(So, I inadvertently conducted my own personal Social Media experiment by leaving Facebook for six months from November 2012 to May 2013, and these are my thoughts and observations that follow.)
Facebook is used as more than just a means to keep in touch with people, it has developed into the singularly most used social media platform on the market; it is now a part of our social culture. As a woman in my early twenties, my age bracket (and “friend’s” group) is constructed primarily of college students and those who are recently post-grad. It is almost unfathomable for someone this age and in this social bracket to abandon something that has become as natural, and necessary, as breathing.
We are all familiar with the term “social media,” but it takes a very cognizant person to realize exactly what it is, and just how much of their lives are impacted by it. Facebook specifically is brilliantly designed as a log-in to access even the most trivial apps and webpages. It’s like, you’re going to the hottest dance club (Save the Last Dance, anyone?), and Facebook is the really cool guy from your Human Lit. class who seems to know everyone. If you show up to the club without Facebook as your +1, you’re walking back across the parking lot in your 7-inch platform wedges. It didn’t even hit me that I had left Facebook until I could not play one of my favorite mobile games for iPhone, DrawSomething. As small and insignificant as it seems, honestly, that was the last straw.
I originally took my Facebook hiatus because I was tired of receiving the same mundane status updates from ninety different people. Namely: “OMG FINALS ARE COMING UP” or, “STUDYING FOR FINALS! OMG MUSIC HISTORY IS SO HARD.” Been there, done that, did my own fair amount of internet bitching (this rant aside). The music school from which I graduated promoted a cohort system, so all of my “friend’s” still in school were whining about the same things, at the EXACT SAME TIME. It became overwhelming. Not to mention after I graduated, I didn’t have to worry about sparing anyone’s feelings by remaining their FB friend; deletes were happening all over the place, and hiding status updates became more time-consuming than just dropping the whole thing. So that’s what I did.
The plan was just to deactivate my account until the winter batch of final exams were over and order was restored to my newsfeed. But as I said, I was thrown off and quite upset that I could no longer access apps I was accustomed to using on a frequent daily basis. That was the turning point where I decided to see just how long I could go without Facebook. There were a few times when I instinctively tapped on the FB app to unceremoniously find myself at the log-in page instead of my newsfeed. After snapping out of it and realizing what I was doing, I consciously decided to replace the time I spent on FB with Twitter.
I’d had a Twitter account for quite some time, but I actually dedicated time to improving my page, reading tweets, and following brands/personalities I actually liked. It was a vast departure from FB, and a great one at that. Twitter was exactly what I needed at the time. I NEEDED people to have a character limit on their updates. I NEEDED to know what Houston design organizations were holding mixers this week. I got pertinent information with a touch of humor. I fell in love.
Not to say that one is better than the other. This experience gave me a true understanding of the uses and differences between the two mediums. I came to understand Twitter is great for brands and personalities to market themselves (transparency), connect with their self-identified target market, and relay information in a clear, concise manner. Facebook, though corporations do use it, I find is better to promote ones-self through use of events and coupons. On a personal level, it allows your “friend’s” to see what you’re doing, and invite them to join you (Sims Social, 4th of July Party, etc). You’re inviting people into your life by sharing pictures of your family, writing happy birthday to your best friend from fifth grade, and liking the news that your co-worker is engaged. That level of intimacy is not intuitive to Twitter’s format, which ultimately is why I have returned to FB. Not better, just different.
So, instead of a total social media cleanse, I ended up finding a new platform that suits my internet usage style. I still use Twitter heavily today, and have to consciously force myself to log into Facebook. The over-saturation of my newsfeed has not changed at ALL in the six months I have been gone, but I definitely have. Apps that once required a FB log-in I have completely stopped using (sorry, DrawSomething, you’ve been replaced with French Girls!). My friends and I text message far more frequently, and I receive personal invitations to parties and music recitals. A bit of the “personal” (as personal as you can get through the internet) has been restored to my life, and I’m loving it.