At the time when Facebook is making headlines in news for gathering its users’ data, and as FB declares its data leak hits 87 million users— triggering and widening privacy concerns.
Facebook is most popular social network surpassing over one billion registered users worldwide. Bhutan alone has over 250,000 active users. I feel it is about time we talk about Facebook. It doesn’t always have to be political to alarm us, I feel personal concerns are equally important.
Blogging and being active on social media for over a decade now, I feel leaving Facebook is good, and at times, not reasonable. It is almost like a toxic love affair– It might give you thrills, but if it is unhealthy, it is always advisable to avoid them.
Someone said, “Toxic relationships are like a good pasta that has been overcooked.” In the same way, I feel social networks like Facebook is actually good, but overuse or addiction is unhealthy.
When I was studying in Kalimpong, I would check emails and the then popular social media network, Hi5, once a week. Those days, sitting in an Internet cafes– thinking we have created some digital footprints—was kind of cool.
When I joined FB in 2007, FB was awesome, new and happening. FB took over Hi5, and most other networks. After I started using FB Chat with my close friends living abroad, I realized over the years, they stopped sending me Archies greeting cards on my birthday and new years. Initially, I thought we were saving money and some trees. Now, I feel we couldn’t save the magic we shared over those greeting cards and long letters. Now, I have started writing letters again.
Today, as most of us own an android phone with unlimited internet access, social media platforms like FB, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, Twitter, and the like, are accessible to everyone, even as young as 12 years old or younger.
Nowadays, if you don’t have a FB account, it is almost like you don’t exist. One time, a former co-worker I knew was dormant on social media, and I started hearing rumors like he had died. As soon as he re-activated his account, he became alive again to us, the facebook-folks.
Someone told me once that social media is like a knife—you can either cut a birthday cake with it, or aim at a throat. It is all how we handle it.
For instance, communication becomes super fast and cheaper, friend circle expands, but you lose the delightfulness of a real deep conversation with friends.
By gathering hundreds of virtual followers and limiting your interaction with your own friends on social media alone– or the tendency to keep checking on what other people are doing on social media while you are on a dinner table with your friends or family– I feel we create a virtual hole within ourselves, and with others.
Some recent studies say, we are becoming more attention-seeking, lonely and addictive as we spend more and more time on social media. When we are online, we think we are surrounded with hundreds of virtual friends. But the reality is we are also becoming increasingly isolated. Being lonely is more dangerous than being alone.
While we can do so many positive things on social media, it has also become a platform creating divisions, exploiting our insecurities and even risking our health. The famous Internet activist and former Google employee Wael Ghonim said, “The same tool that united us to topple dictators eventually tore us apart.” He hinted how social media was polarising people into angry opposing camps.
We have seen similar cases of opposing camps, dramas, celebrities, fans, haters, all co-existing in our own small virtual society. There is disharmony and so much negativity at times, it is more peaceful not log in some days.
Once a friend added me to a FB group, Bhutanese News and Forum, I left the group instantly as soon as I read few posts. I am sure the person who created the page had very good intentions to create a virtual platform for Bhutanese to share thoughts, concerns and information. But it seems, we find mockery, insults and bitterness more appealing.
I might sound like a hypocrite but I think that it is more helpful and productive to just plant a tree or do your laundry then write some nasty comments on virtual forums. It is even better to meet a friend for a genuine conversation then sit back reading some stranger’s status updates or drooling over their vacation posts.
After getting utterly bored everyday of hundreds of virtual FB friends (mostly fake accounts), perfect food-porn posts (even before tasting the food), two people madly in love (every six months with somebody new), some strangers poking me (harassment in simple words), and of all, I was disappointed I have gained fewer true friends on social media. I decided to quit FB for good.
I have quit FB several times before, but like a toxic relationship, I always come back. But there are always options. Now, we can de-activate our FB account, yet still use FB Messenger to chat with long-distance friends who are only available on Facebook.
I am not saying social media is bad. Like a knife or a good pasta, we just have to be more careful how we use it positively and productively– and don’t overcook yourself over social media.
(She is a journalist/anchor/producer at Bhutan Broadcasting Service)