Jan 05 2011

Why Facebook is Making Me Sick of My Friends

Published by at 12:00 pm under Editorials

Everywhere you turn, there’s a news story claiming that Facebook has reached a new peak, and growing further still. A $500M investment has put the site’s worth up to $50 billion, its founder Mark Zuckerberg is Time’s Person of the Year and a movie about his rise to power, The Social Network, is currently this year’s Oscar favorite.

But some people, like myself, will argue that Facebook peaked long ago, and us founding members are growing tired of the whole ordeal, just as everyone and their grandma are getting into it now.

I’m an old timer. I first joined the site right after it opened up to colleges past the ivy league, before my freshman year. Back then you still needed a .edu e-mail address for access, and the notion that it would ever be open to ANYone was just preposterous.

There were no status updates, there was no wall, there was no photo tagging, no Vampires applications. It was merely a profile and messaging system, not new by any means as Friendster and MySpace had been around for some time, but it was far cleaner to look at and operate, and its restriction to a few worthy colleges made you feel unique for having an account.

Oh yeah, and it was called “The Facebook.”

Flash forward six years, and now if you DON’T have a Facebook, you might as well not exist. The user base is now almost 10% of the earth’s population and growing exponentially. Nearly everyone you know has their own page, has friended you and is now constantly informing you of absolutely everything going on in their lives.

We’re now living in the age of overshare.

Seriously, I’m getting sick of my own friends, if you can call them that. If you’re like me, you’re friends with people where if we weren’t living in this era, you would never need, or want to speak to again. Every person you have ever talked to for more than two seconds in class, every random girl you bumped into at a party, every single person from your high school class are all constantly informing you of everything they do and everywhere they go, when you haven’t had the desire to actually talk to them in years.

Facebook has gotten a lot of shit for its privacy settings, and it’s reaching new levels of creepy by asking for your e-mail password for its “Friend finder” app, or asking for a debit card or phone number to prove you are in fact human. This is obviously all very 1984, and it’s true the site likely has more information on its users than the government could ever hope to, but that’s a whole different article. My problem is with people who leave their privacy settings open to the point where individuals I’m not even friends with allow their pictures to come up on MY news feed when my friend comments on the album. All of a sudden I’m looking through a gallery of what should be private pictures featuring people I’ve never seen in my life. Twenty clicks in and I’m watching them shotgun a beer or their children eat spaghetti for the first time. I stop and think, how did I get here? Why am I doing this?

Very cute, but who are you, and why are you on the front page of my newsfeed?

There’s two main reasons to be on Facebook now, creeping and narcissism. Yes, you can actually communicate with people too, but that’s of secondary importance to the other two reasons. “Creeping” is something almost everyone with an account does, if you’re the type to check the site every day. You click through everyone’s profiles and statuses whenever anything interesting comes up. Not because you are actually still friends with any of these people, but because you’re hoping to see that douche who took your lunch money in fifth grade slowly become morbidly obese, or find that cute girl from class and her hot friends in bikinis on spring break, or see that guy you kissed once at a party and now hate with his arms wrapped around some ugly girl. Or sometimes for no damn reason at all. You’re sitting there clicking through and reading these things that contain no useful value.

But where does all this content come from? The other half. The narcissists, most of whom are creepers themselves. It’s astonishing that people think everyone they’ve ever met cares about anything that pops into their heads, or whatever party they just happened to attend last weekend. They flood our newsfeeds with all this completely useless information, and it’s hard to sift through to find anything of meaning. On a given day, I’d say I’m genuinely interested in no more than 5% of what I see on the site as it pertains to people I actually care about.

The solution seems obvious. Well you idiot, why don’t you just delete all these people? I’ve tried. I’ve trimmed my friends list from 600 to 400, but really, it probably needs to be no more than 50, with only 15 or so people I communicate with on a regular basis. I could delete my profile entirely, and merely text and e-mail the people I actually want to talk to, but I don’t do that either. But why? Why don’t I do that?

It’s simple. I might not be a narcissist per se, but I am somewhat vain, and even though I would have no problem never thinking about most of these people again, I would feel bad if they forgot about ME. Once you’re off Facebook, you’ll never cross most of these people’s minds again. That’s why I’m friends with all these people I used to know. I want them to see that I’m doing great things in my life, I want them to occasionally think about the time we spent together, however long or brief. I just don’t want to be forgotten.

Paul who?

And neither do they. That’s why they’ll keep telling the world about how they have strep throat, are nervous for an exam or just got engaged to the love of their life. The “like” button is perhaps the greatest psychological breakthrough in recent history. It’s physical proof to us that our peers approve of us, in a world where such affirmation in person can often be hard to come by.

So I’m keeping my Facebook for now, even if I refuse to broadcast my existence to my friends on a daily basis. Deleting it would be the social equivalent of selling your possessions and moving to a cabin in the woods, and as relaxing as that sounds, it’s a move I’m not quite ready to make yet. For all of you who have had the balls to disappear, or never show your face on the site at all, I salute you, and you are stronger willed than I.

