I first started using Facebook back in 2006 or 2007. It was the “cooler version” of Orkut (remember this?! and also the way we used to bug each other to write “testimonials” *shudders*). I remember convincing my friends to join Facebook, being an early adopter and what not.
Back then there was no Newsfeed. There was no like button.
Remember back when we used to write on each other’s wall and wait for the other person to write back on ours? (sidenote: why didn’t we just continue emailing? perhaps the public angle of it was thrilling in some way (eww)). There was still some element of connection present.
Soon enough, it turned mostly into a place where one had to dodge being tagged in dodgy photos, and the era of the restricted profile. Also, at around this point, the Like button made its debut.
Initially, we “liked” only the stuff that we truly liked. Quite quickly, there became a bit of a social expectation to like & comment on your friends’ posts. As a matter of duty. And I’m not even complaining about this. It’s quite nice to see that your friends are seeing your posts and are talking to you online. All rosy.
Soon enough there were enough non-personal items making it to Facebook – like news items, political views, and comments on said items. You couldn’t log in to Facebook and not see some kind of comment war happening on your Newsfeed. Very impersonal. Though, I’m not denouncing it. I have been part of many such comment feuds, and I don’t grudge people who like to engage – sure, it could be entertaining for some.
However, soon enough my personal Newsfeed was basically a mish mash of articles from news portals, comment wars between some “friends” and other people, and life gloats. And that was it. Seriously.
The only personal posts that I ever saw / see are those of either major milestone moments or random brags by people that I haven’t spoken to in years, YEARS (like 5+ years), attention seeking status messages, political appeals.
Now, let me be clear. I have done all of these things on Facebook.
One thing that I feel I sincerely got back from my Facebook postings were that people in my network were generally clued into my work (especially when I shared a ton of photography and was working as a photographer), and my travel posts also led to some fun heart to heart conversations with people who were planning trips to places I had already been to and wanted some advice or inputs.
Apart from that, scrolling through my Newsfeed really felt like a massive drain of energy, but one that is highly addictive for no logical reason. It’s not like I particularly engaged with people’s content. At best, I would leave behind a polite like/love or a small comment. That’s about it. The engagement seemed very, VERY superficial.
I even went back to my older Facebook posts, and re-read them. They were more like full fledged conversations. Not polite little comments. I suppose once Whatsapp and other forms of instant messaging came up, people stopped posting such things on each other’s walls and instead just IM – that is obviously a very natural and sensible thing to do.
But that leaves the question – what is Facebook useful for me in my life today?
I certainly feel like laughing when I see that I have 534984293 friends on Facebook. The illusion of a false sense of friendship has certainly been broken. However, it’s of course not untrue that your Facebook “friends” are indicative of a good network.
Today I mainly use Facebook to keep up with a coupe of Groups that I’m a part of. I do Physique57 online, and we have a lovely supportive group of fellow Physiquers from all over the world. I login every once in a while to check out what’s happening out there. I also use it to keep tabs on local events. It seems here in India people would much rather post events on Facebook than on other sites like Eventbrite, Meetup etc. So that is another useful feature. Since Facebook is no longer a part of my work social media marketing, I luckily don’t have to manage any Page there (quite a relief).
I felt that leaving Facebook completely is not a sane choice for me right now. BUT, scrolling through the Newsfeed is also not sane. Especially when the Newsfeed really doesn’t have much personal content any more (and that’s what I loved about Facebook in the early days).
Hence, I installed a nifty little plugin as a Chrome Extension, which basically switches off my Newsfeed. So I can peacefully login, check my groups, check specific profiles if I’m interested, and LOG OUT. Logging out is so important, considering Facebook tracks all your web activity if you do them while still logged in.
Do I wish people birthday on Facebook? Nope. Nah.
Something really hilarious, but sad happened a few years back. My mum was on the verge of robotically wishing someone happy birthday on being urged by Facebook (like we ALL do / have done), but right before she hit post, she noticed that some other person who had, with every good intention, wished a happy birthday, had been informed that the birthday person is dead. Oops. Talk about a faux pax.
Since then I resolved to not robotically wish anybody. I’ve gone rather old school – jotting down birthdays in my planner and wishing people by calling them up or at least texting them. And of course, it’s limited only to the closest of close people who also remember to wish me on my birthday (duh).
Needless to mention (but I will still mention) I have deleted my own birthday on Facebook, so I no longer receive robotic (or ANY!!!) wishes on Facebook – it was quite the reality check, and I got to see who really bothered to remember my birthday (spoiler alert: just family and friends I talk to very often, which is not that many). It’s October 11th, just saying 🙂
Any way, ever since I’ve done this Newsfeed eradication, my Facebook life has been much more simple. Sure, I do login once in a while with the plugin switched off, and chuckle at some witty memes, but thats really it.
I don’t miss the Newsfeed at all. And I quite enjoy a little weekly or fortnightly stroll of the Newsfeed without getting sucked into it. I highly recommend it.