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Friday, June 8, 2012
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I still haven’t set up a Facebook page for myself. I have my reasons, and I’m interested in comparing my motives with those of other people who have stayed off “THE Social Network”. Here are some articles that came up on a search of “why I’m not on Facebook”, along with my response to them.

Article 1:
Surveillance by government agencies, especially the US Dept of Homeland Security. (Not impossible; Facebook represents a lot of juicy information concentrated within one data processing system. A ripe target for surreptitious government monitoring, no doubt).

Article 2:
Facebook makes relationships seem easy. But real relationships are hard work; Facebook relationships aren’t real. (Hmm, something to that.)

Article 3:
You give Facebook your e-mail address, and they make you a spam target. Having the most friends on Facebook becomes a competition. Your private details may not really be private on Facebook. And finally, Facebook is addictive, which makes you waste a lot of time with it. (So, there is a character decay factor, along with the privacy concerns.)

Article 4:
Again, lots of concerns about privacy and lack thereof once you take the plunge. But, “the Facebook application itself sucks.” (So, Facebook isn’t so good from a geek point of view!)

Article 5:
The author was formerly an active Facebooker, but left. Facebook mostly became a gossiping tool to extract information about others. It became too complex, and overall became a waste of precious time. (Again, the notion that FB takes up a lot of personal time, and there are better ways to use that time.)

Article 6:
Facebook encourages self-promotion over mutual friendship; it’s mostly a one-way thing. Real friendship is a two-way street. Time spent on Facebook is better spent having real 2-way interactions with real people. (Again, the notion of wasting time; but a narcissistic element too. Is my own blog also a virtual mirror of self-admiration, just like ‘Facey’? I won’t claim total innocence, but I am sincerely trying to share things that seem interesting with the world at large).

Article 7:
More people seem to use Facebook to complain than to share positive thoughts. Also, there is a feeling of fakeness to Facebook. You have lots of “friends”, but you can’t tell which friends are real and which ones wouldn’t call you back if and when you really need attention. (Again, Facebook seems to be cheapening relationships, and provides a bad substitute for having real friends.)

Article 8:
The beauty of the internet was that it allowed a lot of versatility and freedom of expression. AOL became popular at first because it took away that freedom, which was too much for a lot of people. AOL is now out of date, and Facebook has taken its place; Facebook is “AOL done right”. It forces everyone into one mold. (I definitely relate to this criticism; I like the idea of designing and customizing my own space on the Internet, and not having to conform to what the masses cling to. Facebook turns its users into “another brick in the wall”. It is way too pre-formatted).

Article 9:
Google Plus is better than Facebook. (Well, perhaps — but is it any more “real”, any less narcissistic, any more private and less “conformist” than Facebook?)

Article 10:
This fellow won’t be quitting Facebook. It has become the new telephone, the way that the world now communicates. Make the best of it or become isolated. (I don’t think that I’ve yet suffered any isolation for not being on Facebook; I still have a variety of other good ways to interact with people. But I suppose that Facebook is becoming the standard for high schoolers and college students; an 18 year old without Facebook really could become a loner).

And finally — A web site selling t-shirts and coffee mugs saying “I’m Not on Facebook”. (Glad to know that the anti-Facebook backlash is big enough to inspire an entrepreneur to attempt to exploit it! Probably better to invest in a business like this than to have bought Facebook stock during the IPO!)

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:09 pm      

  1. I had to chuckle at this one, Jim. I cannot disagree with your points, I do think they ring very true. However, your post did not study in great depth how online communication and social networks like Facebook, despite their obvious ills, can be most beneficial to certain kinds of people – I am specifically suggesting some of those with Asperger’s, like myself. Since Autism Spectrum Condition is in itself an extremely heterogenous one, not just because of the wide range in manifested traits and facets of those manifestations, but also because of differences in personalities and preferred modes of communication.

