‘I never did get the hang of what was expected of me on Facebook’
By Bruce Frassinelli
I “resigned” from Facebook several months ago. I sent a note to my Facebook “friends” the previous day telling them that I was leaving the popular platform at the end of the next day.
I received about 10 replies from friends who said they would miss my “clever” and “humorous” replies. In addition, I received about 15 “likes.” I guess the other 35 or so of my Facebook friends either didn’t care or couldn’t be bothered acknowledging the momentous decision I had made.
Having about 60 “friends” is nothing in the Facebook world. Most of my “friends” have several hundred. Two have more than a thousand each. I understand that it is prestigious to have so many “friends,’’ even if you barely know half of them. I have never been into that numbers game.
Some asked me why I was leaving. There were a number of reasons, but the congressional testimony of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen last year made me take stock of the pros and cons of my continued presence on what is the undisputed king of social media platforms with some 3 billion members.
Given that number, I was not expecting a “sorry to see you go” note from Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get one or an acknowledgment from any other higher-up in the Facebook universe.
Haugen’s testimony shed light on some of the internal practices at Facebook and its relentless pursuit of profits at the expense of caution on behalf of its customers, and this caused me to do some independent research.
I didn’t like what I found.
With Facebook, there are significant tradeoffs. In exchange for my ability to see cute photos of my grandchildren, nieces and nephews and those of others in my Facebook world, I must give up privacy, be concerned with leaks that could compromise personal data, worry about being hacked by those pretending to wanting to be my “friend” and endure the endless monetization of my personal data.
I also needed to be very careful that in my attempt to be “cute” and “witty” that I didn’t post something that was going to come back and bite me in the rear and damage my pretty decent reputation as a journalist and professor.
In addition to being flooded with ads from any number of organizations and political groups, I also had to fend off incendiary posts. Being a registered nonpartisan, I received fundraising pleas and campaign messages from both parties.
Before I pulled the plug on Facebook, I assessed my usage and participation. I realized that I was a self-described “voyeur.” I mostly observed what was being posted by “friends’’ rather than doing a lot of posting myself. If I did respond to their posts, I tried to be clever by using a combination of word play and/or puns. I am sure this technique was more than annoying to some of my “friends,” but if it was, they didn’t criticize me openly, although who knows what they said behind my back or mumbled under their breath.
Some of my friends posted multiple times a day; I, on the other hand, averaged two original posts a month during the five years that I had been a Facebook subscriber.
I never did get the hang of what was expected of me on Facebook. One of the biggest dilemmas was feeling a responsibility to send a “like,” or an appropriate emoji in response to the post of a Facebook “friend.’’ (For those of you who might not know what an “emoji” is, it could be a happy or sad face or some other kind of an image that would correspond to an appropriate response to a post.)
Several of my “friends’’ complained that they would send “likes” to friends, but some “friends’’ never responded in kind to their posts, so they took revenge and stopped sending “likes.” Don’t send a “like” to my post, then I won’t send one to yours. So there!
Several of my Facebook “friends’’ had no problem posting really personal information about what was going on in theirs and their families’ lives leaving me to ponder how to respond or whether I should respond.
“I realized that I was a self-described ‘voyeur.’ I mostly observed what was being posted by ‘friends’ rather than doing a lot of posting myself.”
If I didn’t, would it be taken as a sign that I didn’t care? If I did, what would I say — express sympathy, offer advice, agree with a point of view that maybe I didn’t? Disagree and possibly start an argument. These were some of the awkward moments of being on the Facebook platform.
One family member sent several detailed posts about one of her daughters who had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). She described some of her daughter’s behavior and some of the challenges that these incidents presented to her and some family members. I could sense the frustration the mother was experiencing by the tone of her posts.
The daughter is “friends” with her mother on Facebook, so I am sure that she saw these posts that disclosed these intimate behavioral moments. I was curious as to whether her mother ever asked the daughter’s permission to post such personal narratives. I found the whole thing to be very troubling, and it made me uncomfortable. I was curious about the impact it had on her daughter, but, of course, I was not about to bring up the subject.
I also realized that Facebook was an intruder on my time. I found myself checking in almost hourly. God forbid if I were to miss a post that informed me that a `friend’’ and his wife had gone for a walk around the block or that a visitor had come for some seed to a backyard bird feeder.
As Facebook faces numerous challenges, including government investigations into its relentless focus on growth and profits without attention to how this is impacting on our privacy and democracy, it underwent a name change to “Meta,’’ although the social network platform is still known as Facebook.
It’s true that some swear at Facebook, but others swear by it. We should acknowledge the significant impact Facebook and other social media platforms have had on millions across the globe. I acknowledge that it’s not all bad.
It would be a good idea if we discussed the pros and cons of Facebook and other pervasive social media logically and rationally. Maybe if we did this, it could lead to revisions or elimination of many of the cons.
It’s been about four months since I became a Facebook alum, and, although one should never say “never,” I don’t expect that I will be returning to the platform unless Zuckerberg and company make drastic changes. In reply to inquiries from “friends” about whether I miss being a Facebook user, the answer is an emphatic “no.”