Facebook Fatigue: Is it time to leave?

A recent article in the observer posed the question: Is it time to leave facebook? This debate touched on privacy, the enforced introduction of facebook timeline and suggested that the minutia of everyday life that we see through facebook is becoming boring. Frequent news stories of cyber bullying, identity theft through social networking and young people putting themselves at risk through their online activities make for depressing reading. So are we suffering from facebook fatigue and is it time to leave?

I spoke to twenty 15-26 year olds about their day-to-day usage of social networking. All but one used facebook on a daily basis and some of them had in excess of 1000 friends. These young people suggested that online friendships were, at times, difficult to maintain.

Online arguments were a key problem and often occurred as a result of statuses posted about an individual. While none of the young people I spoke to talked about their experiences in terms of bullying, they were nevertheless often upset by arguments of this type. Some went on to say that online arguments were frequently blown out of proportion and took much longer to be resolved as a result of the number of people who were able to see these statuses and comments. Several young people suggested that in incidents like this people were ‘hiding behind keyboards’ posting comments on facebook that they wouldn’t verbalise.

Most of the young people I spoke to admitted that they had friends on facebook that they didn’t know and there were different reasons for this. Some had added boys or girls ‘because they were hot’. While others added extra people to get more ‘likes’ on their statuses and photographs. But most were much more savvy about their use of social networking than young people are often given credit for. Some talked about moderating what they posted to facebook, realising that they were putting themselves at risk by talking about where they were going or what they were doing. Others stated that they would immediately delete anyone from their friends list who asked them for personal details or photographs.

For the young people I spoke to, leaving facebook was never an option because their social lives, friendships and connections were so bound up with their online activities. But several young people, who were in the process of leaving school told me they would set up new facebook accounts once they were at college . Essentially, they recognised that the sheer volume of traffic on their facebook accounts was getting out of hand. I initially thought, why not just delete surplus friends?

Talking to these young people made me question my own use of facebook. Of my facebook friends, approximately 70% are people that I’ve accumulated through various jobs, or people from school, college or university who have found me in the virtual world. Some of these are people that I haven’t seen for twenty years, others I know nothing about other than what they choose to post to facebook, most I am unlikely to see on a face to face basis ever again. Yet still, I can’t bring myself to delete them. I don’t think it’s time to leave, but I do feel a little facebook fatigued, so maybe it’s time to set up a new account.

Sarah Smith is a postgraduate researcher in the Department of Geography.

7 Comments

  1. Chris Williams
    Posted 07/04/2012 at 04:30 | Permalink

    As a teenager coming out of the social wrenching world of Facebook, I see exactly where you are coming from. It can be horrible. But, as a 17-year-old teenager about to be going to one of Florida’s best University’s (haha there education system sucks), I think I turned out alright. You are replaying what happened in the 1960s by saying all of this horrible stuff. You are going to make the youth of the world hate you. It’s not our fault we have Facebook. It’s not our fault our parents let us use Facebook. It’s not anyone’s “fault”. Stop making it that way.

    This I know to be true because I actually had to make my message longer, change my name to the person’s comment before mine, just as an attempt to get past your spam filter. What is that?

    Adults forget what really matters, people, and only end up caring about themselves, or their “academics”. Making them really easy targets my young people. The young people they are supposed to be helping.

    /end rant

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  2. Chris Williams
    Posted 06/03/2012 at 23:09 | Permalink

    Are you saying they can use their parent’s Internet connection but not their telephone, not Skype or catch a bus or ride their bike or get a ride from mum or dad. Don’t make excuses for them. They don’t have any friends and they are pretending to themselves that they do. I did not see my friends during the week except at school and I was too busy doing my homework anyway. We went out only at weekends. None of us wanted to live in each others pockets. What they need is more homework and more self reliance.

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  3. Flint
    Posted 01/03/2012 at 16:49 | Permalink

    That’s what happens to people who read the Observer.

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  4. Richy
    Posted 27/02/2012 at 15:59 | Permalink

    Facebook is not the problem, our attitudes toward facebook is the problem. Facebook is not in charge of you, you are the one is in charge of facebook. You are a free moral agent, and not a robot, so you can decide how you want to make use of the facebook. Avoid addiction and insecurity today! A word is enough for the wise…

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  5. vicuol
    Posted 22/02/2012 at 14:38 | Permalink

    I find it fascinating how inadequate people can feel after reading updates from their ‘friends’ on Facebook. One girl I met on a course not long ago said that she felt like her life was ‘boring’ compared to her old high school friends. I argued that people can quite easily enhance what they say on Facebook and may also choose to only share the successful parts of their lives. Not many people have a Facebook account that is ‘warts and all’. Secondly, I asked why she continue being on Facebook and subjecting herself to these feelings of inadequacy. “I just can’t leave,” she replied, wistfully. Quite. Facebook, it seems, has some of us by the throat.

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    Sarah Smith Reply:

    Hi Vic, I find this fascinating too. I wonder why her ‘friends’ were spending so much time on facebook if they had so many exciting things to do?! Surely the majority of us with facebook accounts only post the fun things…and sometimes make them sound more ‘fun’ than they actually were!

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    Pete T Reply:

    An interesting comment Vic – I had a similar issue with Friends Reunited, which I suppose could be considered a precusor to today’s mass of social media. I removed my account in the end as I realised that I was using it to see how my progress in life compared with my teenage peers, a pointless effort for exactly the reasons you state. I wonder – is it inevitable that any form of interaction is going to be seen as an opportunity for you to move up the social pecking order, or as a threat to it?

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  6. james
    Posted 22/02/2012 at 13:56 | Permalink

    i think the problem is the way people view the purpose of facebook. some people see facebook as a form of everday communication, where i see facebook as serving a number of specific purposes. It allows me to keep in touch with my university collegues, family and keep people updated through photo’s and status updates as to what i’m up to at the moment. That said, most people probably do the same as me, but to different excesses. For example, posting updates like “i’m sat in the pub with such and such, going out for a coffee”, basically giving us a running commentary of their lives. Facebook has almost become like a soap opera, or our own personal reality tv show, just in the written format.

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    Sarah Smith Reply:

    Hi James, I think that’s a really interesting point. I have ‘friends’ (most if them in the 70%) who post intimate details of their lives, several times a day. But they obviously don’t care that this is essentially being broadcast to several hundred people. Like you, I use facebook as a way of staying in touch with family and friends that are spread throughout the UK and further afield, it’s just that I seem to have accumulated quite a few of these! If I’m feeling unhappy, or worse still, have nothing to say, I tend to steer clear of facebook altogether.

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  7. Chris Williams
    Posted 21/02/2012 at 21:16 | Permalink

    I think the cliche is, “you need to get out more” he said posting on his couch.

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    Sarah Smith Reply:

    Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. I agree that I need to get out more! But the young people I spoke to lived in a new development, often away from their friendship groups who lived in a nearby town. For them, social networking was a lifeline when transport was an issue or they were out of money and mobile phone credit. Most of them would have preferred to actually see people in the ‘real world’ but when they were unable to, social networking allowed them to keep in touch with friends, family and work.

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