Five years ago yesterday I signed up on Facebook. It was 2007, and back then everyone, including your mother, your old crush, your classmate from 20 years ago, your neighbour’s cat, every person with a mobile phone was not on Facebook as they do today. Orkut was the place to be, at least here in India. (By the way whatever happened to that guy Orkut, that founder guy? We used to hear rumours that for every click, for every scrap, for every friend added he earned this much dollars. Was that true?)
Well, back to Facebook, it was a bit confusing at first. What is a Wall? And where is my profile? How do I navigate? So many questions. I wasn’t active for a very long time, around two years. I started adding friends and whatnot in 2009. Then I started playing games, mainly Farm Town, Mafia Wars, Poker and that-word-game. I played Farm Town so much so that every tree, every bush, every flower reminded me of my “plants”.
I am not going to tell you every little thing I did, because you are also on Facebook (who isn’t?) and know full well the things we do out there.
The question now is, can we live without Facebook? There are some groups like Quit Facebook Day whose slogan is “Sick of Facebook's lack of respect for your data? Tell others that you're quitting too!” Their website recorded over 40 thousand FB quitters, not a very impressive number. But then every person who quit did not necessarily go and register there, so the number is probably much higher.
I have friends who have left and come back, who have created double profiles, some who are currently away and may or may not come back, and many who are happily entrenched in FB. Speaking of friends, during my five year tenure I have managed to acquire 328 friends, the majority of who I will never know in real life and who I might be better off not knowing (yes they may say the same thing about me. Quid pro quo.)
Back to quitting. The last few months I was seriously thinking of quitting. See who my real friends are. I tried to wean myself slowly, and spent days without logging in. But then a day will come and I will type some nonsense in reply to “What’s on your mind?” and a flurry of comments and likes follows and it is back to the starting line. I take that question very seriously. I have to update what’s on my mind, the lyrics of the song I’m listening to, passages from a book I read, and quotes from a movie I watched.
I love taking pictures (as Exhibited on my Wall). But nowadays you can’t take a picture without people asking “Are you going to post it online?” “Don’t you dare post this online” “Tag me on this picture”. What, people? Can’t somebody take pictures just for the sheer fun of it? But I must admit I sometimes take pictures with only one thought running in my mind: “The kind people at Facebook will love this picture”. You are guilty too, aren’t you? Yes I know you so well.
Okay, let’s talk about quitting. I spent days planning. How I will slowly move away, and then disappear completely. (As if people will notice). I thought about the friends I will leave behind, the few who will grieve my absence (all eleven of you!), the even fewer who will think of me from time to time and then remember that I am no longer a citizen of Facebook. Oh how sad all that will be! I will be missed, I will be fondly remembered, they will talk about the great deeds I did, the mountains I conquered, the valleys I subdued, and the seas I sailed. But time will pass and my name will be a distant memory, my face a blur, my status updates and picture posts all gone with the wind.
Then I decided not to quit. Yes people, I am still there.
The thing is, Facebook is like a master key which lets me in everywhere; Pinterest, Goodreads, Spotify, and all the other places where you can login with Facebook. Yes you can still go and create a username and password, like in the old days, and go about doing your business. But who can remember all the usernames and passwords? Not me. More than half of my “friends” are strangers, but there are a few real friends, a few family members, whose updates and pictures are valuable to me. Half of the stuff displayed at my homepage at any point of time is useless information to me, but a few precious things come along and it is for these things that I hang on, barely, just for one more day.