Thinking back, it’s hard to remember life pre-Facebook. As it comes up to its seventh birthday, and the story of its conception inspires a movie (The Social Network) it’s now time to ask myself: can I ever leave Facebook?
Before I joined Facebook in 2005 I’d never heard the term ‘friend requests’. Back then people became friends, you didn’t have to ask them to mirror these friendships online.
Five years ago we all poked each other. Then we got bored of poking. My, how Facebook has moved on.
First it was a popularity contest to see how many friends you could amass. Now it’s morphed into a popularity contest for companies and brands – slowly taking over Facebook by encouraging us to become fans and ‘like’ their content.
How couldn’t you be on Facebook?
These days it’s intriguing to meet someone from my generation who isn’t on Facebook. They’re a social novelty, and the first topic of the refreshing face-to-face conversation you have with them isn’t about what you’ve seen them do on Facebook, it’s about why on earth they haven’t signed up!
These lucky Facebook refuseniks are the conscientious objectors of the Facebook war, whether because they disagree with the privacy implications, or simply because they want to opt out of the mainstream predictability of being online like everyone else.
But it’s hard not to be on Facebook. Previously I’d used instant messaging to chat online. Now Facebook has live chat. Often, rather than sending an email to a friend, I’ll send them a Facebook message. It’s just easier.
I used to use Flickr for photos, but my snapshot audience is on Facebook. And with more than 100 million photos uploaded each day, Facebook has become the largest photo sharing website as a side-effect of being the most popular social network.
Millions have escaped Facebook’s clutches
So now that Facebook has become the principal online ecosystem, it’s hard to escape from its clutches. The more features it adds, the more indispensable it becomes, and the more valuable our time becomes to Mark Zuckerberg and his advertisers.
But with 500 million active users, that’s actually only about 7% of the world’s population. So how do the other ‘forgotten’ 93% survive? How do they organise parties, create virtual farms or share their status? Maybe their parties are just better and not at risk of 15,000 uninvited guests turning up and trashing the place?
Maybe they have real farms, and conversely don’t need to spend real dollars on buying virtual plots of land in Farmville? And maybe they’re not such egotists that they think people care about their ‘status’.
Leaving Facebook isn’t easy
But if you want to join the rest of the world by leaving Facebook, it’s not going to be plain sailing. You’re not asked to ‘delete’ your account, you’re asked to ‘deactivate’. This is soon followed by pictures of the people on Facebook who will ‘miss you’. Talk about tugging on your heartstrings.
These guys still know me and some have my email address or phone number. They can still call for a chat, or pop round to show me their hilarious drunk photos. But will they? Is Facebook so ingrained in all our lives that it would be detrimental to our social life to opt out?
If you’re a fan of Facebook read Sarah Kidner’s opinion piece ‘Why I’m friends with Facebook’.
Are you a fan of Facebook?
No - it's a waste of time (75%, 305 Votes)
Yes - it helps me keep in touch with friends (25%, 101 Votes)
Total Voters: 406