THE BLOG

Facebook - The New Social Contract

06/23/2015 05:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2016

Four years fober*, and I still absent-mindedly type "www.facebook.com" into my address bar when opening my browser. Like any addict attempting to kick an addiction, there are a range of strategies and options to take -- I chose cold turkey.

From my mobile, with the touch of a button, I deleted my social connection with over 1.28 billion people.

Deleting Facebook seemed to be a way to reclaim some sort of simplicity (as did turning off my phone for a two-week break). I made the decision at a time when life seemed too much -- nothing worth going into here, just a story of teenage angst.

I did turn my phone back on -- although Facebook stayed in the black box. But why? I got a lot of unwanted answers from my peers:

"She is attention seeking."

"She wants to be a alternative hipster."

"You know how she is a Marxist."

"She works in intelligence...."

These statements also came with longwinded rumors about my family, mental state and relationship status. But what I found more questionable is why people cared. They had my number, my address and my email -- multiple ways to contact me. Isn't this what Facebook was for, social networking?

Looking back this buzz made me more aware that what I had done was take a position, unknowingly, against my peers. And I liked it. I have since been forced to provide my confused peers with an answer -- something more difficult than I thought. Here is my attempt:

Facebook requests of you a lot more than just its terms and conditions, it asks you to change your perceptions of social constructs. Many absent-mindedly click "accept" and never think twice as to what they gave up.

1. Simplicity

Facebook seems to provide you with a clutter free platform, two colors -- blue and white -- and no coding or personalization requirements like ol' Myspace; a quick way to keep in touch with friends (no more carrier pigeons); organize events (goodbye invitations); and even keep on top of world news (sorry Fairfax).

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But with this "simplicity" comes the downfall of information saturation, inescapable commitments and expectations. I was expected to reply when someone saw that I had "read" their message, to attend countless events when I only knew the host's fourth cousin twice-removed -- all because it was "simple" to contact me. This wasn't making my life simple, it was complicating it. Gone were the days when I could think about how to respond to a message with care, or only attend events of my closest friends, without being subject to interrogation. Getting rid of Facebook was for me, simple.

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2. Engagement

Facebook lets you engage in life, every second -- from everywhere. It allows you to post travel photos from rural villages, instantly upload photos of you at dinner and see what all your friends are doing.

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It wasn't unusual for me to post pictorial replies to friends in Europe of my dorm room filled with study notes. I even found myself guilty of accessing "Mooseheads Pub and Night Club Thursday" photos from Angkor Wat at sunrise. I never questioned whether this was the engagement I wanted. Did I really want to subscribe to going out to "be seen" or taking photos for the enjoyment and social capital it will provide me from posting it on Facebook? For me, this was not engagement, but rather the opposite.

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3. My Digital Footprint

Facebook's timeline is ingenious, it provides you in one sleek platform a historical archive of personal information -- imagine if Foucault had Facebook or Michael Jackson, how much more would we know about them? With over 300 petabytes of data, this trove of information is instantly more valuable than the national library. This also allowed you to "stalk" others, getting a visual picture of their personal growth or who they "are."

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I call this the "comparison trap," competition ingrained into us from socialization -- why wouldn't we use this tool to see how many people are doing more, achieving better or looking "hotter"? I am not saying this doesn't happen in day-to-day life, but we can't see how many other people like it or comment on it. Nor do we get to actively seek it out so easily. For some this may be positive reinforcement, but those narcissists don't need Facebook -- just a mirror. For the rest of us, it may make us a little more driven to be better, but more likely it will make us feel worse. Interestingly, after two months off Facebook, I did not want to re-enter this virtual world because "people will think I am a loser, who didn't have friends or go out for two months." The chorus of "You're So Vain" never rang so clearly.

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Since getting rid of Facebook, I have lost over 200 friends, missed over 14 parties, been on the outskirts of every 'trending' conversation, confused three boys in attempts to court me, and avoided the publication of countless embarrassing moments. What I realized is -- did I want those friends, enjoy those parties, loose out on love or regret the protection to my privacy?

The likely the answer is no. But I have also read over 42 penguin books, painted over 17 watercolours, watched over 1400 documentaries and even read the newspaper (twice) -- for no one but myself.

You can still access news online, watch Netflix, stumble upon One Direction and 5SOS gossip, get World Cup updates and download Cody Simpson's new track or follow Taylor Swift without Facebook -- yet you do all these things because you chose to, for you and no one else.

Facebook changes the social constructions we live by, but unlike the options in this article -- you can only.

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Smart move Zuckerberg.

Notes:
*'Fober' -- Facebook Sober -- a term used to describe those who migrate off Facebook, the transition period has been a likened to that of withdrawal from vices such as drug and alcohol.

Written by Lauren Murphy. As the daughter of a computer troubleshooter, sister of a WOW-er and employee of a tech startup -- I seem an unlike candidate of the 'Facebook Free' movement (self-coined). I can do simple coding, use torrents, own three mac products and pay for unlimited internet. Typical Gen-I, but with a glitch.