Unfriending Facebook – Why Many of us are Jumping Ship in Favour of other Networks

 

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Here’s this months Business Eye article. Next month I’m talking about it from a marketers angle..

Nine weeks and two days… that’s how long my Facebook’s been deleted. No, not the ‘Deactivate my account’ that used to be the only option if you wanted to leave, but deleted deleted, with – supposedly – all info, photos, and boring statuses erased, never to return. It was a bit strange at first – particularly for someone who works in digital and social media – but in the end I feel I made the right choice. There are just so many other social platforms and digital resources that are far more specialised, engaging and tailored to my needs. And I’m not alone in my decision.

 

While under two thirds of us are still active users, some people are starting to turn away from this giant of social media – individuals and brands alike. In the next month, we’ll discuss the issues with Facebook for brands and businesses. This month, let’s look at the consumer…

 

Information Overload

 

In a society increasingly more aware of the issues of data privacy – yet where very few of us understand how to do anything about it – the recent T&Cs that came with an update to Facebook’s messenger were met with some serious concern. If you still have the messenger app on your mobile device today, it means you’ve given the social media network permission to…  giphy (1)

 

  • Read your online browsing history
  • Read anything on your USB/mobile SD card
  • Read your activity on your other apps,
  • Control your mobile connection and the data you receive
  • Use your caller ID
  • Record audio, video and images
  • Read your calendars, events and all info contained therein and change those events
  • Know your precise location and access ‘extra location commands’ (presumably using wifi, which uses triangulation so that someone can tell not just which building you’re in, but which room)
  • Read all your text messages, edit and send ones
  • Rewrite your call log and make calls without your intervention.

 

Now while Facebook will retort that they are forced to request such permission due to restrictions placed upon them by Android (for example), the fact remains that you have essentially handed over control of your device, identity and data history to the company.  A company whose relationship with US and UK governments is dubious at best. This would appear to be the ‘line’ for some consumers – giving cause enough to finally break the bond and opt instead for some alternative social networks.

 

Filter Failure

 

Facebook has transformed our lives from how we do business and how we interact on a personal level, to how we build our own identity. Yet we know surprisingly little about how it really affects us. FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, is a recognised psychological issue, literally caused by ‘status anxiety’ – a compulsion that you have missed an opportunity for social interaction.

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Your Facebook timeline happens to be full of such triggers – weddings, parties, holiday snaps, academic achievements, baby scans, work promotions, perfect Christmas family pics and of course, a milllion and one selfies. Every social status posted on Facebook is personally ‘curated’ to show off our lives in the best light. Can you remember the last time you posted something like  “Just sat and ate a whole block of cheese while watching Oprah reruns for four hours.” or  “Really worried my kid’s a total underachiever. 😦 ” No, didn’t think so.  Trouble is, while we may be aware we curate ourselves, we’ve trouble believing it’s the same story for everybody else in our feed too. So, is Facebook ultimately making us unhappy?

 

I guess this isn’t so much a problem when you consider it as a stand alone network – perhaps just mildly irritating. However, when you throw in the other apps, social networks and websites that you use, it can all get a bit overwhelming. There’s that series on Netflix you want to watch, the two newspapers you scan online every day, that online course you want to do, that audiobook, your Twitter feed, Whatsapp, Instagram, exploring Spotify, Snapchat, Pinterest, that new cat video on YouTube, TED Talks about information overloads… what we are left with is not only a feeling we are not achieving the most out of our lives in comparison to others, but a feeling that we are not even getting the full story about what’s going on out there. As the comedian Louis CK says, this leads to a situation where ‘everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy’.

 

Eventually, just as we curate the information we put out in the webisphere, so to must we curate the information coming in. In a world where social platforms become more and more niche and specialised, Facebook – with it’s updates about your cousin’s ex-wife’s dog and their weekly tinkering with algorithms – may not make the cut. With many Gen X and Y-ers, this is certainly the case. Even Facebook themselves have admitted it’s lost its ‘cool’ amongst the kids – who are opting for other channels like SnapChat, Viber, Whisper, Reddit for news or enjoying blogging instead. So if Facebook is your only social network, perhaps it’s time to get out and explore.


Because, as they say, there’s no such thing as information overload, only filter failure.  


If you have a spare moment, check out JP Rangaswami’s great Ted Talk on thinking of information as food – it might just give you the urge to purge!

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