Why I do not socialise on Facebook #technology

Facebook
Facebook

Facebook

I don’t remember ever attempting to join in with my peers at the time Facebook was released to the general public way back in 2006 (Facebook, 2006). I do however remember my limited number of friends telling me all about this great new network that allowed them to communicate with long-lost friends and relatives. I felt they were behaving like marketing and advertising advocates for Facebook at the time because they were very excited. I also remember my mother talking to me about how it is the latest ‘craze’ and how beneficial it could be, although she herself never used it until a couple of years ago. Needless to say…

My eventual registration…

Yes, I eventually gave into temptation and my peers’ constant nagging and registered myself an account. I tried out many of the new features and joined the Manchester network. I started to comment on others’ profiles, upload photos, share websites I had found interesting, and also sat there for many minutes attempting to think up some entertaining status, to which I always failed miserably. Although I was joining in with the hype and the boom of social media network giants, the cracks began to show…

The cracks were beginning to show…

Cracks begin to show

Cracks begin to show

Although I was posting on a semi-regular basis commenting on photos, status updates, uploading family photos, recent events, and sharing in the many debates about life in general, I started to feel the level of interaction between my so-called ‘friends’ (term used loosely here) lacked any real intimate moments or conversations where I felt I had actually connected with someone on a different level. It seemed very superficial and simplistic when looking over the depth of conversations I had found myself engaging with. A little ‘great’ here, ‘fab’ there, and the odd sporadic ‘wow’ on occasions but nothing of depth or meaningful connection. I was starting to feel as though my time was being wasted engaging in little meaningless conversation. I eventually arrived at this overly simplistic conclusion:

It was a platform to nosy into another person’s life without the need to engage with them to extract the information I wanted to know.

I found myself looking at the posts and photos of my so-called friends but not engaging with them, and if I was doing this then surely others would be examining my profile content to check how entertaining my life was compared to their own (which it never was because I always held back when creating status updates, well, that’s my excuse anyway). Eventually, a decision had to be made…

Account deletion…

Yes, I am one of those people who decided to delete their Facebook account because I could no longer see a benefit to using the social platform. This lasted for a number of years and yes, I was constantly asked if I was on Facebook and when my reply was, ‘no’ the looks of confusion on the faces of those who questioned me still to this day makes me feel somewhat too-easily judged (as my actions or lack of were frowned upon by many). However, like many in my situation my inactivity did not last too long…

Account reinstated…

That’s right… I am one of those people who deleted their Facebook account only to start it back up again some years down the line. However, the choice to reinstate my Facebook account was based upon my return to education back in 2009/10. I attended a local higher educational establishment (Burnley College) to study Psychology, Sociology, Education, and Law as well as a distance study programme through Vision2Learn and others studying Mathematics, Artifical Intelligence in Robotics, Business Administration, Equality and Diversty within the Workplace, and ICT Business Environments. A short time after my enrolment to the providers I was asked by my peers if I was on Facebook because some had started a Facebook Group (which I knew nothing about at the time). They wanted me to join so we could share coursework ideas, ask each other questions, and share resources. It seemed like an interesting idea at the time and was further supported by the College and distance learning providers using Facebook to engage with students as well as notify us of timetable changes, room changes and the like.

The main reason for my return to Facebook was of an academic nature, not that of social engagement or interaction with potential long-lost friends…

Very little engagement took place within these so-called Facebook Groups and most generally commented directly on the walls of others. This made it hard to keep updated with the focus of the group because I had not rejoined Facebook to comment on their walls and did not engage in this usage behaviour. However, as you may expect, I hit yet another snag…

The annoying app notifications…

We all know of them… those notifications that pop-up on your devices when someone comments, tags you in a photo, or writes on your wall. I know you are going to tell me in the comments below that you can switch off these notifications but let me tell you something… you can not switch them off. The new social platform apps still pop-up with notifications even though within the settings on both the device and the app itself, no notifications are active. As I write this essay I find on my iPhone 6 a notification telling me that I have friends waiting to connect, do I know such a person, my so-called friends (again, term used loosely here) are waiting to engage with me, or a random number referring to an amount of notifications I have waiting which results in a big fat nothing!

