Why I Unfriended Facebook — And Why You Should Too


Disbelief, curiosity and/or (at least) initially offended: verbs that effectively characterize the responses I get when I tell people that, no, I can't friend them on Facebook, because I deactivated my page nearly two years ago and have learned to live without it. While there are undeniable benefits to social networking sites like Facebook, studies are showing that too much of a good thing can really be a bad thing. Social networking sites like Facebook have effectively connected us to disconnect us.

In an American Psychological Association press release about social networking's good and bad impact on kids, Larry D. Rosen, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, is cited discussing potential adverse effects, including:

— Teens who use Facebook more often show more narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania and aggressive tendencies.  

— Daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders, as well as by making them more susceptible to future health problems.

— Facebook can be distracting and can negatively impact learning. Studies found that middle school, high school and college students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period achieved lower grades. 

Rosen said new research has also found positive influences linked to social networking, including: 

— Young adults who spend more time on Facebook are better at showing "virtual empathy" to their online friends. 

— Online social networking can help introverted adolescents learn how to socialize behind the safety of various screens, ranging from a two-inch smartphone to a 17-inch laptop. 

— Social networking can provide tools for teaching in compelling ways that engage young students.

The positives are only relatively positive though: "virtual empathy" as opposed to real empathy, introverted adolescents learning how to socialize behind a screen as opposed to learning to socialize in real-life social situations, and providing tools for teaching in compelling ways as opposed to just teaching in a compelling way.

Social networking was supposed to make us closer – supposed to connect us. And yes, in some ways it has, but in bigger ways, social network is disconnecting us from reality. It's changing the way relationships are fostered by providing more ways for humans to avoid real, human interaction and that's the stuff that makes life interesting. There's nothing interesting to me, about a live feed that tells me what my "friends" are eating, who's going to the gym, and who's having relationship problems. I think there's a lot more engaging and intellectual information to be digesting.

Furthermore, I think everyone can say that there are times, when scrolling through the days Facebook updates, that you find yourself rolling your eyes or even getting angry or jealous. But you probably won't do anything about it, aside from vent to your roommate or post a subliminal status aimed at the person you're annoyed with. This passive-aggressive behavior allows you to type things that you would never say in an out loud conversation, because you are behind a computer screen.  

When it comes to relationships, Facebook makes breaking up harder to do, and if you're talking to a new flame, it can get complicated when you find out the person you were talking to for three years isn't that person at all. MTV's new series Catfish is a perfect example of this.

"Facebook prolongs the period it takes to get over someone, because you have an open window into their life, whether you want to or not," says Yianni Garcia of New York, a consultant who helps companies use social media. "You see their updates, their pictures and their relationship status."

Besides all of these things, there's another huge reason I've been "deactivated." I feel uncomfortable with being owned by Facebook. According to Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which is what you agreed to when you signed up, Facebook owns the photos, videos, and all the other content you upload.

Your Content and Information

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

So Facebook is 100% allowed to use (or sell) anything that you upload until you delete the particular photo, video or status or permanently delete your account — which requires logging into your account and filling out a form. While Facebook is adamant that it doesn't do these things, it still reserves the right to do so at some point in the future. So running for president is out of the cards for me.

Don't get me wrong, Facebook can be effective if it's used in the right ways, but it's not even the most efficient social networking site. The reason Facebook is sustained is path dependency, which simply means that once a person or society has invested into doing things one way, it becomes increasingly difficult to start over and start doing things another way. People significantly down one path find it difficult to move onto another path and to change direction.

For example, someone with path dependence might be someone who uses a landline phone and writers letters as a primary form of communication. Their path dependence makes it increasingly difficult, especially as new technology develops, to transition into new forms of communicating.

In this case, as in the Facebook example, it takes an external, coordinated change with large enough magnitude to get those on path dependence onto another path. For this reason, don't expect a mass exodus of Facebook users to switch over to Google+ anytime soon, despite how much more efficient Google+ may be.

If you want Facebook to change their content rules, good luck. It's going to take a coordinated change with large enough magnitude to do so. Ah, path dependency.