Why I Deactivated my Facebook Account (and Will Probably Delete It).
To set the background for this blog, a bit about me. I spent 3 years of my university life studying the critical role the media plays in creating and influencing culture and society in the contemporary world, focusing on concepts such as representation, identity and power and how these areas embody much of popular culture. I’ve always been an early adopter of new trends and technologies and with Facebook I was no different; I created an account in the second year of my undergraduate degree, before many of my friends had even heard of it, the majority soon followed suit and it became a must-have student accessory. People stopped exchanging phone numbers and it became the norm just to add people you met on Facebook.
2 years later, I left university and continued to use Facebook to keep in touch with housemates and course mates and to organise reunions. In this transitional period of life, I enjoyed seeing updates from friends, some of whom were travelling the globe and posting exotic pictures from the other side of the world, while others were writing status updates about new jobs, new relationships, new houses or moving to the big city. A status update soon replaced a text message, email or phone call. For that year or so post university, Facebook still had its place.
However, during the next couple of years, I became increasingly aware of the 300+ friends every time I updated a status or uploaded a new photo album, and started to question if I wanted all these people to actually have this much insight into my life. I also found the same updates, which I had once enjoyed reading like a friend declaring their new relationship or new job now had the opposite effect and started to tap into insecurities. Everyone was projecting in their own way how they are conforming to the unwritten rules of society and making a success of their lives. Facebook was no longer growing with me but against me, in some cases informing me of things I’d prefer not to know about! It was during this phase I started to “delete” friends who I hadn’t seen or who I’d added in the “honeymoon” phase when activating my account.
During the last year, I started to ask why I was still investing time and energy into something which was actually starting to irritate me. A number of friends said, “Why don’t you just NOT use it?” I thought the same thing too. However, there is something psychologically empowering in being able to say, “Facebook: Not only do I not need you but I’m cutting you out of my life.” While your account is still active, there’s always the temptation to log in, but once it’s deactivated, it stops interrupting your thought process!
As I was considering leaving Facebook, it frequently occurred to me that being on Facebook almost equated to actually “being”; “I Facebook, therefore I am” might have been Descartes philosophical statement for our times. With this realisation, I decided to de-activate my account and was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it was. I exported my events, contacts and birthdays onto my laptop and Facebook insisted I told them why I was leaving, They also confronted me with pictures of my friends with the words, “Kate will miss you” etc.; desperate measures which actually reassured me that my decision to leave was the correct one.
Since then, I honestly haven’t looked back and have no desire to return. I feel free without it and now have the time to invest more in the people and things I enjoy,. It hasn’t had any detrimental effects on my friendships; if anything it has made me more pro-active to pick up the phone and speak to them. This authenticity is something Facebook will never be able to re-create.
During my studies, I read Jean Baudrillard’s work on Simulacra & Simulation. In this work, Baudrillard puts forward the argument that everything now is just a hyper-reality – i.e. we’re absorbed by references without an original (a simulacra). It begs the question, if Facebook is just a simulation of actual human interaction, why are we all still using it as a substitute for the real thing?