Don’t even get me started on those damn annoying game app notifications from friends who invite me to share in their excitement of Candy Crush or Pirate something or other…

It was frustrating that the app would seem to notify me of something with very little importance just so I had to open the app up. I felt groomed to increase statistics for Facebook…

Groomed by false-hope notifications…

False-Hope Notifications

False-Hope Notifications

I have a simple theory which I am sure there are many others who would kindly back me up to some extent about these false-hope notifications:

Notifications are designed to get you to open the app even if you have no interaction outstanding because Facebook wants to register another user engaging with their platform on a regular basis.

These social media apps groom you into opening them via false-hope notifications as a way to boost their user engagement statistics in order to increase the revenue from those who pay for their platform advertising streams.

However, I must admit that Facebook are providing the general public with a service free of charge although there are many who would argue that we pay with our data usage statistics, and personal profiles which are then used to directly market products based on our likes, dislikes and browsing habits (Hern, 2015).

On a positive note…

I cannot write this essay without stating some of the positive elements that Facebook usage has to offer account holders… Yes, there are millions of people who see a real benefit to using Facebook in terms of communicating with long-lost relatives, friends and old school buddies.

Facebook has proven itself to be a successful communications tool for millions of people around the globe… (Vallance, 2012)

It also allows people to interact with each other in a simplistic way via one platform which has been geared to include many different types of resources such as the sharing of files, videos, photos, websites of interest, music, latest news and events, or even personal family and friend events to which you can invite all or a select group of friends and be able to see who can and can not attend. I agree, all of the above are fantastic tools that allow people to engage with each other to some degree. However, from my personal usage I found that I was using the direct message feature a lot because sometimes you don’t want others seeing what you are talking about. Your conversations could become very personal and end up being displayed all over the news feeds of many. Which leads me onto another topic which does concern me…

Accept my request… Friends of Friends…

I found my usage experiences an annoying trend… your social success of failure was judged on the amount of friends you had on your Facebook account.

There is still a trend to add as many friends as you can even if you do not know that person really well because the craze is to attract as many likes as possible to your selfies…

Friend Requests

Friend Requests

I am still confused as to why many people judge one’s popularity based on the volume of likes one gets on a photo. I personally find the like button very disengaging and fake… what do I mean by this? Normally, we would acknowledge someone directly by telling them we really like their outfit, or communicate our past experiences of visiting the same attractions as them, yet this like button is used just like I see the Twitter ‘Follow me and I will follow back’ behaviour… like my selfie for a like back. From teenage daughter is actively seduced into this type of rating behaviour as I remember her being so elated when one of her selfies attracted over 60 likes, yet within that elation came despair as she realised one of her peers (not friends may I add) attracted over 300 likes.

Many friends are added even if you have only spoken to them once as you wait in line for lunch, or because they were with someone who you have engaged with once or twice before while out and about…

I am confused as to why I should be engaging with a person whom I have not spoken to in real terms, or indeed not spoken to for many years and start allowing them to surf through the vast web of my personal interactions with others and local events around me. This leads me on to another aspect…

Privacy settings…

Privacy Settings

Privacy Settings

Yes, we all know about privacy settings because in recent years the media have made large issues on the topic with an attempt to hold large data-gathering organisations accountable for the education of the users. We have this Friend of Friends option in relation to visibility and it concerns me how little people can actually understand this option. I remember looking at a comment my daughter put on her status profile (which was questionable at the time) and I realised that she had used the Friends of Friends option for visibility. The post attracted over 100 comments and not many realise that when a friend comments on something, Facebook can display this person has commented on your post to all their friends. So let us battle out some generalised numbers to try but this into perspective:

We update our status and we have 200 Facebook friends. Immediately, 70 people get to see our post (Research suggests 35% of friends see your post, or some as low as 12%) (Smith, 2013). It attracts 70 independent comments from our friends (Due to the post being generalised which could then apply to many people)… and each one of our friends has an average of 200 friends each. With the Friends of Friends option, each one of the 70 independent comments can be seen by their 200 friends. What is the exposure of our latest status update:


70 initially

70 x 200 Friends of Friends = 14’000 people who could potentially see it

35% of 14’000 = 4’900 people (according to research)

Total: 4’970 people could see what we have just post.

