Three thoughts on not having a Facebook account

Now that an anti-Facebook backlash seems to be gathering momentum, I feel increasingly vindicated that I’m one of those lucky few who never signed up in the first place. I will never be able to capture my objections to Facebook with the Adornoesque rigor of Rob Horning, but I would like to put three semi-related points forward:

  1. The last thing I need is another thing to “check” constantly. I know I’m basically an internet addict, and my initial reason for not signing up was precisely that people were finding Facebook so engrossing. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it, at least at first, but I also know that it would have crowded out things that are more important to me — or at least made me less attentive and focused while doing them. So to this extent, my initial choice not to sign up was driven by my recognition of personal weakness rather than by any overarching principle. BUT:

  2. I want to have control over how I present myself. It seems like every two weeks there’s a story about Facebook arbitrarily revealing things you thought were private, etc. This possibility always disturbed me. I am probably an over-sharer in many contexts, but at least when it comes to blogging and Twitter, it’s pretty clear what’s out there or not and how to keep things from getting out there — I’m not going to wake up one morning and find out that WordPress has arbitrarily published all my drafts, for example.
  3. I don’t want to be continually reminded of my past. Some relationships are for a certain time, and then it’s okay for them to drift away. I’m grateful for the friends I had in high school and college, and I’ve kept in contact with the ones I wanted to keep in contact with. I can understand the desire to see what people are up to, but it seems like many accounts of Facebook arguments, etc., are a product of putting people back together who don’t belong together anymore — so that all it produces is needless friction. This is compounded by the fact that I was largely miserable between elementary school and grad school. I’m sure everyone has turned out to be a wonderful person and I’m so happy for all of them — but my mental health is largely premised on not thinking about past eras of my life all the time.

I’ve been told that Facebook is a great way to do marketing and to get to know other academics — i.e., it can be future-oriented — but the concerns I list above incline me to just wait until it inevitably flops and we all move on to the next thing.

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11 Responses to “Three thoughts on not having a Facebook account”

  1. Kieran Says:

    > I’ve been told that Facebook is a great way to do marketing

    This is absolutely not true.

  2. Adam Kotsko Says:

    That’s a relief.

  3. Kieran Says:

    I may just mean, “I really hate people who try to do this”, because there are certainly people who relentlessly use FB to promote their books and personal appearances and whatnot, and those people get muted by me.

    Separately, there’s Zuckerberg’s whole single-identity schtick, which is of course repellent for reasons #2 and #3 above.

  4. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Perhaps a stronger way of putting #2 is, “I don’t want my self-presentation to be controlled by an asshole.”

  5. adswithoutproducts Says:

    Idiotically, I employed facebook to talk to our MA students about course stuff. (We over-enrolled, they were pissed, I had to do something, etc…) Now, when people fill out forms to keep me employed, they list it as a “teaching innovation.” So, despite the fact I *desperately* want off of it, I am stuck. For job reasons.

    Also – now I field every single question about citation styles and the like on there. Call center I’ve become. Dystopian.

  6. Adam Kotsko Says:

    That’s terrifying.

  7. jms Says:

    I also don’t have a Facebook account, and my reasons have been similar to Adam’s 1-3 above. In addition — and maybe this is just an expansion of Adam’s points 2 and 3 — my life includes several fairly discrete groups of people, and keeping those groups separate is pretty essential to my ease and happiness.

    Kenji Yoshino once wrote about how certain minorities are implicitly asked or expected to “cover” — an assimilationist step down from closeting — non-conforming traits when in the presence of the mainstream. Zuckerberg’s single-identity argument ignores the ways in which many people may have parts of their lives that aren’t mainstream, and need to keep those parts not in the closet, but under cover, for the peace, safety and sanity of themselves and those around them. This has nothing to do with integrity, and it need not involve deception. For example, my progressive friends know that I have people in my life who are conservative evangelicals; and the conservative evangelicals know that I have close friends who are gay or queer or Occupiers or what have you. I’m sure they appreciate not having to interact with one another too often; and I appreciate the ease with which I can — in the absence of Facebook — keep those spheres cleanly and entirely separate.

  8. Will Says:

    I agree with jms. I used to have like 12 gfs and then they all found out about each other through fb. So now I only have 4. Thanks fb.

  9. Josh K-sky Says:

    I am an utter victim of #1, I have abandoned any pretense of #2 with few ill consequences (save a tiny bit of self-censorship and occasional reminders from my Aunt Judy that she has no idea what I’m ever talking about), and #3 is one of the things I actually enjoy. I understand there’s a fair amount of privilege in that enjoyment.

  10. Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion « Clarissa's Blog Says:

    [...] never signed up for Facebook for the same reasons as this blogger. Especially, this: “My mental health is largely premised on not thinking about past eras of [...]

  11. Elowel Says:

    I remember during school, I would do my best to only check on Facebook on the weekends, and even then only sparingly–and that worked quite well for a while. But that takes some considerable discipline. Indeed, you might have an advantage compared to the rest of us. I have little qualms about #2 or #3, but I am also a victim of #1. Thanks for the links to Rob Horning, I find these articles interesting!


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