People always seem shocked when they realize I don’t have a Facebook.
Yet, I find myself shocked when I read stuff like this.
So why don’t I have a Facebook, you ask? What is wrong with me?
I promise I’m not a luddite. Though I did just take a break from writing this to read the Wikipedia article on the original Luddites, and they actually seem kind of awesome. See? I use the internet quite frequently! I waste time reading probably-inaccurate entries on Wikipedia. I also have a Twitter account. I run my own blog. I have a Tumblr. I have a fancy phone and a big TV. I’m basically Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.
Because all these things are useful to me. Twitter gives me a convenient place to keep track of silly little thoughts I have, that might inspire me later. My blogs motivate me to write daily, even when no is paying me to. But I’ve never felt that anything in my life could be made easier by Facebook. I think of technology as a tool, and Facebook seems to me more like a frivolity. But everyone and their mother has a Facebook these days. Everyone and their mother’s mother.
To help me understand, I asked some of my close friends why they personally use Facebook. I got a few unique responses, but most of the answers boiled down to “So I can see what distant relatives/acquaintances are up to.” And I guess it’s obvious that Facebook certainly makes doing that easy. However, I’m not convinced that people would care about the daily happenings of “distant relative/acquaintances” if Facebook hadn’t created such an easy way to acquire the information. Isn’t your level of concern what differentiates a mere acquaintance from a friend?
It also seems to me that when you use Facebook, that in addition to keeping yourself updated on acquaintances, you also make yourself concerned that your acquaintances, be they your best friend or your best friend’s cousin’s college roommate, perceive you on this platform. And you care how they perceive you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing the egocentricity or narcissism of Facebook. I spend a good deal of time in the morning putting on a flattering outfit, making my hair look decent, arranging my scarf just so. I care about the impression I give off to total strangers on the subway. And narcissistically, when I look at the window of the subway car, I want to be pleased with my reflection (as pleased as one can be in subway-lighting).
It seems to me with Facebook, though, that there is something dangerous about the artifice of the impressions made, the fact that you can define how people perceive you. You can cleverly a craft witty status update, but how well does that witticism actually capture the state of your life right now? You can post a million pictures of you from the New Year’s party you went to, and you look devastatingly glamorous. But didn’t you end up drinking too much, harassing your ex-boyfriend, and throwing up on a couch? On Facebook most people choose to provide only the information that makes them seems cool and perfect, and thank god you can quickly untag any unflattering photo.
If Facebook profiles can be so well curated like this, how can there be any authenticity? What kind of representation of oneself is a Facebook page? Given that everybody can create whatever image of themselves they want, and presuming you don’t care when a second-tier friend has an awesome journey to Wawa, I wonder if Facebook actually is helping you see what your acquaintances are up to in their real lives.
Another explanation a friend offered about his Facebook usage was that it provides an easy form of communication with people who you might not know that well. For example, if you meet someone and don’t get his or her phone number, you can use Facebook to reconnect. He also gave the example of how he saw on Facebook that an old crush was coming in town, and that he’d messaged her on Facebook to see if she might want to meet up. He said using Facebook made it less committal, less forward. Are commitment and forwardness things we really no longer aspire to possess?
Would Casablanca be as poignant if Rick had sent Ilsa a Facebook message saying “Hey, saw you in my bar. Cool. I don’t know how busy you are, but maybe if u have a little time 2 spare we can chat, catch up. Cya round. –Rick”? Probably not.
The most convincing answer to the Facebook question I’ve heard was from a friend who said “I like seeing pictures of myself.”
And that is totally fair.
There are a lot of problems with having a Facebook, merely because you give a ridiculous amount of personal information to a for-profit company. By agreeing to the Terms of Service that allow you to use Facebook, you essentially have to let them do whatever they want with the content you upload. And Facebook can let companies track your internet behavior for marketing campaigns. I actually don’t care about this stuff as much. Facebook is a free service and I don’t think its users should really feel entitled to anything.
In the end, I think why I don’t have a Facebook really comes down to the fact that I really don’t care what’s going on with five hundred people. And for the maybe ten people I truly care about, I have my magic telephone-device. I’m so 2000’s.