My last status update simply said: “Alex says bye”. And then I did it. I deactivated my Facebook account. The decision to leave the ubiquitous social networking site even took me a little by surprise. How on earth was I going to survive without the website I compulsively visited several times a day? The more I thought about it, however, the more of a good idea it seemed.
Admittedly, I’m not even that much of a Web 2.0 junkie. As an inveterate blogger, it’s true I use Technorati, the aggregator, and Del.icio.us, the bookmarking site. But when it comes to social media, Twitter, MySpace, Orkut and Bebo haven’t ensnared me — yet. Even my Facebook usage has been rather tame.
Being of the stiff-upper-lip variety, I have never really taken to the idea of baring all, and thus my personal details remained somewhat sparse. I left people in the dark on my political stance, religion and birth date. And I figured that if my friends really wanted to know whether I preferred The White Stripes to Shostakovich or whether I was a Heroes or Harry Potter fanatic, they could damn well ask me. (For the record, I am neither.)
I always felt status updates were rather self-indulgent in a hey-look-at-me kind of way, so I hardly ever used them. And I didn’t really bother with the myriad applications I was forever being invited to use, either — so there was no pet puppy, no virtual fortune cookie, no bonsai garden or poker-playing.
Yet despite my minimalist approach, Facebook was still a colossal time-waster. I couldn’t help myself — I always seemed to end up on the site whenever I was on the internet. And, as a general rule, most of the time spent “facebooking” was not remotely productive. Rather pointless, in fact.
There was the Mini Feed with its interminable stream of “news” — groundbreaking stuff such as Friend X attending the “Spank a co-worker” event, Friend Y leaving the “Fans of Jacob Zuma” group (I wonder why), Friend C getting married *gasp* to Friend B.
Then there was the flicking through photographs of parties I hadn’t attended — thankfully — as well as the wall posts, the poking and, of course, aimless chat sessions with people I hadn’t seen in ages (and generally for good reason).
Facebook was also a huge distraction, dragging my attention away from studying and work while acting as a substitute for meaningful communication of a more old-fashioned kind.
So, recently I cast my mind to the misty memories of life before Facebook and it suddenly dawned on me that things were just fine back then. I realised that as handy a tool to communicate as the site is, it is by no means essential and — for me, at any rate — its benefits are far outweighed by the pitfalls of hyper-connectivity.