I was reading a blog post by Om Malik about how he's leaving Facebook, and it's a declaration that a lot of people seem to be making lately, especially in technology circles. I respect Om and his writing, and I think he was a solid journalist, and I loved his writings about his recovery after a heart attack. But I think his generalizations about why and how people use it aren't very good.
Let me first say that Facebook is most certainly on the hook for questionable behavior and some adverse effects on society. Along with Google, it has become a gategeeper to the Internet, which sucks when that kind of power is concentrated. That social media companies largely reinforce echo chambers and allow ill intent to occur on their networks is definitely not OK.
Here's where I think Om has it wrong, and he's frankly saying the same thing that a lot of valley types are saying:
I left because it was making me someone I am not — someone who lives life through the eyes of others. There is a hard edge in Facebook life. People are always fronting — putting their best life forward.
I find this to be a silly generalization. Maybe that is how valley people are, but not so much everyone else. It begs the question about whether or not online life is just an extension of how people act in real life. I can tell you that I, along with the people I generally see as active on Facebook, aren't fronting. Quite the opposite, we share about the struggles, the frustrations, the pain and the parts that are not the best. We don't live life through the eyes of others, we live life seeking empathy and friendship with people we can't always see in real life. (I might add that, anecdotally, this is more true for people who have moved around a bit.) It's an online kind of authenticity that, at the very least, matches how we conduct ourselves in the world, with all of the confidence, insecurity, joy and sadness that goes with it.
So if you leave Facebook because you think it makes you different, is it because you are putting on a show? Social media in general seems to produce these weird "celebrities" who gain notoriety for not really doing anything. Are you trying to be that, or just keep in touch with people you actually know? If it's the former, then cool, I guess Facebook really isn't for you. Just don't project that on the rest of us.