The Traps of Social Media: Is it Even Possible to “Unfriend” Facebook from Our Lives?

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will acknowledge the data breach but should acknowledge much more. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

As society finally begins to reevaluate our use of Facebook along with social media and technology in general, a sad fact has become evident: its not so easy to just delete your Facebook page.

Despite the negative light casted on Facebook recently, by their fake news posts, insane data breaches and falling stock, we come to realize though one may be willing to sell their Facebook shares, they will not as quickly close their Facebook account and delete their page.

Since mid-March, when reports revealed Cambridge Analytica’s use of the data of Facebook users, several media outlets have backlashed with attempts to remind the public that deleting their social media accounts is an option. But is it really? Other critiques have attacked the core business model of Facebook, but what will really make or break the social media giant comes down to each and every individual user. Each of us needs to make up our minds, of how we will deal with Facebook behind closed doors, on our phones and computers, on a personal level.

It is not an easy decision to make once you consider the position Facebook now holds in society, and the magnitude of what is a stake if one chooses to leave the network. Facebook has spent over 10 years making sure no one can just delete their Facebook, at least not without greater ramifications. Social media has become such a part of modern culture and the everyday life of so many. As the site nears the 2 billion users mark, social responsibility is placed on the Facebook members who help to perpetuate the lack of accountability of the company. The extent to which the daily digital lives of most individuals is molded by Facebook, is the underlying reason why most users can’t let it go.

Facebook popularity. Active users of Facebook increased from just a million in 2004 to over 750 million in 2011. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

On March 22, Vox released an article on this exact topic, in which it broke down the three main reasons why the majority of people can’t just delete their Facebook.

Vox’s first reason is: “Facebook is technologically embedded within a vast web of interconnected third-party apps and social media platforms. You’ve probably heard cracks before that Twitter humor largely consists of jokes made on Tumblr being shared as screenshots on Facebook, but within this joke is a larger point about how all of these systems interconnect and interact. The web is made up of third-party apps and systems, many of which rely on being fully integrated with your personal Google or Facebook account. In fact, many mobile and web-based apps actually require you to have a Facebook account — and only a Facebook account — before you can use the app to begin with. Over the years, consumers and other developers have pushed back against this trend, but the truth remains that if you delete your Facebook account, you could immediately lose access to parts of the internet.”

Many dating apps for example require that you sign in through your Facebook, and even if they don’t require it, it is a thousand times easier to set up an account if you already have a Facebook. Meaning, you do not have to make new user names or passwords, fill out profiles and upload photos; for if you have a Facebook, it is all already done for you, just by linking the two together.

This goes for many other apps as well, from ride-sharing to space hunting, without a Facebook you will find yourself creating new accounts and wasting time reentering the same information about yourself over and over again.

Vox reports, “Even if you don’t particularly care which apps your Facebook is linked to, there are several core problems with this trend — problems that apply equally to Google, which arguably shares much of the internet’s infrastructure with Facebook. The biggest of these problems is that when you create an infrastructure that assumes everyone is using only one or two major platforms for their daily internet use, you create an internet where using only those two platforms becomes a tacit requirement. And for many, using Facebook is also a literal and direct requirement.”

The second major reason is that many employers and educational institutions require that you use Facebook on a regular basis.

As a journalist, it is basically a necessity, as it was for many of my other career stops. When I was a bartender, I needed Facebook to advertise the nights I worked, and to find bands to book to play at our venue. Any self-promoting entrepreneur needs what Facebook offers. When I worked in sales and marketing, Facebook was even more of a staple necessity, for it gives you access to so much potential business. Now there are positions at companies where your sole duty is going on Facebook, i.e. social media managers.

The infamous Facebook logo. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

According to Vox, “We’re used to the idea of businesses, self-promoters, and ‘branded’ individuals needing and using Facebook, but this pressure also applies to schools. In 2012, Facebook launched Facebook Groups specifically tailored to schools — creating a ‘walled garden’ that students frequently use to promote school spirit and create next-level internet memes. Collective use of the platform by schools and other educational groups means that, just as with third-party app developers, some organizations still require you to have a Facebook account in order to access information and services. Facebook itself has made inroads into developing technology specifically for school use. Students prepping for college are warned that universities will be watching their social media accounts in order to spot excellent community behavior and social media usage, as well as to pinpoint any red flags.

All of this reliance on Facebook once again means the assumption that everyone is already on Facebook marginalizes anyone who’s not on Facebook, making it harder for anyone not using the platform to access the same degree of communication and information sharing. That’s vital for any job or education system where Facebook is involved. But it’s also vital where social communities are concerned.”

The final and third reason that we can’t lose Facebook, is that it is a tangible social tether holding people, groups, families and communities together.

If you delete your Facebook, you lose touch with all the people you only stay connected to through the site. Your old best-friend from Elementary School, or that English teacher that changed your life, all these individuals that without Facebook you would have no way of reconnecting to, would suddenly be ripped back out of your life if you deleted your page. The emotional ramifications could be great on both sides of the spectrum. You may yourself be thrown into a depression of isolation, while the friends and family that were used to seeing your daily posts might think something horrible happened to you if your account suddenly vanished. Not to mention you’ll miss party and show invites and whatever else is only sent out via Facebook.

According to Vox, “It’s true that the vast majority of Americans still rely on phone calls as the first method of staying in touch with friends and family. But more than 20 percent of US adults told Pew researchers in a 2015 survey that they also rely heavily on Facebook and other social media platforms, a number that’s probably only grown in the years since. Facebook makes it increasingly easy to substitute virtual communication for physical interaction, and we have adapted to this switch as a culture. That means there’s cultural and social pressure to stay on the platforms that people are most likely to use to find you — for example, when, disaster strikes and you need to mark yourself safe. Then there’s the use of Facebook as a kind of digital scrapbook, to preserve life events, shared moments, and memories. Sure, it’s a cliché — but it’s also real, and it is yet one more tie binding people to the site.”

While for most individuals born after 1990, a slow, painful death would be preferable to deleting their Facebook, even for those born before the “social media” generation, we would still have an uncomfortable hole in our lives that can’t be filled by anything but the random connections and comments and dumb arguments that we despise but just can’t stop following, which Facebook provides.

So even if we are not ready to delete and disconnect from this social media giant, it is time that we acknowledge that Facebook itself should be held accountable, and better security and oversight should be provided for all social media servers.

By Kristen Trampler

 

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