After reading the Happy Birthday Facebook article, it seemed fitting to chime in with a response about why I won’t be participating in the celebrations. Somewhere on the site lurks an unused, lonesome account of a person with my name and no friends. That’s right – absolutely no friends! I set up an account back in around 2006 or 2007 just to check out the social network and see what it was all about. I couldn’t trace the people I was looking for, and in the end made the decision that would set me apart for the next several years: I never joined Facebook.
I dipped my toes into Friends Reunited back in the day and caught up with a few old school pals. It was fun to see how they’d changed and what was going on in their personal lives – but only for a short while.
So why didn’t I join the Facebook revolution?
I suppose I’m a bit of a rebel, and thought that if everyone else was into it, why did I need to join? Really, the main reason why I didn’t join was that I was still in a phase of sleepless nights, feeding a baby and doing the manic school run. Free time was limited. I also secretly feared that I’d get sucked in to posting incessantly or commenting on everyone’s posts about breakfast or the gym.
I concluded early on that I wanted to cultivate friendships in the real world and the friends I had who were active on the site would still make an effort to invite me to events if they were bothered. I figured out that Facebook isn’t so much a way to generate friends but rather an additional sphere to connect with the ones you already have.
Fast forward several years, and I’d moved beyond the era of little kids and full-time motherhood. I realised that I had excluded myself from the Facebook community and perhaps missed out on some significant moments of poignancy, camaraderie and amusement.
Perhaps now I have a bit of a unique perspective, at least in that I have never posted a status update or shared a photo on Facebook. I’ve never commented on anyone’s wall, never shared a funny story, never been poked and not filled your timeline with holiday pictures.
But all along, I kind of enjoyed the anonymity and privacy. Nothing to worry about when applying for a job, no unlikeable photos tagged all over the place, no constant checking into the site, no desperate waiting for likes or comments, no Farmville. I enjoyed the freedom.
Do I have many friends? Not really. I know lots of friendly people – at the school gates, at work, church, in my neighbourhood and further afield – but I realise it’s impossible to be good friends with more than a handful of people. I’m a friendly person but I didn’t so much like the thought of trying to intimately know hundreds of people via social media.
That’s why I chose Twitter. I liked the laid-back style, the sharing of content of interest, the merging of lives across continents, the non-committal nature of it (no one’s offended if I don’t RT or favouritetheir tweet). It’s fun, amusing but also intelligent and great for anyone who likes to network.
In the years that I saved so much time not being on social media, I wrote a novel and did a bunch of other stuff that I might not have had the determination to focus on.
I’ve avoided countless dramas and managed to keep myself out of posting hasty but regrettable content on others’ walls. But have I missed out?
Maybe I’ve missed out on a few epic updates and some fun family photos. But email and texting has generally kept me in touch with people. And very rarely my husband has filled me in on pieces of major news.
Having settled into the online realm of Twitter, I feel I have made myself at ease with this social media malarkey. I’ve accepted there are joys to be had from the online spaces we inhabit, where we can learn from one another and share all kinds of information and details. But I’m learning that I don’t have to share all the minutiae of my life, I don’t have to post everything I think or like.
So happy birthday, Facebook. My question now is should I join the network in 2014? Or is it really not worth bothering with? Will Facebook enhance my life, or is everyone starting to leave the site now?