If you’re a living, breathing human being with an Internet connection, you’ve probably heard of Facebook by now. Most of you probably have Facebook accounts, and regularly log on to chat with friends, check out status updates and news, or play games.
The social network has, by this point, become one of the primary means by which we communicate online, and even if it is declining, it’s still integral in the lives of many men and women.
But there’s a darker side to Facebook. The social network, and the organization behind it, has had its fair share of run-ins with the law over privacy concerns. The terms of service have historically been more than a little one-sided, and Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, isn’t exactly the most trustworthy chap out there. Indeed, there are a number of very, very good reasons to drop your Facebook account like a bad habit and delete all of the data associated with it.
But very few people are actually going to go through with it.
There are a number of reasons why. Maybe they simply don’t care about the use and misuse of their personal information. Maybe it’s rationalized as part of the price of using the platform. Maybe they’re aware of all the unscrupulous things
Reason One: Your Personal Information isn’t “Personal”
At this point, there’s a quote I’d like to call to mind: “Nothing in the world is free. If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” That’s the reality of using Facebook. Any information you choose to share is there for marketers to target, for applications to comb through, for friends (and, depending on your privacy settings, strangers) to see.
Facebook “privacy” is something of a hoax. Sure, other users can’t see your data, but that doesn’t mean marketers and content providers won’t have access to it. The fact is; when you’re on Facebook, your personal data isn’t yours - it’s theirs. This includes personally identifiable information, photos, usage statistics, friends and connections, what pages you’ve liked; it can even track you once you’ve logged out.
They’re not doing anything illegal, either, because you agreed to let them do this when you signed up.
But You Won’t Delete Your Account Because…
Facebook’s not the only organization that does this – it’s only the most notorious organization. There are many who argue that online privacy is more or less dead, anyway, so what does it matter if your information is being used by marketers, or your photos are being taken and used to sell something? Plus, Facebook at least takes steps to protect you from criminals while you’re online, right? There was a time, not so long ago, when people were discouraged from even giving out their real name on the Internet.
Now it’s possible to determine where somebody ate lunch last Tuesday just by checking their page.
Reason Two: It Sends Productivity Through the Floor
This one’s self explanatory. What’s going on on your Facebook page? People spend so many countless hours mindlessly browsing through images, or playing social ‘games,’ it’s a wonder we get anything done anymore. Have you checked Facebook yet? It’s a staggering waste of time, and the worst part is, we’re almost compelled to go online at least once a day.
By the way, have you checked Facebook yet?
But That Doesn’t Matter Because….
Basically, we’re addicted. Sort of. Many of us can’t – or won’t – delete our Facebook pages because the social network has such an ironclad hold on us. It’s such a vital part of our life that we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if we deleted it. We’ve got too many friends that we connect with over Facebook. It’s become far too integrated in our daily routine.
After all, what if we miss an important event of a friend’s? Or fail to care for our crops in Farmville? Or someone wants to reach us or invite us to something? What if a business partner needs to get in touch with us?
Ask yourself this, and answer honestly: could you really live without Facebook?
Reason Three: It’s Killing Communication
To be fair, Facebook’s not the only guilty party here. The Internet, in general, is changing the way we communicate as human beings – and not in a good way. It’s something known as deferred communication. We’re chatting, yes, but we’re not really talking – we aren’t really communicating or connecting.
“Social media is cheap communication,” writes Aaron Biebert of 8 Pm Warrior, “how can you truly know someone or build a lasting bond without seeing their smile, hearing their tone changes, or getting instant feedback during your discussion? Social media channels make it easy to feel like we’re communicating with others. We’re not.”
Haven’t you ever wondered how people can be so callous; say such horrific things online? It’s because, when a computer screen is introduced into the equation, there’s a disconnect. It’s incredibly easy to fool ourselves into thinking that the person on the other end isn’t a person, so its OK to say things that no one would say to another’s face. Why?
Because we can’t see the person on the other end. We can’t see what impact – if any – our words have on them.
But That Doesn’t Matter Because…
Facebook still connects us with people, even if those connections are shallow – and in our technologically connected, personally disconnected world, we crave any contact we can get. Plus, people can chat over Facebook to set up face-to-face discussions too, right? And again, it’s not just Facebook. Smartphones. Instant Messaging Clients. Email. If it weren’t Facebook, it’d be something else, anyway.
Plus, there’s the matter of the potential for connectivity – with a bit of effort, one can turn a shallow Facebook friendship into a real one. Plus, you might well find out -through Facebook – that your seventh-grade sweetheart has a high-paying executive position at a company you desperately want to work for; meaning they’ve the power to get you the job.
Reason Four: It Encourages Severe Narcissism
Take thirteen minutes out of your life and watch this video. It describes pretty much everything I want to say here quite thoroughly. Facebook has become the mouthpiece for the “me” generation – it’s a physical (or digital, if you want to nit-pick) representation of self-centeredness, a website that encourages an unhealthy degree of obsession and self-absorption. You want to brag about your latest accomplishment to your friends. You want your contacts to validate what a jackass your boss is. You want everybody to see how much progress you’ve made in your workout routine; to compliment you on the shape you’re in.
“Facebook is the ultimate expression of Narcissism,” says TruthNeverTold. “Where else can you go and expose everything about yourself like a prancing peacock? You get your fifteen minutes of fame every minute. Facebook is, when you boil it down, one big ‘look-at-me-fest.’ Look at my pictures, look at my car, look at where I am, look at my wife, look at my life. The ultimate irony in this social network is that no one really cares.”
But That Doesn’t Matter Because…
Basically, because many of us have gotten so wrapped up in that narcissism that we’ve fallen in love with it. We need to share. We need to consume content. Voyeurism is satisfying; having a huge network of friends and connections makes a person feel important, and lurking the Facebook page of someone you knew in High School to see that they’re worse off than you are, well…some people find a perverse sort of comfort in that. It’s always satisfying to know someone has it worse than we do.
Reason Five: It Distracts us From What’s Really Important
Liking a page doesn’t make a difference. Sharing a photo doesn’t help anyone, and babbling about how unjust a particular piece of legislation is won’t make the people trying to force it through reconsider. You’re not acting, you’re just reacting.
Not only that, while we’re wasting our time sharing and conversing on Facebook, the world’s moving on around us. People are making real progress in their lives, netting themselves tangible achievements, making real connections with others. They’re not wasting time online. Facebook is, at the end of the day, little more than a distraction from the real world, an imitation with none of the charm and allure of the original.
But That Doesn’t Matter Because…
It takes too much effort to care. Facebook intentionally makes the process of disentangling yourself from its web of likes as obtuse as possible, in order to discourage people from leaving.
“Just deactivate your account,” it croons, “and it will be waiting for you – along with all your information – if you ever want to come back.” Plus, there’s the occasional movement that actually does make a difference over Facebook – so it’s not all bad.