I never did like Facebook much.
Apart from the occasional casual stalking, it always seemed to me a voyeuristic, ego-deflating black hole into which hours of otherwise productive time would needlessly disappear. And until recently, I thought I might be one of only a handful of folk who felt the same.
But it would seem that far from being on the fringes, my stance on Facebook and much of social networking (with the exception of my trusted favourite, Twitter) is becoming more vocally widespread, to the extent that ‘un-friending’ and ‘blackout holidays’ (when you go away somewhere that has no internet access whatsoever) are fast becoming common practice.
In fact, in 2009 the Facebook trend became so popular that the term ‘unfriend’ was heralded as word of the year in the Oxford Dictionary.
Were it not for the fact that you need a Facebook account to access other important platforms (such as Spotify), I suspect that many more of us would have jumped ship by now. In fact, this is one of the only reasons I keep my page active at all.
And it’s not just those of us who are old enough to remember a pre-internet world who are choosing to avoid social networking in the pursuit of other, more fulfilling activities. Teens and younger generations are at it too. In fact there is enough of a trend that a group of Australian psychologists decided to research this phenomenon to uncover exactly what might be driving it .
They asked a group of 229 adolescents (aged 13-18) from middle-class schools whether they used social networking sites (SNS) or not. Of those who responded, a full 69 students said that they didn’t, and of these, only six students said they had had any previous experience with social platforms (excluding emails and MSN messenger).
Six reasons why
Although the students raised a number of reasons for their lack of interest in using social media, these fell into 6 main categories:
1. Lack of motivation
I don’t see the point of using them. They are not fun, entertaining or amusing in any way
2. Poor use of time
Too much of a distraction [and] time-consuming
3. Preference for other forms of communication
I prefer talking to people via phone or face-to-face. I have an e-mail address but that’s it
4. Preference for other activities
I’d rather read, watch Lost, or watch X-Files
5. Cybersafety concerns
[I] don’t feel comfortable with having photos up on the Internet for people to comment [on]
6. A dislike of self-presentation online
I hate the idea of rating all my friends or myself being rated against my friends - I don’t have many friends in the real world so there is no point trying to make them online
Beyond the reasons stated above, other (secondary) issues included having limited or no access to the internet (10% of these students), having concerned parents (6%) and having friends who didn’t use SNSs either (4%).
Social networking sites aren’t for everyone
No-one in their right mind would deny the worldwide, ever-growing popularity that social networks enjoy in their various guises. However as a medium for communication it lacks a truly universal appeal.
Several studies have found that a growing number of adolescents are recognising the costs involved in engaging in social networking [1, 2], and many are opting for different kinds of connection that don’t require as much effort, commitment and lack of privacy.
Whilst it could be easy to explain away these findings by pointing towards social factors and the influence of others (such as parents and friends), this reason was cited far less frequently than the other reasons mentioned above, which would suggest a far more personal motivation for avoiding SNSs.
The future of social networks – faster and safer?
If we want to get everyone online in a social capacity, then it may be wise for the makers of SNSs to start addressing the concerns of this particular (growing?) demographic. Creating sites or profile options that help users save time and ensure better protection against cyberbullies and stalking, may be the elements many of us need if we are to start engaging on social networking sites again.
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The Psychology of Online Persuasion
 Baker R. K., & White K. M. (2011). In Their Own Words: Why Teenagers Don’t Use Social Networking Sites.Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(6), pp. 395-398.
 Tufekci Z. (2008). Grooming, gossip, Facebook and MySpace: What can we learn about these sites from those who won’t assimilate? Information, Communication & Society, 11, pp. 544–64.