However, a scary alternative is a percentage of Friends of Friends comment on their friend’s comment… let’s just say only 10 percent of the 35% do:

10% of 4’900 people is 490 (980 if counting two eyes per person)

Now, these 490 additional Friends of Friends each have an average of 200 friends each:

490 x 200 = 98’000 more people

35% exposure = 34’300


Now here comes the scary bit… our original status update has potentially attracted 39’200 people to view it (thirty-nine thousand, two hundred people). Now imagine what the figure would be like if we include the craze of adding as many friends as you can resulting in thousands of friends each…

If we had an average of 1000 friends each we would reach well over 1.3 million people for a simple status update based on the calculations above (Smith, 2013)…

Notice: Yes, assumptions have been made in relation to the average amount of friends each user would have, the assumption of 35% user comment engagement, 10% of friends of friends comment, and the assumption that 35% of your friends would see your status update. However, the figures speak for themselves in relation to the potential impact a status update can have.

However, although this essay has negative points to it in relation to my usage, I would like to highlight that I do have some benefit to using Facebook and that is the Pages feature…

Facebook Pages…

I mainly use my Facebook account for the pages feature. I run two Facebook pages… one for this site and the other for a music tuition site. The pages allow my clients and viewers to communicate with me via a platform that millions of people find stimulating and an integral part of their lives. However, there is a separate app for this feature and even though notifications are turned off, the app still attempts to get me to open it with false-hope notifications. However, I persist with this annoyance because of the benefits to my clients and viewers.

I feel it is important to highlight another point before finalising this essay…

Social media sharing icons on this website…

Yes, you will see I have social media sharing icons on this website and if it has not been made clear above as to the reason why, please let me swiftly highlight this:

I understand that millions of users find a benefit to using Facebook and it can be a vital communication tool for many. If I am to assist my viewers to share my thoughts then what better way than their social portals of preference. Therefor, if it helps them communicate with their chosen friends and helps spread my word, then surely that is a benefit for both of us.

What have I learnt about my experience with Facebook?

 The first thing to mention here is that Facebook has it benefits and this essay is based upon my own experiences and what conclusions I have arrived at. There will be many who agree and possibly more who disagree but I am totally fine with this. Facebook can be a successful tool to millions of people allowing them to engage with others who they may not be able to see in person on a regular basis. The pages, and group options provide ways for a select few to communicate about a shared interest. However, if you are like myself and do not really see the benefit of such lack of depth communications, then one can turn off notifications but expect the app to still tempt you into opening it to support Facebook’s usage statistics.

Two interesting essays you might want to read:

Why I Never Joined Facebook – Cal Newport

Why I’m (Still) Not Going to Join Facebook: Four Arguments that Failed to Convince Me – Cal Newport

References:

Facebook (2006). Facebook Expansion Enables More People to Connect with Friends in a Trusted Environment. Accessed: 13-02-2016. Source: http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2006/09/facebook-expansion-enables-more-people-to-connect-with-friends-in-a-trusted-environment/

Hern, A,. (2015). Facebook is making more and more money from you. Should you be paid for it? Accessed: 13-02-2016, Source: http://www.theguardian.com/technology /2015/sep/25/facebook-money-advertising-revenue-should-you-be-paid

Smith,. (2013). How Many Of Your Friends See Your Facebook Posts? The Debate’s Over, It’s 35%. Accessed: 17-02-2016. Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/35-percent-of-friends-see-your-facebook-posts-2013-8?IR=T

Vallance, C,. (2012). Facebook flotation: Engineering social network success. Accessed: 17-02-2016. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16789785

What is your opinion?