Facebook: leaving v consuming v producing

A few weeks ago I followed a friend’s lead and decided to back off from Facebook for a while. My friend had eloquently explained on her blog the reasons for her decision, which included, among other things:

Since bushing the Book, my productivity has soared in the office and at home. I have had far more, what I like to call “voice-on-voice” conversations with gorgeous friends and perhaps most telling of all I have stopped thinking in status updates.

There’s been quite a trend of abandoning Facebook in recent months; just Google ‘leaving Facebook’ and see what comes up. People are leaving because of privacy concerns, useability for techno-types, time wasting, social issues around friends and content, but what my friend said about thinking in status updates really hit me.

In my case, as a part-time student with kids and a busy life anyway, there was an element of “if I’m on Facebook, I really should be doing something else, like writing an essay or cooking dinner,” plus there was the non-Facebook communication factor: I have a handful of good friends who aren’t on Facebook and I was ashamed to realise that on one occasion I’d become annoyed that they weren’t, because it meant I would have to ‘double-up’ to get in touch with them. Why couldn’t they just get on Facebook and be like everyone else, for heaven’s sake!

But still, it was the status update (my own) I realised I was most attached to. And I started to ask why.  Yes, I genuinly think it has been useful and entertaining to read other’s choice of words to keep me ‘in touch’ with their emotional, professional, political, economic or cultural state at that moment in time. Except for vaguely stated emotional attention-seeking behaviours which, fortunately, are few and far between because I have nice well-adjusted friends (mostly).  And we all love a link to a cute video of babies doing something adorable. Don’t we.

But still ….

After making my decision, I had a week or so before going on holidays. During that week I pretty much abstained. And it was okay. I started to think: what difference does it make to my FB user experience, and my friends’ user experience, to write about my reaction to Japan’s tsunami crisis, or what movie I just watched, or who I was going to have lunch with? What does it change in the overall balance of my social relationships, if I were to email the same information with more detail, or bump into someone and have a chat about it? Answer: absolutely nothing.  What need does it fufil in me, when providing a status update? That I matter? (If so, to whom?) That anyone cares? That I prove I’m fabulously witty, insightful, clever? That it’s important, heaven forbid. Nope. Not a bit. Big step.

Status updates are pointless, and yet oh-so-clever at the same time. Clever Mr Zuckerberg et al.

However, as if to prove the clever bit above, when I went on holiday, my ambivalence and questioning of FB was conveniently ditched and it was a godsend, and not just because I was at a Formula 1 race where there’s only so much time you can sit watching fast cars zoom past with engines so loud you have to wear ear protection, so that makes for pretty boring company if you’re not an F1 super-fan-geek. Which I’m not.

Anyway, it was great to take the odd mobile pic, upload it to FB, throw in a status update, and keep all those people on my carefully selected and maintained Friend list (note I didn’t say ‘all my friends’ because, alas, they’re really not) ‘updated’ on my holiday. Hell, I’m sure sure you all felt you were right there with me encouraging Webber along (in ear-plugged silence). Nice.

So on return from the holiday, I made another grand announcement:By this time, I had come to a fundamental realisation about my use of Facebook. I was only checking out of ‘the status update’ but still keeping my FB relationship open. Yes, I’d removed the shortcut from my browser, and I wasn’t contributing updates every day – but I’d still ‘drop in’ and catch up on the day’s activities, and occasionally post on other people’s comments.

I have predominantly become a FB consumer, not producer. Does it make a difference to my time?

Yes.

Will I blog more?

Yes.

Does that defeat the purpose?

You might have to read my Tweets to find out. At least they’ll only be 140 characters long so my irrationale will be more succinct.

And have I stopped thinking in status updates?

JB says yes.

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