Oh, but what a shame that all we’ve shared can’t last

by HST UK on October 4, 2012

I noticed a couple of intriguing status updates on Facebook posted by two of my friends earlier this week. The first update stemmed from paranoia, addressing the recent story that Facebook had released user’s old private messages onto timelines. My friend saw this as personally damaging and quickly got rid of his current account. I’m unsure whether he deleted his profile permanently or just deactivated it, but he didn’t waste time in creating a new profile using a ridiculous fake name, and even when as far as deciding to use a profile picture where his face was obscured by a smiley. The second update revealed that my other friend has jettisoned Social Networking altogether, preferring to exist in the wilderness, where his only means of contact will be from email and mobile phone. It’s like that famous scene from the 1948 film ‘Scott of the Antarctic’ when Oates leaves the tent and walks out into the blizzard, a brave, but potentially socially suicidal move.

Could you walk away completely from the Social Network?

I’ve in the past deactivated, and then reactivated, and once actually deleted my profile completely. Mostly this stemmed from a mardy flounce whereby I’d grown alienated from or irritated by my peers. Only later did I realize the error of my ways and rejoined, believing that I can’t live without Facebook, at least not until something better comes along. It still serves a purpose, keeping me in touch with friends.

There are aspects of Facebook that I don’t like. I am not fond of the control it has brought upon people in a social setting, whereby nights out can turn into photo-shoots, an endless parade of gawdy forced poses and awkward smiles, as opposed to simply enjoying your company and living in the moment. Facebook’s addictive qualities, which encourage narcissism, enabling pseudo-intellectuals like me to make mundane events in my life far more interesting than they actually are by being a little creative. Then there is the need to check the site as often as you might check the time. There comes this constant fear that if you don’t do this, your social circle might disappear without you knowing. In reality Facebook is a cross between a glorified address book, a photo album and a diary. For the practical amongst us, that’s all it needs to be, to function effectively and serve a purpose.

The issue of sharing has always been the biggest potential downfall for any Facebook user. The professional nature of the site means that people feel comfortable, and when you feel comfortable you tend to let your guard down. Couple this with the false confidence many get when online and you have a recipe for disaster, and self-destruction. We’ve all posted a drunken status update, and then realized the next day at work that a dozen of your colleagues become aware that you’re hung-over, some may even comment on your post, inevitably this information will get back to your superiors, and your professional reputation gets damaged. The worst case scenario is that you accidentally call your boss a cunt.

Facebook in 2012 is a nightmarish clutter of ego and advertisement. You find yourself blocking friend’s updates from your feed, installing adblocker, and trying not to get caught up in endless inane applications and games. Email addresses and phone numbers, and other ‘private’ information are being shared with third parties. Did I give permission for Facebook to do this? Maybe, I mean, I didn’t thoroughly read through the terms and conditions. I joined up because everyone I knew had left MySpace and I didn’t want to be left on board the Titanic with nude sketches of Kate Winslet and the brittle breadcrumbed bones of Captain Birdseye.

A billion people are now connected on the Social Network, but Facebook has seen its share prices drop continuously since it first got floated on the market. The billion users aren’t currently equating to billions of dollars filtering in to Zuckerberg and co’s pockets. This is why the Facebook is increasingly moving towards monitoring its users as consumers and offering them products they don’t need.

It was the recent rumours, which originated in France, of old direct messages appearing on timelines that scared many users to scramble through their Facebook history, double checking they haven’t had their dirty laundry aired in public. I’m not sure how this news first leaked, given it didn’t carry much truth, but as with most online scares, widespread panic quickly spread. I imagine that if a rumour spread that it was possible to see who had been browsing your profile and snooping through your photo albums then there would be a mass exodus from Facebook as millions of cyber stalkers frantically attempted to cover up their dirty paw prints.

Looking back over ones internet activity is always a cringe worthy experience, reading through my timeline taught me that I sometimes overshared, but mostly it was irreverent twaddle. I thought back to my now long dead MySpace page, and the shit I used to post there. Thousands and thousands of words, whole blog posts about how deep and intellectual I believed I was, in amongst juvenile poetry and ill-thought out rants. That was something to be truly ashamed of.

MySpace is now attempting to revive and rebrand itself, capitalizing on Facebook’s recent fails. Aiming for creative types, a new trailer makes the site looks slick and rather appealing…

However MySpace died. Not even Justin Timberlake re-launching his career as part of the rebrand will lead people to return. Seeing the ghost return just causes an enormous sense of disbelief.

– RJW

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