Why I'm Not on Facebook

A friend recently relayed to me something that occurred on Facebook, in which a small argument occurred publicly over something minor. The whole thing was rather trivial, but incidents like this remind me that I have absolutely no interest in reactivating my Facebook profile, and I thought I would take this opportunity to write out why so that I would have something to point people to if they were curious as to why I’m not there.

I was on Facebook from 2006 through 2008, and then again briefly in 2010. Even back in 2010 I hardly ever used or checked it, and since closing it again I have had no desire to return. My reasons for disliking the service go beyond the simple privacy concerns inherent with maintaining a Facebook account (and I’m referring less to the interpersonal privacy issues and more to the “tinfoil hat” concerns relating to Facebook itself). If that was my only issue I would probably suck it up and maintain an account on there anyway. The real reason I have no desire to be on there is that I just don’t like having that kind of window into other people’s lives. Going years without Facebook in my life has made me infinitely prefer that my electronic interactions be one-on-one, through more neutral and direct means like email or IM chat, and that’s something I consider to be a very good thing.

I dislike what Facebook represents, and the value that has been placed on it by society. Things like validating a relationship by making it “Facebook official.” There is an intense social scrutiny attached to Facebook, and I want no part of that. The very foundation of the service involves publicly broadcasting information about your personal life. I dislike that kind of soapbox broadcasting. Don’t misunderstand me; I am not a social misfit or a hermit. I love sharing experiences with friends; in fact, I thrive on it more than many people I know. But the value of all of my interactions is drastically reduced the minute they become public knowledge to everyone simultaneously. The value I derive from personal interaction comes from sharing news or experiences one-on-one, and allowing a whole new experience to bloom from that single point of interaction.

I also put a high degree of emphasis on controlling the experience when I share something with my friends. I put a great deal of thought into where and when we should do something or have a conversation, the form it should take, and how best to maximize the value and enjoyment of that interaction for both parties. I want it to be both fun and meaningful. (Those who know me know that I treat many experiences—such as someone’s first viewing of a TV show—in this way.) Broadcasting via Facebook, in my opinion, is neither of those.

I know that I miss out on a lot of things because of this and I’d even go so far as to say that my circle of friends is likely significantly smaller because I’m not on there, but none of that changes the fact that being on Facebook is a compromise I am not willing to make. If people want to know what’s going on with me, I want them to come to me so we can have a conversation about it. Likewise, I feel incredibly awkward observing the little details that others choose to broadcast. As far as I am concerned, it is an unpleasant and undesirable environment for human interaction, and it’s a world I have no desire to be on either the sending or receiving end of. I feel that the standard of my friendships and the quality of their interactions is higher because they are not part of some larger public pool.

The bottom line is that I would rather have a small group of awesome friends who I can make sure to keep on the same page individually than a large quantity of pseudo-friends whose caring about my experiences extends to a comment on my Wall. It is an issue of both division of attention, and loyalty and dependability. Without Facebook, I know much better where I stand with people, and that’s not something I want to give up.