I deactivated my account on Facebook on New Years’ Eve. There was no specific reason or motive for doing so. I’ve been living without the Facebook app on my phone for more than 6 months now (admittedly, after hearing about Facebook’s attempts at tracking our location even when we’re not using the app) and have not missed it much. I used to access Facebook via the browser on the phone and laptop using the web view interface. It works just as well if not better in case you’re wondering.
So why did I quit a social networking site that I’ve been using for the last 12 years? Oh yes, I opened my account back in 2005 when Facebook was open to only college students in select universities. I used to enter the classes I was enrolled in to find my classmates to add as friends. I still had some of them as friends.
First, I realized that I wasn’t posting on it as much. Most of my “posts” were, in fact, my wife’s posts that she tagged me in. When I did post, I shared news about our son when he was doing great in school or when we went on vacation and I had photos to share. On some occasions, I “checked-in” from the fine dining restaurants that my wife and I like to go to for birthdays and anniversaries.
Apart from that, I used the site mostly for staying updated on friends, families, and acquaintances; most of whom posted on similar things. I used to ‘like’ their posts and wish them on their birthdays. No comments or any fruitful interactions. Ironically, I had a few friends that I was more friendly on Facebook than I was when we knew each other in-person. But now even those friends aren’t on Facebook that often.
Second, whenever I posted or got tagged, my only inclination to go back to Facebook was to check who had liked the post. As much as a primal instinct that is among social media users, I found that behavior undesirable. I knew how invested (or not) I was when I was casually liking posts from my friends and I did not want the same kind of disinterested interaction from others. Also, I’ll admit that I found myself nodding along to this podcast episode on behavior that’s induced by being on Facebook.
Third, the primary purpose of Facebook and the reason I stayed on it for such a long time was simply to keep in touch with close friends and family especially those that you want to. Now that’s a pretty small circle; much smaller than the number of friends I had on Facebook. With the advent of groups on WhatsApp and Messages, I found myself sharing photos of my son and vacations on such groups with close family. The interaction is more real and heartfelt. My parents who are famously technophobes and live in India prefer messaging on WhatsApp rather than on Facebook where they’re inundated with all acquaintances’ updates.
Finally, since most of my posts on Facebook were photos that I cross-posted from Instagram, I thought to myself, why am I even taking that extra step? Lots of people I know on Facebook are on Instagram and some follow me there. I love taking photos and I love sharing them. I still use and browse Instagram the way it was originally designed for – to form a community around beautiful photos. I’m a firm believer in – The best camera is the one you have – and on Instagram, I still post photos that I take only on my iPhone. The technical quality of the photos has gotten better with each new edition of the phone but the real magic happens behind the camera (hence even though most people have the latest iPhone, most people still take crappy photos). I love that Instagram has stayed true to its original purpose and where photos are front & center of all interaction. You’ve to take and post a photo to participate. There’s no compulsion of following back the person who followed you. Comments are few and far between on my photos. Interaction is not expected beyond the ‘heart’ button. Also, I don’t post any photos of my family on there so I know the people who follow me genuinely like the ‘other’ photos I take. I understand the irony that Facebook owns Instagram and it may soon become like Facebook.
That’s it. I may have some opinions on Mark Zuckerberg and his handling of Facebook in the aftermath of the 2016 election but I’ve never relied on Facebook for news so I was never part of any Russian conspiracy. Also, I’ve gotten disillusioned by Facebook’s business practices and open disregard for their users’ privacy in their pursuit of advertising dollars. I’ve had my share of paranoid incidents when I’ve browsed something on the web and immediately seen an ad for that thing on Facebook. This, in spite, of being savvy enough at using adblock plugins can be unnerving. In addition, I’ve always been a strong believer in the adage – if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product – Facebook’s loyalties lie with the advertisers and not you and that cannot be fixed.
I’ve deactivated Facebook but I’ve not yet deleted my account permanently. I did that partially because I don’t want a namesake to take over my profile and partially coz I’m still human and may consider going back. But a week later, I’ve not missed it at all so who knows, this just might be permanent.