growth since its launch in 2004 with a reported 845 million active users in February 2012. The social networking site provides a shared online webspace for individuals and their friends to chat, post messages/email and share uploads /activities relating to their interests.

I’ve been a member of the site since around 2007/8. Since I joined I’ve spent a good amount of time using the site. I currently have around 250 friends (although at one stage I was hitting 700). I have been in contact with old friends from school, joined groups for events, shared photos and communicated with friends across the world both whilst at ‘home’ and whilst abroad travelling. I can literally communicate ‘on the move’ picking up facebook from my smartphone at any time where I have a signal. It has had some positive impact on my life, increased my online presence and connection with others.   So why the change?

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the tipping point was that made me want to take a step back from it.  From a practical level the site has been subject to constant upgrades and re-designs with privacy rules and process changing frequently. This unsettles me as I feel less in control of the data that I share.  The most frequent introduction ‘timeline’ encourages you to input all your personal history and it got to a stage where I didn’t understand why that was really necessary. The accuracy of the targeted marketing on facebook is frightening (with ‘bots’ often picking up key words from status updates etc ) and whilst its great to share info on line this can also backfire with the world being informed of your relationship breakup or latest family drama. This is pretty rubbish if it’s something serious such as a hospital emergency or similar.

One of the key things I have noticed is the more that I have shared on facebook the less people in my life have felt it necessary to actually to talk to me.  Being a research student can be a lonely process at times, and whilst other people have felt that they are up to date with my goings on via facebook, I’ve really missed having face to face contact with them. My main resolution is to try and get back into the habit of having actual conversations with people and hopefully encourage them to do the same.

I started to also wonder what the implication was in terms of emotional investment in the past. Having your entire life history mapped out in front of you may not be the best thing in terms of relationship break up or family dispute and who really needs to be reminded of certain past events?  I know several of my friends who have completed the obligatory ‘facebook stalk’ of their new partners torturing themselves with photos of their current beau in previous relationships.  I was also contacted by a ‘bully’ from years gone by who seemed to have no recollection of what she put me through.  So I silently ignored her friend request and the more I ignored her well guess what? She attempted to bully me again via the internet. Not really sure I needed that… is it really necessary to get back in touch with everyone from our past.. maybe if we’ve not kept in touch it’s for a reason and it’s better to let them go?

I noticed other changes in social activity too. One of my interest is photography and lately I have been making greater attempts to understand and document different aspects of social life. I want to understand and represent social issues (by social I mean those concerned with society) using photography to try and do that. So I am trying to think more about the meanings of the photos that I take.  I’ve been on a few nights out recently where the activity seemed to be taking photos for facebook. Not enjoying the moment, or celebrating a specific event but for taking photo after photo of ..well..not a lot really. The whole dynamic of an evening out seems to be shifting from enjoying the moment to documenting it. Performing it even. Don’t get me wrong I’ve been just as guilty of this in the past as others have.  I guess from my clowning training I am learning to try and live in the moment,  but I witnessed how facebook is changing our sense of ‘being there’ with people posting on facebook groups about the night out whilst all being on the night out and a few metres away from each other. I started wondering if this was quite right. Also my research is concerned with the older people and they highlight so much the need for ‘being there’ with others. It made me more aware of my own absence in the present through technology/facebook.

I’v e been having these thoughts for a while and Shelly Turkle’s book ‘Alone Together’ has been on my amazon wish list since last year.  Recently I picked up on a TED talk via Twitter (Oh the irony) given by Sherry regarding her research which discuss this concept of almost individual/group isolation.  Have a look and see what you think.

One of the most interesting things is the way people react when I tell them.  It’s become such a social norm that most people think I am bonkers. In addition more and more activities are being organised via facebook and my lack of an account has been seen as a real inconvenience. Also interesting to note is that a lot of people weirdly assumed they had done something to me personally and that I had singled them out for deletion rather than cancelling my own account.

I didn’t delete my facebook profile as I have lots of info I need to pull off as well as contact details of friends and family. I can go back in at any time and restore things if I want to, it has had some great benefits and in the past I have enjoyed sharing certain things with my friends and family. I guess what I’m doing currently is taking stock. Trying to exist in the moment and rekindle the physical co-present aspects of my relationships.   Although people think I’m weird I’ve felt a lot better. Maybe I will re-boot the profile at some point in the future, but currently I am enjoying a new kind of freedom,  – one of privacy, of acting in a different way, of trying to be in the  here and now…. and to be honest the strongest feeling I have is a strange sense of relief.

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