Kashmir Hill has a great and hugely popular piece running on the Forbes home page warning people against abandoning their Facebook accounts, calling them tech abandoners. You might be regarded as suspicious without one! The idea that giving up Facebook is a case of abandoning technology, though, is at odds with how I see the decision to downgrade Facebook in my life.
Kashmir argues you need a Facebook account in order to underwrite your personal credibility. Worse, if you don’t have one you could be a murderer!?!
I guess if Internet dating is your thing, then according to Kashmir’s example you probably do. But if you are looking for work-related credibility or you initiate your intimate relationships largely in the physical world then Facebook can be irrelevant. It is to over 4/5th of the world. I choose LinkedIn to keep people posted about what I’m doing in work and I use Facebook to keep in touch with my children while I travel, something I am increasingly doing via Skype, anyway. For me, Facebook is becoming less and less relevant, though I accept that for twenty somethings and teens it is the main communications medium. And by the way, I’m not massively keen on the management team’s ethics.
The point I want to make is that opting out of social networks that are noisy and offer marginal benefits is not the same as opting out of technology. Nor is giving up using a smartphone. A regular Nokia mobile phone did exactly what I needed – allowed people to contact me in an emergency. And it is great technology. I now have a Samsung feature phone and the reason I bought it was for the camera. I couldn’t buy a cheaper camera than this one. I hardly use the smarter features because often my priority is to get free time in order to work, walk or think.
Here’s where I think the argument is at. We need to begin making technology choices and online social choices rather than feeling railroaded into behavior that might not suit our taste or needs. That means taking a look at what suits you, not feeling compelled to build your life around services of marginal value because you are supposed to or because you’re weakened by constantly having the fear factor steamrollered at you. That seems simple. It doesn’t need to be construed as an anti-technology platform.
So to end – Facebook has created a great technology infrastructure but in downgrading Facebook in my life, I am not rejecting its algorithms, its data centers, or Mark himself. I’m simply saying: I don’t really need it and in those circumstances using it adds to my stress.