If you're not on Facebook yet, or if you're considering ditching your profile, you've got a new pressure to consider: You might be labeled a psycho.
In a Tuesday article, the Daily Mail asked the question "Is not joining Facebook a sign you're a psychopath?" The Mail points to an observation made by German-language Der Tagesspiegel, that mass murderers Anders Breivik in Norway and James Holmes in Aurora, Colo. both didn't have Facebook profiles.
The Mail argues that "[i]t's the suspicion that not being on Facebook, which has become so normal among young adults, is a sign that you're abnormal and dysfunctional, or even dangerous."
Abnormal? At this point, it's normal to have a Facebook account; but we think it's a bit of a leap to call a non-Facebooker dysfunctional or dangerous. It's worthwhile to run down the reasons why someone might opt out of the world's largest social network. (Spoiler alert: While we're not experts, we're willing to be that none of these indicate psychopathic behavior.)
1. Some people like their privacy. Oh, let us count the ways Facebook scares its privacy-conscious users: Data is collected, privacy settings can be obtuse, bugs can make private info public, and profiles are sometimes even changed without consent.
Facebook doesn't disclose the number of deactivated accounts, making it difficult to pin down exact numbers of users who have fled the social network; nevertheless, CNN has reported that bubbling disconnect with the site's gradual privacy encroachments has frothed over and driven some users to sign out of their accounts for good. "I don't see what the next step is aside from world domination," one frustrated user told CNN. "So I just think it's too much."
Lack of trust, we've seen, is a major factor driving some away from Facebook.
2. Some people don't want to go crazy with loneliness. Paradoxically, some Facebookers report that the social network makes them less social. The passive friendships Facebook allows can be an unhealthy alternative to actual socialization. Just listen to what one Facebook quitter told the New York Times in a December 2011 trend piece:
To be sure, the Facebook-free life has its disadvantages in an era when people announce all kinds of major life milestones on the Web. [Ashleigh Elser] has missed engagements and pictures of newborn babies. But none of that hurt as much as the gap she said her Facebook account had created between her and her closest friends. So she shut it down.
The Atlantic's Stephen Marche made a similar point in May 2012, asking if Facebook is making us lonelier even as it makes us more connected than ever before. "We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible," Marche wrote of social networking.
3. Some people really want to disconnect. Again, we've heard from even the most wired people of the need to disconnect. Always being connected can make us anxious or addicted. Occasionally disconnecting takes the form of briefly unplugging from technologies we love; at other times it involves forgoing certain habits altogether.
Even though Facebook's big, it's not too big to bail.
4. There are other social networks online. Even if we agree that it's antisocial to dislike the Internet's social offerings, there are social networks other than Facebook to satisfy the human need to Friend other 'net users. Twitter, Tumblr and a host of others are all perfectly viable alternative nodes of online social contact. (Not that Facebook would like you to hear that.)