The Top Four Reasons To Quit Facebook
“Has Facebook lost its edge?"
Over the past several months that thought pervaded my mind and I found myself seriously pondering that question.
For nearly eight years I counted myself among the 845 million of Facebook’s active users. During that time I wrote extensively on various aspects of the social network— everything from comical observations of its users to the seemingly endless wave of privacy issues that ultimately inspired my graduate research. When called for, I defended Zuckerberg, who many consider a close personal friend of Satan.
That all changed on Sunday when I chose to permanently delete my Facebook account, ironically just one day before Facebook announced the $1 billion dollar acquisition of popular photo-sharing mobile application instagram, which set off a firestorm of angry protests on Twitter. My departure from Facebook was not rooted explicitly in concerns over privacy—as was the case for many who blazed the trail before me—but rather the simple truth that the social media site lost its appeal and I no longer find the overall experience enriching and adding anything of value to my daily life.
I contemplated quitting Facebook for months fully aware that the decision would not be easy. However, I’m still glad I did it. Here are my top four reasons why:
- Time: I admit it. I spent way too much time on the social network. Face it. Facebook is an addictive time-wasting vortex. Users can very easily spend hours perusing news, status updates, photo albums, playing online games and messaging. According to recent data, the U.S. population collectively spends an average of 6 hours and 33 minutes on the site monthly. As a point of comparison users spend less than 36 minutes monthly on Twitter, 17 minutes on Linkedin, and only 6 minutes on Google+. Truth is that time could be better spent on more intellectual pursuits.
- Mental Health: Studies show that Facebook takes a toll on mental health. From the tendency to compare one’s life to others (whose carefully crafted status updates offer only a snapshot of reality) to becoming an all-too-easy outlet for chronic complaining, Facebook became much more an exercise in social restraint than positive social interaction. Not to mention the compulsive need, boarding on addiction that comes with checking for wall posts and status replies. Plus there were questions of etiquette I never truly mastered. For example, was it a show of support or the mark of insensitivity to “like” that seemingly depressing status update about your breakup? I’ve been off for less than a week and I already feel a lot saner.
- Quality Interaction: The immediate reaction I received from friends who learned of my decision to quit Facebook varied. Some announced that, while they were sad to hear this news, they nonetheless commended my choice, even classifying my move as bold or courageous. I appreciate the sentiment, really, but I wouldn’t go that far. Others responded with reminders to keep in touch. This, in earnest, made me laugh just a little. As if, somehow my Facebook departure was the equivalent of a long journey to some distant and far off land and they pray I don’t forget them. In reality, I interact regularly in other ways with my social network. I prefer face-to-face interaction with people when I can, or the phone and Skype when distance makes that impossible. The point being, if Facebook was our only medium for staying connected, I doubt my “friendship” will be missed.
- Privacy: I have long been a privacy wonk, who admittedly is also a walking contradiction. I have on numerous occasions blasted Facebook over privacy gaffes, while simultaneously championing their decision to kill privacy legislation. Users have the right to control who sees their data on Facebook, and Facebook offers controls to do so that users should educate themselves on and use as appropriate. The problem, however, is with the frequency the various incarnations of their privacy settings seem to appear. Even for the most tech-savvy, keeping up with Facebook’s privacy controls is a dizzying endeavor. Zuckerberg himself acknowledged that the ongoing privacy debate could adversely affect the company’s much anticipated IPO, likely slated for May. In their latest efforts to assuage privacy critics, yesterday Facebook announced an expanded version of their data download feature. The flip side of the privacy argument I have repeatedly made is this: If you don’t like the idea that Facebook has your data, don’t share it. Facebook can’t share and monetize information they don’t have—Or can they?—considering that much of a users’ data remains on its servers for “technical reasons.” Regardless, I have lost my desire to freely share my life and my personal data with Facebook.