Will everyone eventually burn out and get tired of each other’s triumphs and problems being constantly shouted into the abyss? It’s hard to imagine life before Facebook now, but it’s even more difficult to imagine life after. I’m almost scared to see what comes next.

Inappropriate time to plug Unreality’s Facebook page?





More Unreal Posts


29 responses so far

  • Corey

    You know what I loved most about this article – I read it through…was really feeling a connection with the message…and as I got to the last sentence my eyes went right to:

    follow us on Digg, retweet, reddit, submit AND of course – “be the first of your friends to like this”

    I LOVE the irony…best thing I’ve read in a while, if just because of the placement of those icons/buttons/counters at the end!

  • ash

    I like how the Unreality facebook link doesn’t go anywhere.

  • xXburekXx

    i made an account at the end of the summer, i didnt want it, but everyone kept telling me to get it, so it was my only way of shutting everyone up, and i dont really care for it, i dont care what show somone is watching, i dont care about a relationship status of somone i havent talked too in a couple of years, i dont care whats on your mind, if i wanted to know these things i would ask

  • JZ

    F Facebook. I never got on it. Only would for business reasons if I had to.

  • Stacy

    This article could have been written by me. I signed up at the same time and now I feel the same way about Facebook.

  • Kev

    Alright… Who let Oscar out the dustbin?

  • Ricky

    I left two years ago for the same reasons, and I never even got the number of friends you did. I had around 50 or so, and that was enough to make me sick of it, but for different reasons. With facebook, nobody was telling anybody anything important face to face anymore, my friends would constantly say “I saw your facebook status update on _____” or “____ happened, check my facebook status for more”. And just to show how much people assume facebook is life, my closest friends still forget that I deleted my account even after two years.

  • Matt

    An easy way to get around having to deal with people you don’t care about in your news feed is to set up a friends list with only the people whose profiles you care to have show up on your news feed.

    When you click on the list, you’ll have a mini news feed with just the people you want on it. Then, you just need to change all your bookmarks so instead of going to the main news feed page, you go to your smaller, more pertinent news feed.

    My “Worthwhile People” list has maybe 15-20 people on it, but it’s people I genuinely am interested in. This small step has improved my Facebook experience immensely. It also has cut down on the amount of time I spend on the site, since I’m getting the information I care about right away and all one one page.

    Of course, this doesn’t account for your other gripes against Facebook.

    Also, though I am a fan of your writing (in fact, you’re the only author on this site worth reading, ever), this article just seemed a bit wayward and lazy. You state several theses and either abandon or contradict them later in the article. But since I enjoy your writing, I’m not going to turn this into a critical essay.

    However, try to steer clear of the “What’s the point of telling the whole world when you’re using the toilet or what you had for lunch?” -type argument. People that make that argument are the same type of people that call bloggers parents’-basement-dwelling, obese mouth-breathers that have no place in mainstream media. You don’t want to be like one of those people, trust me.

  • zero

    I’m with you man, Facebook just became popular in my Freshmen in College. At that time, only college kids could get an account. I was intrigued by the site for maybe a week.

    The bottom line is this, If we are close friends, you were probably there during that extremely hard exam. And if we are not close friends, then I can’t really relate to what’s going on in your life.

    I’ve had Facebook since 2005 and my last update was March 2006. Now days I waste my time on sites like this one or reddit.

  • John

    I agree with Matt. This article started out very strong and waned in the end but is still a good article.

    I used Myspace back in the day and then started using it less and less. I have a Facebook account but dont use it more than once a quarter, if that.

    Im just done with social networking sites.

  • flash1049

    Amen

  • Noemi

    Wow, that’s a long post…

    All I can say is that I hate photo tagging, and I hate those goddamn updates. Wtf do I care what all those people are up to (the apps they join etc.)? and I am someone who actually has very few friends and they are all people I know. I just wanted to keep in touch with them (I live in different countries for various periods of time) not to friggin’ stalk them… FB sucks.

  • http://www.archollective.com illeaturfamily

    Classy Paul Tassi, it’s like you took the thoughts right out of my brain!

    I love this article. I’ve been contemplating getting rid of my FB account for a couple months now. I’ve taken small steps though, as I’ve cleaned out my friends list immensely. I don’t care about my older sister’s friends’s babies or christmas trees. I don’t care about Farmville. I don’t care about a slight acquaintance’s new crotch rocket. Narcissism is the perfect word for FB and I’m really glad you pointed that out.

    It’s actually kind of fun, now. As every time I read a post and say to myself “wow, I really don’t give a flying f*ck about that person or what he/she is doing,” I go directly to my Friends page and delete that particular asshole. It’s so backward now. Before I used to love building up my friends list. Now I get even more satisfaction out of deleting people.

    It’s like a relationship that ends badly. You learn a lot about what you DON’T want. With FB, I’m learning that there’s a metric buttload of people I DON’T want to be friends with.

  • What_the…

    Before Cityville became my new personal brand of heroin, I barely spent more than 5 minutes a day on facebook. If something interesting was posted I might comment or strike up a conversation on a status but otherwise the website feels like a lifestyle tracking system.

