Gehl analyzes the discussions of former-Facebook users to determine why people leave Facebook. Considering the importance of maintaining an identity on Facebook (do you exist if you’re not on it?), why would people that have access to the resource abandon it? Gehl uses blog posts of people that have critically examined the social platform, through participation and research, to connect their perceptions to the negative qualities of Facebook. Most importantly, Gehl proves that they still exist despite having a Facebook account, questioning whether you can ever really leave Facebook.
Many of the criticisms revolve around how the role of our participation (albeit structured and predetermined) plays in the broader landscape of Facebook. Is Facebook’s main motive to provide a free service, out of generosity, to connect us with global audiences? The answer is no; they are a business. This makes many of the ex-Facebook users in Gehl’s piece weary; as it should. The collection of our private data is what keeps Facebook running and profitable. Combined with sketchy privacy restrictions, you lose control of the content immediately after you post it online.
Furthermore, in a business perspective, Gehl notes how the work you put into Facebook (through free and affective labour) is not returned to you in the ways that Facebook is benefiting from it. It takes work to type in all your information, constantly post statuses, photos, read your “friends” posts, reply to your grandma’s multiple wall posts, etc. Although I think we are benefiting in an emotional way from connecting with ones that we care about (which is a small fraction of the average friend list), we are at the same time being exploited by what we post.
So far, I have agreed with many of Gehl’s arguments and added my own personal perspective as an active user into why Facebook is so negative. Then, why don’t I deactiviate my account and permanently put Facebook in my past?
The theme of existence is prominent when discussing social platforms such as Facebook, and for the time being, Facebook still holds the power and influence to determine your social status. One reason that I couldn’t leave Facebook, I will admit, is that I am addicted and it would be difficult to sign out forever. Even though I don’t post to Facebook more than once a month, I am still on it everyday to check friends’ updates. When I am physically with friends, I can join in conversations when it begins with “did you see Sally’s pathetic post on Facebook about her ex?” I still feel somewhat in the loop when I know what old friends are doing with their lives know that we don’t communicate everyday in a high school classroom. Since I am often referring to what I have read or seen on Facebook, I would have a very difficult time deleting my account.
Furthermore, since I have been on Facebook for years now, the damage of releasing my personal information has already been done. When I signed up for Facebook, I wasn’t aware of the privacy and data mining issues, and if I had I probably wouldn’t have created an account in the first place. However, now that I have, I don’t think I am accomplishing anything by removing my account. The information has been obtained, my pictures and posts will stay online forever, and there are many pictures of me and comments that I have made that will stay on Facebook for a long time. Therefore, I think as Gehl suggests, you never can really leave Facebook.