CNET’s Technically Incorrect blogged last week, reporting recent studies published at University of Colorado on the top reasons people delete from Facebook. We’ve all been victim of it in the past; in fact, many of us have probably had deletion parties of our own. But as the technological phenomenon of Facebook has rapidly become an overused and overworked site, it would seem that this emphasis on deletion would have gone the way of Myspace (so to speak). In other words, as Facebook has become commonplace (and a candidate for technocratic entry into Webster’s dictionary as a household term, such as “to google”), the seriousness of this phenomenon should also have burgeoned into the general cliche the site, itself, quickly became. To be even more specific: who takes Facebook so seriously, anymore, as to delete woe-be-gone friends?
According to the University of Colorado study, the top three reasons Technically Incorrect cited for deletion were: (1) too many posts about mundane details of life; (2) political or religious postings that were in some form disagreeable to the deleter; and, (3) inappropriate or racist comments. And, rightfully so, Technically Incorrect then cites all the things wrong with deletions on these levels. Facebook and status updates are all about posting mundane details about our lives. Facebook is supposed to create a globally inclusive place for people to feel connected – even when they are just connecting by virtue of complaining about the tuna salad sandwich they had for lunch. We are supposed to love our friends and their ideological quirks. And when a friend makes a seemingly out-of-line comment that borders on racist or offensive, we are supposed to consider the times we have done that and/or embrace the tolerance of postmodernism that we like to blanket under the umbrella of being “culturally relevant.” Facebook is for being aware and connected, and as Technically Incorrect comments, it is more about connecting in a world where it is so very hard to connect.
It seems, though, that the deletions go much more deeper then just this University of Colorado study, though. For in considering the nature of my own deletions, I can see that the issue is much larger than just people becoming offended by my brazen comments and ridiculous postings. Just today I realized, in fact, that one of my husband’s family members had deleted me; apparently out of feeling offended by my posting of hilarious (but fake) Onion news articles on my page every so often. It was in this realization that I understood this Facebook deletion issue is much greater then we all thought.
Through those mundane connectivity postings that cover our newsfeeds and top stories headlines every time we log in to the famed site of over 500 million users, we seem to now believe we have come to actually know the people with whom we call ourselves “friends.” That same study that Technically Incorrect cited commented that “the study showed 57 percent of those surveyed unfriended for online reasons, while 26.9 percent did so for offline behavior.” This is a disturbing trend, for in seeing this statistic at a happenstance, one might conclude that we are now (more then ever) judging people from their online activity rather then that in person. Is this why my husband’s family member defriended me? Because my online activity was something she did not want anything to do with? It is beyond disturbing that we are judging people in this manner, for in doing so we have begun to completely depersonalize the very experience of human interaction. We are actually judging books by their covers (despite our grandmothers citing that old adage to us over and over again).
But it grows deeper than that. It would seem that in our effort to become more inclusive with the world community at large viz-a-viz the social networking giant, we have in effect isolated ourselves even further. Deletion is not the only phenomenon at this point; now privacy is as well. After all the hub-bub over privacy violations committed by Facebook and its advertisers, an entire cadre of privacy features popped up that allowed users to block anyone and everyone from seeing their data, photos, videos (you name it) – whether they were friended or not. I am not arguing, here, that privacy features should not be available; however, I do think that all Facebook has done in adding these is create a new air of privilege that is just not real. And of security, for it is naive to believe that selecting “Only Me” on who can see your information truly means it is only you. And it has done a disservice to society at large, for through the acts of deleting people for various reasons; and blocking others from viewing certain things on your page, Facebook has now given us a whole new way to isolate ourselves from each other and create our own net-based cliques (much like the ones we knew all-too-well in the hallways of high school, only now there is no personal contact).
“Will she be my friend?” “Why did they delete me?” “Can I see their pics?” These are the questions that are now at the forefront of our minds as we turn on our computers and almost instinctually navigate to this dreaded page which means so little, and yet is taken so seriously. And (just as in the real world) – you are always in the haves or the have-nots. You are either the friended or the deleted. The viewer or the blocked. Anyone who takes these types of social networking Internet sites so seriously deserves to be caught up in this world – a world which exists only on a machine, from the quiet of home. Facebook is not a book club, where everyone gets together and sees each other in the flesh – where the group cannot just delete someone from the club because they said something the others did not like; or where a member cannot erase the memory of a particularly bad hair day with just the click of a button. It is not a book club, or a church gathering, or a family reunion, or any other social function in which people actually interact in the flesh. What the secrecy and deletion era of Facebook has brought upon us is not only a discussion on the etiquette of the Internet; but one of the way in which we conduct ourselves in society at large.