    For myself, I have found some extremely solid and very real friendships, from within the ‘plastic’ or ‘unreal’ connections made via Facebook. I can immediately think of three individuals who fit the bill to a tee. I met them on Facebook, upon joining interest groups. Across a span of 3 years, I did get to meet each of them in person, and our friendships blossomed. One of these friends made a 3 hour return trip from her home to mine, when I was incapacitated by a severe arthritic flare, and brought me a walking stick and food. She remains one of my most loyal friends and supporters, turning up at every art or music event I staged from then on. The other two have supported me through daily online communications, especially helpful when I was living an isolated existence in a foreign land and struggling with myriad issues, mental, emotional and physical. Their daily notes of encouragement were sources of strength to me. And through these, I had people somewhere in the world who knew I was alive, and who knew who to contact should they fail to receive communication from me for a period of time. One of them even helped me move my things when I had to quickly vacate a particularly nasty rented room because of a flea infestation. I don’t know how I would’ve done it, given my constitution, without this young man’s help. Through the course of time, because the internet gives me freedom and time to slowly develop my relationships and circumvents the sensory issues, my Facebook friends have become more real and practical help to me, than the superficial contacts I had made during the course of ‘real’ life. We have spent time building our friendships, in ways which meeting in the local pub, cafe, house party etc will never do for me. Especially not when all my senses are screaming to leave after half an hour, and the rest of the time is spent forcing myself to remain physically while my mind is far away, longing to be elsewhere, somewhere calmer and more peaceful. These Facebook friends are still most important to me, since I am now once more in a foreign environment where I know nobody other than professional connections. I can bring them wherever I go – our comfortable environment is portable, and the physical distances do not keep us apart. Whereas, the ‘real-time’ friends I have made have all but abandoned me, soon as I left that one country, and moved to another, they are not longer interested – purely because we cannot any longer meet in some overcrowded, noisy place to do the ‘real’ social things.

    As a person with Asperger’s – hypersensitive and with a delicate autoimmune condition – I much prefer internet connection to physical ‘real-time’ socializing. Why? Because the former gives me space – I can be dressed any way I wish, or even undressed, I can sit in any physical space that is comfortable to me (home, cafe, wherever) and if I don’t want to, I do not need to endure the full on sensory assault of being in a public place, or any space in which I will need to grapple with a deluge of sensorial stimulation. I love my friends, I do love seeing them, but being in the social company of even my most favourite friend never fails to trigger overwhelming sensory overload by the time I arrive home. This, then, triggers the autoimmune into extremely painful flares, with which I have to struggle for the next few days after any social meeting.

    Facebook is great, if not essential, for someone like me.

    Having said that, there are downsides, and after 4 years of usage, I have waded through most of them, many of which you have already listed above. I have had to ‘block’ some rather nasty characters, delete some useless, meaningless connections, and place certain security settings to separate the groups of people according to what I want them to view on my ‘wall’. My Facebook page, thus, is not a free-for-all, and it doesn’t need to be, if the user takes the effort to employ the appropriate settings.

    As for being monitored by the US government – I come from a country where, Facebook or no, we are monitored anyway. No big deal for me. I do not like it, but that is part of life, and there is no way one can escape this kind of scrutiny should some powers that be suddenly decide to take great interest in a small entity such as myself. Buy a house, own a mobile phone (even disposal SIM cards have to be registered using one’s ID), car, credit card, job – all of these provide fodder for monitoring purposes.

    As in any kind of online networking platform (Facebook, LinkedIn etc) – if one sets out to be very careful, there is no need to fear the social pitfalls. The danger lies when one is tempted to become exhibitionist. And that indeed is tempting, since human nature is intrinsically exhibitionist.

    Forgive my waffling. It is of course another trait of Aspergers’. Feel free to edit or delete as you please. But again, your posts always start me thinking… and the danger then is the waffling thereafter.

    Comment by spunkykitty — June 9, 2012 @ 5:10 am

  2. Jim, This will be by way of some random tho’ts about Facebook and your topic in general, rather than any really outlined, well-tho’t-out comment.

    I too have tho’t that Facebook is not for me-¬except for one exception that I’m considering.

    A dear friend of mine, whom I have known for 50+ years, told me one day, “We have to get you started on Facebook.” I blurted out, “oh, no, that’s not for me” and she dropped the entire subject. Since that happened, I’ve been thinking about the whole thing, wondering if she meant this as a way of my keeping up with her and her family, which we have not really done too much of in the last several years. (As one finds out over the years, friendships have a kind of “coming and going” aspect to them; yet when one returns to them, they pick up just where they were when one left off, with perhaps a period of catching up added.)

