Last week we all learned about Facebook breach of data. It sucked. But to be honest, it was not surprising to me at all as a user. I never really had expectations that Facebook would keep our data safe, protected, that they would use it ethically, or that they were really thinking about providing us healthy ways to use the platform. I wish they did. But they are greedy.
Many friends, family, and colleagues have discussed their discontent and are considering doing without a Facebook account. I am not here to encourage you to continue using Facebook. I think it is a personal decision. I have quit Facebook in the past (I do not mean deactivated my account. I mean, that I took the time to delete every single post and photo, unfriend every single person, wipe my account clean, and made the request to Facebook to completely delete my account) and it was hard. Three years of “social connections from my undergraduate years” gone! However, at the same time it was exactly what I needed to do then.
I returned to Facebook two and half years after my hiatus with a completely different mindset. That time apart (from Facebook) really made me realize the benefits and disadvantages it has. I should also say that the context of my situation made it very unique: during the time I quit Facebook I ended a five year romantic relationship, moved from my little college town in Kansas to a city where I knew no one, and started a doctoral program (I talk a bit about this in my TEDxUTampa talk). Last, I should add, this all happened before “smartphones” and apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, and others where a thing.
Again, I am really not here to convince anyone to keep their Facebook account or to delete it. I am here to say that for me it would be difficult to quit again. I was born and raised in Panama. I did all of my elementary, middle, and secondary school there. Unlike most people who attend different school during the K-12 years, I spend most of my years (since grade 4th) in the same institution with the same classmates (yes, there are people that I know since I was in 4th grade). I am connected with most of them through Facebook, which in Panama is almost the equivalent of text messaging (the only App that is more popular in Panama is probably WhatsApp). No one really writes emails there anymore. Seriously, I cannot even remember the last time anyone from Panama wrote me an email (now that I think about it).
I have lived in three different countries: Panama, Canada, and the United States (six different cities total). Ain’t nobody got time to be emailing to keep up with people (I already have enough with all the emails I get and have to send for work).
Another reason it would be difficult to quit, is my constant connection to professional organizations and support groups. Connections to the groups that are created as part of my professional organizations, truly helps me stay connect to colleagues throughout the year. It helps me know what they are up to professionally. Also, sometimes there are beneficial conversations that occur (in professional circles and support groups). I may not be a participant in the conversation (just a lurker) but the resources that are shared help me in one way or another. Sometimes I participate, if I know something about a topic or have resources to share. This is something I learned during my time away from Facebook: use the platform to your advantage.
I know some people are thinking: it is an echo chamber, people just use it to post their perfect pictures, others are just nosy about your business, all those political post are annoying, etc. Maybe it is because I am at different point in my life, but I enjoy seeing updates from my FB friends (no I do not get offended because I did not get a personalized text message from them letting me know about something special that happened to them). Also, I am very intentional about who I connect with. If I cannot be “me” with you, then I will not accept your request OR I will simply delete you as a friend. If I feel that what you post is toxic, then “delete.” BTW, I am also like this offline. This is who I am, you can take it or leave.
During my time away from Facebook, I learned that it is really hard to keep up with people. Relationships require time and it is easy to neglect them. Again, this was all before smartphones and the development of all those other social platforms. I know what you are thinking: a centralized friendship “hub” is evil. Yes, it sucks that in order to keep up we have use this evil thing call Facebook but I personally do not have time to do it differently.
That is all I have for now. BTW, I am human. I may have a different opinion tomorrow. I also want to leave you with three personal quotes:
“So to some extend it is true. Social media can be harmful (and affect our mental well being), difficult to manage and overwhelming, too public, distracting, and influence and miss inform us.”
“Instead of solely focusing on the “bad” or “thinking of social media as a waste of time” it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.”
“I am also not saying that we need to overlook the challenges that social media present for our social, mental, and physical well-being. We absolutely need to find ways to deal with this challenges.”