Facebook. It’s almost an embarrassing site to admit to being on now. After a day out, I have to stop myself uploading a stack of photos of the day – as the majority of my cooler contacts no longer upload regularly to the site and I’m blindly attempting to follow suit. But why?
Because of the anniversary reminders FB likes to throw at our timelines on a daily basis, its clear that even I am posting a lot less frequently than I used to. A few years ago, mundane thoughts that popped into my head frequently appeared as status updates. My reactions to programmes on TV would be a regular thing and usually some self-deprecating comment or eye-rolling remark about Rory would be pinged by me up to the ether without a second’s hesitation.
FB has always had it’s naysayers even in the early days. People who had an aversion to having anything about their identity revealed online took great pleasure in telling you specifically and at length, why FB was just the tip of the iceberg and soon it’d be the Minority Report in real life and please do try on this tinfoil helmet, just for size, yes? But back in the first FB gold rush days, a massive momentum took over with people hooking up with long-lost school friends and abandoned Uni chums and in a couple of short years, even parents were liking posts and uploading photos of their beach holidays. It was a bubble that was always going to pop.
But now it does seem to have popped and I’m not sure this is necessarily a welcome thing. I am vaguely computer savvy – I know not to put my credit card details into sites whispering promises of tempting discounts. I am usually momentarily alarmed that the jumper I was idly browsing on the Uniqlo website will magically appear as a FB advert on my sidebar the next day. I think I ‘get’ cookies. I know that the quizzes on FB are really just phishing my contacts list, and I do resist trying to test what kind of chocolate bar my personality most equates with. But ultimately, I don’t care that all this data is being harvested and this, I do realise, is probably a very bad thing.
I’ve gotten a lot of pleasure from FB over the years. In the run up to the 2014 Scottish Referendum, I genuinely enjoyed reading and participating in some great political debates, and I learnt an awful lot about a subject I’d been happy to ignore most of my adult life. Of course I was aware of the echo-chamber criticisms, and when the exchanges occasionally became personal and vindictive, I muted more than a few threads on the subject. But that was in my power to do that.
Now I have kids and a mortgage and less money than ever before, my entertainment is pretty much home-based. Going out for dinner is A Big Deal, and hooking up with pals in the pub involves 36 WhatsApp exchanges, 5 weeks in advance, with a laminated sheet of instructions left for babysitters. So yes, I will freely admit – I genuinely don’t get out much. This leaves FB filling a void for me and I’m happy to let it.
I enjoy rifling through peoples’ photos from their nights out. I like seeing photos of pals’ kids as they grow up. I enjoy looking at holiday photos and yes – I will nod approvingly if someone posts a photo of a dinner that I might envy/enjoy. Of course I draw the line at cats. Or whimsical animals in general. That mute button frequently comes in handy, I’m not going to deny that for a second. And that’s a key thing too. I look at my relatively small number of contacts and wonder if I’ve lived in a cave for the last couple of decades. But then I remember – I had a big deletion fit a while back – when I did delete people I could hardly remember who they even were. But again, that was in my power to do that. So I’m left with the contacts I’m generally vaguely interested in and what they’re up to or how they’re getting on. Is that a very bad thing?
I take a weird kind of basic comfort that I roughly know what’s going on in people’s lives – no matter how headline-level and surface it all might be. Thinking of people I was maybe close to a long time ago, and may never even meet again – that fine gossamer thread still connecting me to them is, I think, actually a bit precious. And the fact that potentially I could somehow retain this connection throughout my life is wildly reassuring.
So – I do know I’m posting less frequently to FB, but mainly because I don’t want to appear like an oversharing moron. This, too, is probably a good thing. But if, as is looking increasingly possible, a large swell of people either delete their accounts or indeed, if some big corporate shenanigans decree that the site too damn powerful for its own good and shut down the site, where would that leave me?
I’m happy to admit – I’d miss it. There – I said it. I’d miss Facebook if it wasn’t around. I’d be sad about losing this slight, virtual connection that we currently all hang on to. Ultimately, am guessing people will move on to new sites, or find new ways of filtering photos to whimsically share and comment on. But whatever sites they may be, am hoping my contacts all move on to them too and I keep in vague touch somehow. I kept you on my contact list for a reason.