    Outside of the fact that my dear friend may wish to keep me connected with her large, extended family, I really have no interest in Facebook—¬and for many of the same reasons you mention in your note.

    Yet, the comment by spunkykitty garnered my respect too. So I’d say, whatever works for an individual. . . . I tend to think that one should let others be the way they are and respect them just as they are.

    I remember years and years ago my father telling me (this was back in the 1960s) that using the Social Security Number as an “identifier” allowed the government to trace individuals, where they lived, what they did, how much they made, etc. And he’s certainly been proved right on that score. Yet, it’s possible for Facebook to allow others (besides the government) to “follow” one. (I find myself wondering what my father would think of things nowadays.) One does hear about cautions to young people to be careful of inadvertently giving away information about themselves that others who do not have good intentions could use to trace one.

    Another tho’t-¬and I’m not sure it applies to Facebook, so this may be just my usual tangential comment: It seems to me that everyone these days seems to think that their opinion (name anything here, it seems) is of extreme, and vital, importance. Part of the narcissism you speak of, I guess. I find that most people have forgotten the “thing” that previously (when it came to “opinions”) was considered a part of “having an opinion”; that is, that the opinion be an INFORMED opinion, not simply what someone “thinks” about a topic. I think the thing I simply cannot stand to read or hear are the words: “Well, I don’t know anything about this, but. . . . “; this is then followed by an extended “opinion”. It seems to me (and I realize I’m saying this about the umpteenth time), that is, if one doesn’t know anything about a topic, one cannot have an opinion about it. One might make a few “comments” about a subject, but an “opinion”? I don’t think so. (And I also realize that often my “comments” about things I know little of are often too long; this “comment” may be a case in point.)

    Lastly, there are a few times, here and there, I’ve wanted to put comments on Facebook; I’ve found out one must “sign in” to do so. I never do; my comments will have to be left unsaid; my “Like” will have to be abandoned.

    Yet, I find myself considering the opposite: If the Internet itself has such a wealth of information about individuals, why does it matter if one is part of Facebook or not? I say this for a couple of reasons: One is that I was “found” by an individual, in retrospect, I’d rather not have been “found by”. (No Facebook involved.) I discovered, as a result of this situation, that all one has to do is plug in the name one wishes to find on the Internet and, amazingly, mountains of information about that person appear-¬even without cost. One can find the name, address, phone number, age of a person for starters; then with a little further searching, one can find a picture of the house the person lives in, etc.,-¬to an amazing degree of “etc.”, may I say. If one pays a fee, one can find out even more about the person. So, maybe Facebook’s identity-giving information doesn’t matter.

    I’ve found myself wondering: Just how does one “disappear” these days if one should so choose? I am presuming here that one does not change one’s name, steal another’s identity, or do some nefarious thing to obscure oneself-¬or even want to disappear for a nefarious reason. I simply mean, “How does one remain private?” should one so choose.

    Well, at this point, Facebook is off limits for me, altho I have to say I DO, very much, enjoy the little I can get off of some particular Facebook pages I am interested in. Thus, perhaps I want the benefits of Facebook with none of the risks.

    I WILL tell you one thing that’s beginning to “bother” me is the (I presume) “new” thing called “Siri”. (Do I have the name correct?) I see an ad where a man, alone in a room, speaks to his smart phone and gets answers back-¬and finds the answers supremely fulfilling and amusing. At this point I find myself saying, “Ugh!” The little I’ve talked to computers these days-¬on phones often when one is trying to reach an actual PERSON!-¬I’ve found speaking to a computer (to say the least) less than satisfying.

    I saw an article recently on another website:

    Fascinating tho’t: “WILL our kids be a different species?” I find myself wondering? Perhaps Facebook is just the start. Maybe I’m behind the times.

    As I said, you triggered random tho’ts (once again) on my part here. I’d say spunkykitty has a bundle of good tho’ts about Facebook. I also say your points are very well taken. And then, I find myself wondering: Is the species on the verge of an evolutionary step?

    And now I’ve gone too far in my “tangent”. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — June 9, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

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