It won’t be long now. A couple of days. Maybe a touch longer? But I’ve been mulling it over for a while and building up to it and now, I feel the time is right.
The time has come to delete my personal Facebook account.
“Thought it was about time I spent some time on this thing – who knows how long it’ll last?”
Well, the answer is, just over two years. For the most part it’s been a whole heap of fun. But the online games have all but naturally wound down – there’s only so many crops you can harvest or fish you can feed before the whole thing gets a little tedious, and I’ve not spent a single real penny on any of them. But more than that, I also have genuine concerns over where the evolution of social media is headed.
At the peak of my engagement with FB, there existed the grand total of 20 friends linked to my profile, including family. I’ll admit I was tempted for a time to search out people from my distant past, but ultimately I just couldn’t see the point in re-invigorating contact with school-day chums, distant second cousins, long-gone casual acquaintances or even people who at one point I would’ve considered my best friends. There’s a reason the connection didn’t endure before social media came along, so why insinuate a bond when there is none? Maybe I’m being a bit overly critical, but presuming that someone you sat next to in your Physics class 25 years ago is going to be the least bit interested in how strong your mid-morning coffee tastes is, let’s face it, the height of egomania.
So ultimately, I reasoned, the past should remain in the past, and present and enduring relationships are about being there; they are not (contrary to what passes for a friendship these days) about hitting the “like” button when someone visits the local supermarket.
Then there’s the quiet chipping away of one’s privacy. Few people, it seems to me, realise that it doesn’t matter how well you’ve nailed down your own security settings; if someone you’re linked to has their own security settings open to even a small degree, the ability to control who sees what and when is completely taken away from you. Of course all of this may not worry you in the slightest. Not all of us are concerned about levels of privacy. But the fact remains that FB has made its privacy and security settings so deliberately opaque and convoluted that no matter how often you look over your shoulder and check your firewalls, other people may be (unknowingly) leaving your virtual windows open onto sometimes intimate parts of your life, for all to see. This includes national and international media, governments, the police, and (perhaps most immediately important to all of us) your employer. Consider for a moment the difference between your professional and your personal persona. Remember the recent UK story of hospital saline drips being contaminated and the nurse who was arrested and later released? The pictures of that poor woman, and the background information we were instantly all privy to came from FB. And she was never charged! She was innocent. Imagine then anyone of us innocently caught up in the investigation of any crime… If, at best, we forget about our FB security settings or at worst, don’t care; all of a sudden, that picture of us living it large in Ibiza or sat in the bath contemplating our navel could become the first thing people see at the top of the hour. It could end up being splashed across the front page of all the newspapers, and that’s before we’ve even been charged with an offense. You think we’d have a job to go back to after the whole mess is straightened out?
Then there’s the new applications for smartphones which allow us to “check in” and let our friends know where we are from one moment to the next. I’ll admit I used it once, on the motorway returning home from visiting (real life) friends, before I realised how dumb it was, and how truly dangerous it could be. I mean, how much more Orwellian could you hope to get? For years, shady people in darkened corners must’ve been dreaming of the opportunity to find a way to monitor where all of us are, at any given moment. And here we all are, handing over the information willingly! Forget about the nightmarish nameless, faceless Big Brother agent scratching around in the dark for an IP address; in the “real” world, would you seriously hand out the keys to your home to all the people who are friends with your friends, all the while advertising the fact that you’re not there?
I believe very strongly in the right to privacy. So much of the work I do involves promoting and ensuring that this right is upheld. It’s not about having something to hide, it’s simply about being able to choose how much of my life I wish to share with others. Furthermore, it is one of several rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights which dates back to the formation of the Council of Europe in September 1953. Despite this, it seems to me that modern social media is gradually stripping away the right to privacy by stealth, and we’re (happily) allowing it to happen. My concern is not necessarily for myself. I know about security settings and grew up in a world where the internet did not exist. My worry is for our young people; individuals who will grow up used to their every move being documented; people who will leave an online footprint from birth to death, to the point where the idea of privacy could become an alien concept. Who exactly is it that is going to control and keep hold of this information, and how is it going to be used?
So while my two documented Facebook years have been fun, the time has come for me to delete the photos, block the apps, discard the posts and log off, walk away and move on. I’m tired of looking over my shoulder to check the online doors are locked. Already other, more worthwhile pursuits have oh-so-naturally stepped in to fill the gap. That said, I’ll wait a little while longer yet; there’s still the small matter of harvesting the last crop of lentils on my Island Paradise, and spotting the first wombat in my make-believe garden before I finally bid FB goodbye. But when I do, the relationships that are meant to endure, will endure, and they will do so without the use of a “like” button.