The Facebook Exodus


Oh Facebook – do all good things come to an end? I pondered today upon reading the news that 600,000 UK users had left the site over Christmas.

Could this just be a flock of people whose New Year’s resolution is to whittle down their social media hours? Or does this mark a new age, in which Facebook isn’t the world’s epicentre…

I wouldn’t be too surprised if some had decided enough is enough, and made the decision to cut the Facebook cord. It’s the online equivalent of heroin – hooking you in, with little reward (unless you think an album of yourself drunk will be something to treasure when you’re a pensioner).

I first got onto Facebook aged 17 in 2006. Back then, it was fun, and made other, older social media sites like Bebo look like part of a GCSE IT project. It was a place where you could be, like, totally immature – legitimately stalk your crushes, write wall posts (seemingly) for your friends (actually intended for the world), put silly photos up, you name it: a perfect piece of self-indulgence.

But roll on the years, and Facebook began to change – rarely for the better – with a whole list of futile facelifts.  Sometimes Facebook developers would add a really cool piece of functionality to the site (like the ‘Wall-to-Wall’ function of yonder years), only to take it away again: other times they just invented something mind-blowingly inadequate, like the ‘Timeline’. Even when the whole world was shouting ‘WE DON’T WANT THIS’, and crying, and vomiting blood every time someone mentioned ‘Timeline’, Facebook still enforced it, hoping that cognitive dissonance would prevail.  I wonder if it did.

Because Facebook has changed numerous times, the way people use it has altered too. For starters, my friends nowadays are a lot more concerned about their privacy. Where publicising yourself was once cool, it’s now far more edgier to keep your relationship status blank (even if it’s very much filled), private message people instead of post on their wall, and hide photos you’re tagged in. All of the quirky new features Facebook has implemented over the years, such as ‘See Friendship’ and ‘Like’ buttons have merely emphasised the site’s social artificiality. And it turns people off.

Now Facebook have revealed their new Graph Search – a feature that allows users to search for specific items or things, and find all of their friends who relate to that thing. It’s exactly this sort of feature that the public resent: it’s social engineering too far.

I’ve taken a holiday from Facebook this week – I was tired of it all: being asked to review my year in pictures, having to log into something that may as well be called ‘Brandbook’ with its numerous friendly retailer posts. Mostly, I wonder what it will add up to in the end.  In years to come, will I be glad I stayed with Facebook for the long haul, or will I have wished I joined the 600,000 other leavers in Xmas of 2012…