The social media behemoth has become a cacophony of noise and cruelty, and even though it’s integral to Chris Scott’s work as a brand and social comms executive, he’s decided it’s time to hit delete and bid farewell to the Big Blue.
Facebook has been a significant part of my life. I’ve used it for more than a decade. In recent years it’s been integral to my job. But I’ve had enough. I’m through with the big blue drain.
Mark Zuckerberg’s all-conquering social network was a confusing platform to me at first: a multitude of messages from my overseas cousins appearing on my “wall” without the semblance of Myspace or Bebo formatting. It was intimidating yet intriguing.
I watched as my friends and family gradually abandoned these Facebook predecessors and plunged into the new social media craze. We immersed ourselves wholeheartedly into the world of Facebook, plastering our walls with posts and personal messages, urging others to do the same.
I was one of the first generations to have student life almost entirely documented via social media. From the excessive drunken nights and wild parties, to the inappropriate statuses written by others when I left my computer logged in. I hate to think that someone could scroll through that most hedonistic period in my life. It’s all still there. Scroll back far enough and you’ll find wall posts from all hours of the night, from all the people who came and went from my life during that time. Those brief friendships and partnerships that began and ended as you both headed in different directions. They remain, immortalised, hidden deep in the Facebook timeline.
I’ve seen Facebook change countless times. Each time the change has been accompanied by an element of controversy, only to be shortly forgotten in the tsunami of information that subsequently becomes available. “Seen” meant people could ultimately feel terrible that their messages had been delivered and purposefully avoided. “Online now” meant people could monitor whoever necessary without appearing obtrusive, ironically being more obtrusive for keeping tabs. I hated that someone knew when I was online or when I last had been. It was simpler when I couldn’t see others’ activity online. Now, anyone (including my mother) could see what time I went to bed.
Facebook did, however, remain quite personable until it became, as far as I could see, all ad revenue. Our news feeds became less about our friends and interests and more about marketing and targeted ads. Facebook knows it all. From your postcodes and family members to your online shopping habits. Some even reckon it knows the things you’ve vocalised but never searched. That might make me sound like I’m wearing a tin hat, but I’ve seen a lot of crazy tech.
I work in social communications. I understand all too well how much information exists for each and every user. The average New Zealand Facebook user visits the site 15 times a day. One out of every three minutes spent online by Kiwis is on a Facebook-owned platform. We are the highest users of Facebook in the developed world. That’s just downright terrifying.
After the ads came the memes – an endless wall of internet jokes. People began tagging their friends and no longer posted to their walls. They could communicate in the comments section, so what was the need?
“Tag someone who will become a dad in 2018”, “@J has to buy you a pizza”, “Tag a mate who can’t handle his piss”. If I’m going to draw comparisons to this sort of humour, I’ll use the movie Idiocracy. It’s cheap and lacking any intelligence. Humour isn’t personal on Facebook anymore. The people making these jokes aren’t sitting behind a screen laughing at the memes they’re making. They need them to be relatable so that they can perform, attract post engagements and drive revenue through their pages. There’s no personality in any of it. It’s a job, not a passion. I know this because I’ve used trending memes myself to create ads so we look relevant.
I draw the line at clickbait, however. To me, clickbait is the lowest form of Facebook advertising and it breaks my heart to see New Zealand news agencies resorting to such cheap tactics to drive website traffic. The news should drive clicks regardless, but there’s been a real turn towards gossipy headlines from pages like Stuff and the Herald. Money talks.
Lately, many memes have become still images posted in a video format – a workaround to enable receipt of viewer information. This is the next progression in generating page income. Videos perform better and images with more than 20% text can’t have paid spend behind them. Facebook reportedly restricts posts to less than 5% of a page’s followers in an effort to encourage paid spend. This is where they make a big portion of their money: large businesses (like the one I work for) paying to promote their products.
I find there are certain parts of Facebook that remain handy, a few diamonds in the rough. The event calendar is great. These days, no one invites people to events using physical invites. They create a Facebook event and then add all the people they want to see join them. Messenger also has its good points. It’s great for instantly messaging someone you wouldn’t normally be able to contact. Maybe you don’t even have some of your friends’ numbers anymore because Messenger has taken that spot.
Facebook is also a good source of breaking news. If there’s a world crisis, chances are you’ll see it on Facebook first. Facebook provides a convenient way to ask for favours, get rides back home, sell unwanted tickets and so on. It has its uses, but as I look at the complete package today, for me, the pros are far outweighed by the cons.
There are many reasons why Facebook drains me. I no longer see any personality in my newsfeed. I very rarely see statuses from friends about normal day to day activities. It’s a never-ending wall of trashy memes, shit humour and advertising. It’s a cacophony of noise, cruelty, “tagging chocaholics” and all the things that are currently wrong with the internet. It’s all about self-deprecating humour and tagging people in relatable images that aren’t really that relatable. Don’t even get me started on comments sections. Everyone has an opinion on Facebook, and it’s not even a healthy debate. It’s stubborn keyboard warriors with varying levels of education firing off their opinions indiscriminately. It’s not healthy or fun to look at.
I don’t want to buy into that shit anymore. I find myself on Facebook when I’m bored waiting in line at the supermarket. Traveling somewhere? Might as well open up Facebook. Sitting at home watching TV? Why not add another screen to the equation. It has a really tight hold on us and I think that’s ultimately detrimental to our interpersonal skills. Just scroll through your Facebook feed and you’ll see it. It’s sucking our creativity and individuality down an enormous drain.
What do you do when Facebook is part of your work though? My first step has been deleting the Facebook app from my smartphone, then downgrading to the latest Nokia 3310. I don’t need to have the ability to be online at any given time. Next, I’ll be deleting my personal profile and starting a business-only one. Solely for work, without so much as one friend. No memes. Hopefully.
It may mean I get invited to fewer events. I might miss breaking news and it might be harder for people to contact me. But I certainly won’t miss the lazy humour and the rubbish memes that have all but smothered the internet. See ya, Big Blue.
Oh and Instagram? You’re next.
Chris Scott is a brand and social communications executive, writing here in his personal capacity.
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