Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

“Facebook is a form of display, and I don’t think we’ve gotten to the point where we’re all required to fluff our plumage all the time.”

So says Emily Yoffe in the latest edition of Slate’s Manners For The Digital Age, which you can listen to here. Her statement is in response to a listener who contacted Slate’s technology columnist Farhad Manjoo asking Manjoo what he …

Wed, May 9, 2012, 15:45

   

So says Emily Yoffe in the latest edition of Slate’s Manners For The Digital Age, which you can listen to here. Her statement is in response to a listener who contacted Slate’s technology columnist Farhad Manjoo asking Manjoo what he meant when he said that if someone you were dating didn’t have a Facebook profile  you should be “suspicious”. Hmm.

Here’s what I think:

Common misconceptions about people who don’t have a Facebook profile
- They are old.

- They have no friends.

- They are hermits who spend most of their time going to poetry readings, tending to their neighbourhood courgette allotment, and hate technology.

- They had a Facebook stalker and ultimately had to delete their profile to get rid of the problem / are out of a long relationship and deleted their profile so their ex couldn’t see what’s going on in their life.

- They hate their cousins.

 

Actual realities of people who don’t have a Facebook profile
- There are only so many times they could ring friends on a Sunday afternoon and say “please take down that photo of me swigging from a bottle of Patron last night.”

- Their Mum joined Facebook and added them as a friend.

- They were spending too much time looking at holiday photos of someone they knew in junior infants and it was hampering their productivity.

- Other social networks such as Twitter and Instagram gradually replaced their Facebook use.

- They have a problem with Facebook’s privacy settings and ownership of content.

 

I don’t have a Facebook profile. I deleted it two or three years ago when the site just began to annoy me. While I love consuming (and, indeed distributing) irrelevant, time-sucking bombardments of information as much as the next person, there was eventually only so much I could take. My reasons for leaving are the same as loads of people’s; I was kind of uncomfortable about the wide cross-section of people from family to friends, colleagues to acquaintances knowing things that I generally might inform just one category of those people. I didn’t particularly like the idea of Mr Zuckerberg making bucks off my info (when you say this to people, they say stuff like “well then you shouldn’t be using Gmail or Twitter or an iPhone,” and they’re right, of course.) Facebook didn’t enlighten me, it just added loads of noise. At least Twitter occasionally throws up the odd link or breaking news story that isn’t actually useless.

The “I’m not on Facebook” is the new “I don’t own a TV.” In fact, I cracked that joke to some friends over the weekend at my own expense: why do people leave Facebook? So they can tell you they’re not on Facebook. But much of the discourse I hear from friends about their activity on Facebook is negative. They give out about wasting time on it, or rant about some new feature that’s annoying, or slag off someone’s indulgent status update, or give out about people inviting them to crappy club nights. So not being a part of that is not “suspicious”. Nor do you miss out on anything. I’m sure in the same way that people who don’t own a phone or don’t watch the news don’t fall apart, the sky doesn’t fall when you’re not on Facebook. In fact, you probably end up liking people more because you don’t spend time tutting at how annoying their online identities are. Of course there are loads of benefits to sticking it out on Facebook, there just weren’t really any for me.

Google-proof people can be unnerving sometimes (especially if you’re about to go out on a date with one of them), but what’s more unnerving is what you can find out about someone in an instant. Oh, actually, there is one drawback to not being on Facebook, I hardly ever know when it’s someone’s birthday anymore. But I do remember the ones that matter. Now, isn’t that odd?

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