  • agon23

    I know what you mean. I had FB back when it was a college only social website. It was pretty dope too, i actually used it to form study groups for my harder classes and the occasional chick. But as I progress through school and made my set of friends with the same degree I used it less and less since I already had my base. I quit right before the “anyone can have facebook” started. I don’t really see what’s the point of it anymore since smartphones are better at staying in contact with people you actually know. really hope FB goes up in flames.

  • BrockSamson

    I, too, began my Facebook foray 6 years ago. To say that I have become disillusioned with it’s purpose is a gross understatement. Ironic that I still manage to maintain my profile on a once or twice-a-week basis. Sigh.

  • Daniel

    I don’t have a facebook account, refuse even though people allways ask me to join

  • Bobby

    The only thing I really use facebook for now is to keep track of the events people put up like local shows or community events.

  • chelsea

    i think the problem is that you are facebook friends with every single person you meet…. my list consists of less than 80 people, all of which i am close to and care about. if anyone requests to be my friend, i only accept if i have had a phone or face conversation with them in the past year or two.

    people clutter their life with fake friends and it causes an insensitivity to real social life. the human brain can only handle 150 relationships at a time, anything more is just a meaningless acquaintance.

  • m/k

    I have 32 friends on there, 12 of whom I talk to on a regular basis. It’s my main hub for communicating with them, since I wouldn’t bother with any other chat service, phone system or social network.

    I have a fake name and no [real] picture, so I’d consider myself free of most of the privacy concerns that entrap the rest of yall.

    I can honestly say I have great conversations, snarky comment threads, and intelligent debates on Facebook on a regular basis. It’s the people that keep me there, not the apps or the extraneous items.

    Sure it sounds a little paranoid, but I think my path is the best.

  • 8bithero

    I am proud to say that I have never had a Facebook account.

    It’s the social equivalent of heroin. I only consider people friends on one condition – Would I lend this person large sums of money without the expectation of being repaid?

    There are 2 people on the planet that I can say I would.

  • Jackson Briggs

    Delete your account. Is it really that important to exist to these people that would forget you in the first place if you didn’t have one? You’ll still talk to those of your friends that matter and maybe with the excess time (no matter how little or small) you could do something with someone close to you who actually matters in your life and appreciates the great things you’re doing with your life. Others will notice, the right people will notice, not the type that dwell in social messaging purgatory.

  • Andy D

    Never had a facebook account and never will and whenever I tell people that they always say that they wished they didn’t either. The thing that really puts me off is that once you’re in it’s so hard to get out.

    Also everyone I know tells me I am paranoid so mybe that contributes a bit aswell.

  • josh

    Am I the only person who signed up when you had to have a .edu email address, and now thinks that FB is better than ever? I used to think it was pretty boring, and kind of let my account go dormant for a while – then I got more into it when they opened it up to everybody.

    Should I feel like an elitist for being proud of not being an elitist?

  • Korky

    I remember when email was at its peak, I’m so over email.

  • Horace Moning

    How can i get the full meaning of this blog.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/digitalchemistryband Rob

    I started social networking (sn) with the beginings of MP3.com and Myspace, as a musician, just hoping a few people would get a chance to hear my music. As SNing grew we moved our world to FB, and our network of “friends” grew…but the problem, all our “friends” are musicians/ artists/ promoters, etc… all have the same axe to grind…”like us”, “friend us”, and the sites we use to post music on use those numbers for metrics, and seo…
    Everyday there’s a new band, single, etc….and I thing, whatever!!! and yet, every promoter says we must use it to promote…I’d be interested to know how many people really discover a “new” band on Facebook (not one promoted by big budget promotion, and not one of your “friends” bands- but a completely blind “find”…)
    I’m thinking seriously of commiting digital suicide (for a musician) by hiding everyone, or deleting my account… I never cared before about “x” friends metal band before, I don’t know why I have to now…the way to succeed in the music buisness has not changed…and …”just becouse we’re fellow musicians does not mean I have to like you, or your music”…IMO that’s not hating, just honest…
    oppinions? thoughts? Advice? Help!!!!

  • Steve Chan

    I feel the same as you do. This post brings home everything I hate about Facebook. My strategy is simple: I rarely post updates myself (because I don’t trust FB’s lame privacy settings anymore), and I block ALL my friends’ activities from the newsfeed. So every day when I open my facebook, I will be just reading news headlines. But it doesn’t mean I could not creep on their profile once in a while. I’ve got the best of both worlds this way. There’s no need to delete FB. :)

  • Kay

    I quit facebook because everyone would post insulting things about my religion without consideration to who was seeing it. People also feel it’s their soapbox to post all their political junk. It doesn’t connect people on a personal level, it just gives people a podium to be a jerk and make a fool of themselves. When I used it in college I was an oversharer, I think. But I never said anything to offend anyone! These days it’s just another device for people to prove that nearly all of humanity is just plain rude.

    I think it keeps people from forming true friendships and getting out of the house to DO something, have fun, and make memories. It’s been about two years since I deleted mine and everyone is still in zombie mode. I moved to a new place, and people can’t be bothered to get off the phone and make friends. Meh. I’ve lost faith in people.

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