About me: Quitting Facebook

By Abigail Faulkner

Hello. My name is Abby. I enjoy writing, dancing and riding my bike. My favorite books are Lolita and White Noise. I’m an infamous regular at Coffee News. I’m into video editing. I smoke like a chimney. I hate cooking. I like puns. I love my family.Check it out. This little bio is made up of the tidbits gleaned from the “about me” section of my now defunct Facebook profile. Two years ago, this was my rather desperate attempt to appear quirky and likable.

We all want friends – there’s nothing more exciting than meeting a new person with whom you feel a real connection. ‘Well no shit, Abby,’ but looking back, I can honestly say that none of this drivel ever directly contributed to the formation of a real friendship. Frankly, I’m not surprised. Count how many times the pronoun “I” appears. It’s self-involved, completely predictable, and, as it exists outside of an interesting, dynamic conversation, doesn’t really accomplish anything. Honestly, I think I designed and edited myself into that little box.for myself. Then, I wasted many solitary hours learning nauseatingly similar information about other people. People I didn’t know. I still don’t know most of them, and they live right here in my neighborhood. When all was said and done, Facebook just made me feel like the host of a great big flop of a party; I spent hours getting dressed up for it, but no one came.

Facebook wants us to understand it to be a springboard into our communities, a way to quickly and conveniently pair up with like-minded people that we’ll soon be meeting for coffee and friendship. Sounds good, but have some of us gotten so preoccupied with trying to define ourselves online that we’ve lost some of our interest in real, interpersonal exchange? If yes, then what’s the point of Facebook?

Good question. The purpose of the current Facebook system is – to me – vague. What began as a small, intercampus network serving the Ivy League has, in just a few short years, skyrocketed to become a network of 64 million users worldwide. The network has expanded to include anyone with a valid e-mail address. Everyone uses it. And hell, why not? Facebook is just this big, sweaty, can’t-miss-it virtual celebration; it never ends, and it’s crammed with enough sassy applications to delight even the shortest of attention spans. Great. So what’s the catch?

In November 2007, Facebook launched a nifty little “service” called Beacon. You might recall this much-hated “social advertising” tool; it mined users’ profiles, pictures and certain online-purchasing information, and – at no cost to Facebook – transformed them into lucrative advertising news feeds. Facebook users even reported seeing their pictures used in advertisements on sites other than Facebook! People were outraged because they thought their rights were being violated. The company’s hired gun apologized for this misunderstanding; Facebook does, in fact, own the rights to everything ever put on the network, and may do as it pleases in order to turn a profit. Basically, users were smugly advised to get familiar with the fine print; ‘just so you know, we can – and will – fuck you.’ Thanks for the heads up. While you’re at it, go ahead and wiretap my phone. There’s enough surveillance in our environment already; I’m not signing up for more.

So hey, it might be time to re-ask that question, “What is the purpose of all of this.” It appears that Facebook is getting the lion’s share after all, and we’re just getting exploited in exchange for a cheap thrill. Now, I’m not personally knocking those of you on Facebook, but I think we’re reaching a point where we all need to look critically at what we put online, and why. By investing so much time in managing our virtual lives, we’re missing meaningful opportunities to engage with our physical communities. I challenge you to cut out the middleman – for a week. We’re all so much more unique in real life; don’t be another anonymous drop in the photobucket.

Abigail Faulker ’08 can be

contacted at [email protected]