a week ago today, i fought my way through the maze-like account settings on facebook, and clicked on the “deactivate account” button. this was not done by mistake, by any means, but was completely intentional – heck, i even had to go to a second page that asked me, in big bold letters, “ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DO THIS?”, as if i was commiting some sort of grave affront to humanity. for those of who haven’t been to this dark side of facebook, the page also asks you why you chose to undertake this vile action, and lists some helpful suggestions. i chose the least intimidating, which is “i’m doing this temporarily, but will be back later.”
a week before that fateful day, i announced to the great black void that is my friends list that i was going to quit the site in 7 days. i’m not quite sure anyone believed me, and quite a few (you know who you are) thought i was doing it to get some more attention. like, seriously. do i strike you as the kind of person who craves attention so much that i would have to quit facebook to get it?
anyway. the reason for the 7 day deadline was that i wanted to migrate the features i found useful to some other platform, and craft an explanation for why i was doing such a drastic thing. however, given my addiction to procrastination, i probably should have given myself a period of 2-3 months, since i managed to do none of that. and so, two weeks later, here’s the long explanation for why i did this.
the reason one should be shocked that i quit facebook, if you need a reason for that, is because i used to be their biggest advertiser, at least in mouth-to-mouth terms. i got almost everyone in my office to join, even people who had never tried or considered social networking. within a couple of months, everyone was safely ensconced in everyone else’s friend lists.
i also spread adoption of facebook gaming, thanks to the 20-20 cricket game, which quickly became a whirlwind of activity and the topic of intense discussions and debates during working hours. it got to the point where the office had to ban playing facebook games during office hours altogether, because it “was consuming excessive amounts of bandwidth”. yeah, seriously. as if the use of youtube to watch funny videos by others wasn’t. thankfully, by then i had gotten bored of the game already, and had moved on.
given my amazingly high conversion ratio of people (only 1 colleague refused to join, out of 20-odd others), it was quite surprising to lots of people that i actually did end up quitting. but of course, there’s an explanation. here it is:
i quit facebook because i’m not good at keeping in touch with people.
yes, you did read it right. no, i’m not completely crazy.
you see, the main advertising tag line i used to sell people on facebook in the first place was that it was a fantastic and easy way to keep in touch with people. at the click of a mouse, you could find out what even your most obscure friends were up to, and use the knowledge that you gained about their lives, from their short status message, to make yourself feel that you were still as intimately connected as you were in first grade.
but that’s the problem. for people like me who suck at keeping in touch, that momentary glimpse into someone else’s life, as it scrolls through my news-feed, was as far as i got in terms of keeping in touch with them. i found myself not even bothering to write a sentence on their wall, and although i used to use it to keep tabs on birthdays, i found myself not even wishing people anymore. to me, the whole keeping in touch process had transformed into a very simple process, where just reading people’s statuses was enough, whereas i made no moves to ever drop a line or say something to them in passing.
in reality, keeping in touch with people is much harder, and requires a lot of work, something which i’ve never put in. as a result, i wanted to remove the illusion of appearing to keep in touch with 300-odd people from my life, so that i would make an effort to keep in touch with those people that matter to me. now i have to send emails, and make phone calls, and meet people to know what’s happening in their lives, instead of just reading a one-line status message and thinking i know everything there is to know about them.
of course, i’ll miss the site, because i had no end of talented photographers on my friends list, and so i could see some amazing pictures on an almost daily basis. plus, i also had some of the funniest people on my friends list, so i had no shortage of good humor available. and mob wars is a really addictive game, although it just involves clicking a mouse repeatedly.
but i’m hoping that now, i’ll finally be much better at being a friend, instead of just another profile in your friends list.