Facebook - The New Social Contract

Three years “fober”, I still catch myself absentmindedly typing ‘facebook.com’ into my address bar. Like any addict trying to kick an addiction, I knew I had a number of options. Three years ago, I chose to go cold turkey. I deleted my connection with over 1.28 billion people with the touch of a button.

Why did I do it? My peers made assumptions. She is seeking attention, they said. She wants to be alternative, they speculated. She must work in intelligence, they conjectured.

I am often asked to provide my confused peers with an answer, and I found doing so more difficult that I imagined. But this is what I ultimately came up with. Facebook demands you agree to much more than just its terms and conditions, it demands that you agree to change your outlook on social interaction. Many click “accept” and never think twice. This is what happened when I did.

1. Simplicity

Facebook purports to simplify your life. It is a quick way to stay in touch with friends, organise events, and keep on top of current events. But with “simplicity” comes information saturation, inescapable commitments, constant expectations. We are expected to reply to a message after we have “seen” it, to attend all the events we are invited to, to be reachable at all times.

This wasn’t simplifying my life, it was complicating it. Gone were the days where I could construct a response with careful thought, or only attend events hosted by my closest friends. Getting rid of Facebook was for me, simple.

2. Engagement

Ostensibly, Facebook allows you to engage with the world, every second of every day. Facebook allows you to check in from remote villages, upload photos of what you are having for dinner and see what all of your friends are up to. But when I found myself flicking through photos of “Moose Thursday” while in Angkor Wat at sunrise, I asked myself whether this was the kind of engagement I wanted. Did I want to take post about my experiences for the sake of my klout score, or go out partying simply to have my photos posted on Facebook the next morning?

3. My Digital Footprint

Facebook’s timeline is ingenious. It is an enormous archive of personal information, with over 300 petabytes of data. This allows one to “stalk” others, to access a digital picture of who they are.

Inevitably, we are drawn into the comparison trap. We use Facebook to determine whether our peers are doing more, achieving higher, or looking hotter. For some, this is positive reinforcement. But narcissists do not need Facebook, they only need a mirror. For the majority, Facebook tends to make us feel worse. After one month away from Facebook, I did not want to re-enter this digital world; I did not want people to think I was a loser who didn’t have any friends.

Since getting rid of Facebook, I have “lost” 200 friends, “missed” 14 parties, and been on the outskirts of every “trending” discussion, and confused 3 boys attempting to court me. But did I want those friends, regret missing those parties, lose out on love, or regret the loss of my privacy? The answer is: probably not. In this time, I have read 42 books, painted 17 watercolours, watched an unrealistic number of documentaries, and even read the newspaper twice. All for nobody but myself.

Facebook changes the social constructions we live by. Unlike the opinions shared in this article, your only choice is to “Click Like”. Smart move Zukerberg.