I have a friend who left Facebook recently (an actual friend, not just an acquaintance who “friended” me), another who has seriously curtailed her friend list by “unfriending” most of the people on it, and a third who is threatening to delete her account.
What is causing people to abandon what has become by far the world’s most popular social networking site?
Negativity! Plain and simple.
In the past year, I’ve literally seen friendships torn apart on Facebook! That’s largely due to the fact that we in Alberta have been through two very divisive elections in the past seven months; a provincial one in May followed by a national one in October. It’s long been said that there are certain subjects that ought not to be discussed in public and politics is one of them. After what I’ve seen on Facebook in the past year, I’d have to agree! Even amongst people with similar views, opinions vary. In face to face discussion, emotion often takes over and people say things that might be better left unsaid. When they’re sitting alone at their keyboard, some people seem to have no filter at all!
With the elections over, I had hoped that Facebook would return to the more peaceful place that it once was; a place where people shared what was actually happening in their own lives, but I have been sadly disappointed. Controversy seems to be the main course these days with topics like our new Canadian government’s pledge to bring 25 000 Syrian refugees into the country and Alberta’s controversial farm safety bill taking centre stage.
Perhaps it’s only here in redneck Alberta that Facebook has become a forum for speaking out in this manner. One of the reasons that I will not join my friends who are choosing to jump ship is that I have, amongst my 365 Facebook friends, 103 who live outside Canada. They represent 16 different countries or world areas such as Hong Kong, Macau and Saipan and I don’t see any of them posting the kind of angry, negative hoopla that has become the norm for many users here.
There are many things that I really like about Facebook. I’ve used it to reconnect with several people from my past including my best friend from high school, a Norwegian exchange student who shared our home for almost a year in the late 1980s and a second cousin who lived with us for awhile when she was a toddler and I was a teen. It allows me to live vicariously through the words and photos of a former student who lives in Paris and a fellow teacher from our days in China who has retired to DaLat, Vietnam. At any one time, I might be found using the chat feature to converse with my nephew in Red Deer, my daughter in Calgary, a friend in Tokyo and a group of local ladies from my church. Even my 7-year-old grandson has recently started using his Mom’s Facebook to chat with Gram and I’m tickled to discover that he’s already as literate as some of my much older friends!
I miss the days when my News Feed was filled with photos and status updates written in their own words by my friends. Now it seems that I have to scroll through reams of reposted news articles, opinion pieces and absolute trivia to find those few nuggets. As a result, I have decided to reclaim my News Feed!
How, you ask?
It’s not easy. In fact, I’m finding that cleaning up Facebook and keeping it that way is a lot like housework. The job is never done! Every time I see that one of my friends has reposted something, I go to the little v in the upper right hand corner of that post and select “Hide all from…” in the pull down menu. At first, I just hid media sites that I didn’t consider to be legitimate news sources and a few other sites that I found objectionable, but recently I’ve become much more ruthless. I already read the world, national and local news on several sites of my own choosing every day. I don’t need to see the news on Facebook where I’ll only find the articles that support other people’s points of view, so I have started blocking every single news source, mainstream or otherwise. Though some of the thousands of memes that are shared on Facebook are entertaining, I’m tired of seeing my News Feed filled with them too, so I block the source of every one of those as well. If you’re my Facebook friend and you repost something that was written by another friend of yours that I don’t know personally, there’s every likelihood that I’ll block that person too. I realize that by doing all this, I will probably miss a few things that I might have enjoyed seeing, but I’m actually seeing a lot more of what I actually want to see and taking a lot less time to do it.
There are things I dislike about Facebook that I can’t change including the growing amount of advertising that now appears in the main column of the News Feed instead of in the margins where I could more easily ignore it. I do recognize, however, that these ads are what pays for this free site, which now boasts more than 1.5 billion users worldwide, and keep the myth that Facebook is planning to start charging subscription fees from becoming fact.
There are numerous articles on the internet listing common sense rules of etiquette for Facebook use, but here are a few of my own that I try to hold myself to:
- Speak the truth. That includes researching a subject and making sure that I have my facts straight before I comment. It may also include refuting those things that I know are false. The endless reposting of false or seriously outdated information is one of the things that drives me crazy about Facebook.
- Within the confines of being truthful, seek to bless and encourage.
- Never say something to or about someone on Facebook that I wouldn’t say to their face.
- As Kenny Rogers sings, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” In other words, know when to leave the conversation. I don’t always have to have the last word.