Why I’m not on Facebook

| September 9, 2014

The interpretation of ‘social’ in today’s social media often leaves out the actual personal interaction. Allan Catlin says it would be a tragedy if real people contact was lost.

Critics who know me will say “It’s old age!” Yes. It may be, but not as they know it. It’s not “old age” per se. It’s more “having lived a long time.” I was alive when people talked to each other, face to face. When new neighbours moved in, you knocked on their door, bringing a basket of home produce, whether it be cake, biscuits, fruit or vegetables. And if there was no such welcome, you as the new neighbour would knock on their door, introducing yourself and asking if you could borrow a cup of sugar, or any excuse you liked. You said hello and left the door open for further communication later. Even if you felt your neighbours were unlikely to become close friends you were still civil.

The interpretation of “social” today often leaves out the all-important personal contact. Social networks like Facebook allow people to pretend to be what they are not. It’s such an easy way to con people to innocently becoming part of something fraudulent or sinister, as seen by numerous reports of sexual assaults and crimes. It is also common to find retailers setting up sites and getting “friends”, a relationship which encourages people to spend with them when they wouldn’t do so if they went to a shop. Extremist groups use the sites to incite rage or to join their causes anywhere in the world. Rogue party crashers learn where parties are for them to gatecrash.

On the other end of the scale it becomes a pin up board of trivia. “Oh, what shall I wear today?” “I had pie and chips for lunch.” And, of course, if you cook or eat a new dish somewhere, you must post a photo of it! And of the restaurant too, if that’s where you were. Some people are so involved in Facebook that you can see them sitting with their friends in cafes, staring at the screen. Their frustrated companions get their attention by sending them a message on Facebook!

It seems to me that parts of society exploits any new fad that comes along and selfishly use it for their own ends. The innocents must learn to keep everything in perspective, to look outside the world of digital social media, to assess their own roles within it in order to protect themselves. It will be a tragedy if real people contact is lost.

But there are positive aspects, such as the faster and broader contact that is now available with absent relations and friends, meaning the first definition of social contact. I cannot afford to visit my elderly aunt in England or my ailing older brother interstate very often, if at all. Skype and any social media help to compensate. Police have also found constructive uses, by enlisting public help with the whereabouts of missing persons, sightings of persons of interest to them and safety warnings where pertinent to public safety. And if Facebook keeps my partner busy when I have a good book to read, then it can’t be all bad!