When planning topics for this column, I usually try to highlight new social media platforms, apps, websites or companies. The point is to help make sense of social media, afterall. You might be an avid Facebooker, a prolific tweeter, the mayor of all the local haunts on Foursquare, social media is still in its Wild West phase. Every day a new kid rolls into town with a bang, ready to disrupt the old guard. It’s fun and entertaining, with swift changes and constantly breaking news.
With all the ongoing hubbub, I was surprised when one of my friends – I’ll call him T. – who has been an enthusiast of social media from the beginning and who even worked in social media at a local digital agency told me he was no longer on Facebook. That’s right, he quit. I thought it was intriguing and said to myself, “Well, that’s a way to make sense of social, just leave it altogether.” Needing more details, I called to ask T. what prompted his unexpected departure.
T. happily discussed what led to his Facebook departure. Basically, he was exhausted from the quantity of friends he had and the lack of quality in his communications. T. pointed out he had Facebook friends and connections he would never be in contact with in real life, but he felt it was encouraging him to only passively keep tabs on good friends. Where a phone call or dinner used to be the norm to see what was going on, now he could just check their Facebook profile and see.
His one-way interactions started to feel inauthentic, so T. decided to give up his Facebook crutch and revert to old communication methods – email, text, phone calls, catching up over dinner, parties. He’s enjoying re-connecting with his close friends in ways that feel more personal and intentional.
Another point of contention for T. was seeing the wide contrast in political differences with his connections. “With election season coming in the fall, I just knew it was going to get worse,” says T. “More than anything, I don’t want to be sold to. The whole point of Facebook for me was friends.” For T., the unwanted sell includes people and organizations marketing their political points of view as well as companies promoting brands, products and giveaways.
Brands and political groups, of course, want to be on Facebook for the same reasons T. doesn’t like them there. They want to be where social groups are connecting over news and information, influencing one another. But, like T., many users don’t appreciate the intrusion. Prompted by T.’s predicament to researching Facebook discontent, I found there is quite a lot of it. The big three issues user cite for not liking Facebook are: privacy oversights, a frequently changing user interface and ads.
Turns out T. was an early adopter again. Or maybe unadopter? While he’s still quite content with other favorite social media platforms – like Path, Foursquare, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter (unless promoted ads gain more ground) – T. has logged out of Facebook for good … for now.