The word on the street is that there’s an exodus taking place: people are leaving Facebook in droves. The buzz about teens leaving has been around for awhile- Mashable even did this nifty statistic chart showing the age contrast of Facebook users since 2011. And to be sure, there are some gaps there. Articles like this one highlight some of the negative feelings attributed to Facebook. Then, right around the new year, The Huffington Post sent out this post on 11 Reasons Why You Should Leave Facebook in 2014, which quickly became viral for those making resolutions, specifically among the “I hate Facebook” crowd.
There are some good points to consider in all this leaving. Privacy concerns are certainly valid- and Facebook does not have the best reputation for protecting user privacy in recent years. Some users object to feeling tracked or becoming a commodity. They don’ t like having their habits watched. There’s more than one soapbox shouter out there protesting the way Facebook decides what you see (and what you don’t). Even more disturbing are the stories of Facebook making people sad, like the Utah Valley University study that concluded,
“those who have used Facebook longer agreed more that others were happier, and agreed less that life is fair, and those spending more time on Facebook each week agreed more that others were happier and had better lives.”
I can’t say I’ve never experienced a little jealousy online now and then. What I can say is that I’m in no rush to throw the baby out with the bathwater, or unplug off the internet grid, and I won’t be leaving Facebook in 2014. Here’s Why:
- I work from home. For the last 9 years I’ve worked online, from home, and with the exception of my family, can easily go for a string of days without seeing another soul. While that might sound charming in a romanticized version of Little House on the Prairie: The Long Winter, its actually quite difficult at times. Social media has risen commensurate with the rates of work-from-home habits and I can see why. Facebook is my water cooler. I use it as a buffer between tasks at my desk- a way to take a quick break and see what’s up. I can participate in a conversation on my terms- quite helpful when one is multi-tasking and managing as much as I am.
- I like staying up to date on what my friends want to tell me about themselves. Sure, we curate what we want others to see. Sure, this might not present the most well-rounded and accurate truth of who we are. But c’mon people- hasn’t that been the case forever? I’m not going there to see all the nitty-gritty intimate details about the people I know. The ones who share that kind of information are boundary-crossers in my book, and that also tells me something about them, and I usually feel grateful for the low-stakes revelation of that and adjust my interaction accordingly. But everyone else? What they choose to reveal about their likes and dislikes, ideas, thoughts, families, feelings of gratitude, smiles-of-the-day…well all of this helps me see a new side of them. This has enriched relationships that are even already quite close, like those of long-standing friends and family. I think I can say in all honesty that my relationships are better for expression than without it.
- I keep my lists to people I actually know. I can’t help but wonder if some of the Facebook haters out there just burned out with ridiculous levels of saturation- feeds full of faces and information that they don’t know and don’t care about- because they “friended” everyone they could find. Sorry Charlie- you confused Facebook with Twitter, at least in my opinion. Each platform has it’s strengths. They are not always interchangeable, no matter that you can cross post and duplicate much of your content. The people on my Facebook friend list are actually friends. Or, they are people I’ve met (in person) who I interact with with the expectation of friendship.
- Word-of-mouth is still the fastest way to spread the news. I read the Sunday New York Times for relevant world and cultural news. I use social media for breaking news and to at least be a little fluent on what’s trending. I almost never “watch” the news on TV. But if something big happens, its still on social media first; this is especially true for anything local.
- Crowd sourcing is groovy. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve needed to find something, had a question that required an answer from the voice of experience- and by putting it out there on Facebook, received an instantaneous and diverse plethora of options. Facebook wasn’t always like this but now that’s achieved the mass that it has, I source as often in my feed as I do my searches in Google. Well, almost.
- I learn stuff from people I find relevant. I guess Your Feed May Vary…but mine is full of friends sharing art, helpful articles, happy news, regional experiences, opinions…and these all matter to me because the people behind them matter to me. I prefer this over TV and other outlets that try to tell me what matters and who should matter. This could change if ads become audible commercials that auto-play. But for now, I glaze over the ads and pay attention to what my friends have to share because I find it interesting.
- I don’t find my self-worth online. Social media can be a dicey playground for the insecure and the vain alike. A picture is supposed to show us who you are and when it comes to the amount of selfies you post, less is probably better than more. It helps to feel secure enough in your own appearance and abilities to not need a lot of ego stroking and validation online– the one’s who don’t are the usually the ones saying they felt invisible or, they’re the one’s posting a new selfie 4 times a day or, they’re the one’s who get mad and stalk off because they think everyone else is bragging about being better than them. I think social media might possibly just magnify whatever issues we already have- so if your opinion of yourself is determined by others, heal that first instead of blaming Facebook. It will follow you wherever you go.
- It gives me a place to express. I used Twitter to learn how to express a thought in 140 characters or less. It taught me to write shorter sentences. I use Facebook as a writing tool as well. Writers love having readers; Facebook naturally provides that. So I use my status updates as way to practice the best way to convey thoughts, stories, ideas and questions. The instant feedback is right there! Where else can a writer find that? What I say and how I use it is under my own control- I see that as powerful opportunity to attempt to sharpen my own skills and perhaps, do something good. This has worked for business growth as well- as evidenced by the way pages can allow a business to use Facebook to interact and develop their audience connection. As a creative and as an entrepreneur, I see this as one of Facebooks’s current greatest benefits.
- Boundaries will always matter, no matter where you go. Recently there were several stories about how Facebook ruins marriages. My feelings on this go back to the “social media magnifies what’s already there” that I mentioned above. If you’re a cheater, its certainly faster and easier to accelerate your sinnin’ on Facebook. If you’re a stalker, you’ve usually got a great way to feed your demon. There’s a long list of fairly innocent blunders we’ve probably all made a few times as we navigated what’s become internet etiquette. I’ve definitely learned a few awkward lessons along the way. But at the end of the day, boundaries are necessary everywhere you go. There are things you don’t say out loud and things you shouldn’t do. Anonymity or privacy online doesn’t change that. If you’re leaving Facebook because of a boundary issue, it will follow you- promise.
- I like learning new things, new ways, and dislike ruts. I always get a kick out of the people who groan and gripe about the many Facebook changes. “Oh no! The columns changed!” “I hate this new look!” On and on and sometimes away they go. Do we all remember how much things have changed since 1990? Remember when “smartphone” wasn’t a word? ADAPT people. This is when we live. Things change. Faster than before.
- I still remember (and enjoy) the delight of being able to connect with people I’d lost contact with in one big room. I joined Facebook as soon as it was public. It was thrilling to think of someone long lost, and to search their name, and voila! Up popped a recent photo! A way to chat! A way to reconnect! My oldest friend, the one I went to kindergarten with, is on my Facebook feed. I have friends from all the places I’ve lived, ones from before my divorce and after. Friends from my children’s baby years and play dates; friends from work, friends from 6 churches. There isn’t any other way I could do this is one place, with such ease, every day. It’s beautiful.
- I don’t let teenagers be my guide. Okay, so yes, teenagers are leaving. I have three of them and none of them care for the site much anymore. Which is actually fine by me! I understand they don’t want their parents and grandparents and priest all seeing what they do everyday. I can keep tabs on their lives without stalking their walls. Reasons 1-11 are all better with my peer group anyway. Our teens are cool. They are smart and innovative and I’m sure they’ll come with great new ideas. They will do this elsewhere, as they always have, and it will be exciting. But I don’t have to follow their every trend. I like it over here with the grown up’s; the water (and the wine) is fine.
Instagram is new hottie, along with Snapchat, Vine, and others. I use those too, though I doubt they’ll top the centrality of Facebook. And, don’t look now: those other sites aren’t fundamentally so different as to avoid the snare that too much social screen time can cause period, no matter where you go. The New York Times recently coined a “new” condition for us to fret over: Instagram Envy.