This weekend I hid three people from my Facebook feed and unfollowed 36 on Twitter. This is something I rarely do. It felt oddly liberating. It always does. I was inspired to do this most recent “housecleaning” after reading an article in New York Magazine, “The Joy of Unfollowing.” The article discusses the idea that there is no such thing as “too much information” when it comes to social media. We all have a choice. We don’t have to listen to people we don’t want to hear. So, is there such a thing as TMI?
“In the age of social media, when cell phones come with camera lenses optimized for selfies, that last question gets asked regularly. So I am going to answer it, once and for all: No. There is no such thing as TMI on the Internet. We are living in a post-TMI age, and everyone needs to deal with it. Preferably by using the “unfollow” button.”
I have to say that after reading the article I agreed with the author. Everyday I see friends whine to the social media masses about their gripes with Facebook (especially Facebook), Twitter and the like. I always think to myself, “Then stop using it already. Stop complaining and do something.” Then I realized that I do the same thing. I just don’t do it online. I always figured that would be unwise given the fact that I’m often paid to counsel individuals and brands on how to effectively use social media to market themselves. Plus, I’m not really one to hold back with personal information online. I don’t really consider myself to have any privacy. And, that has been by choice. No one forced me to reveal the personal details of my life that I’ve chosen to reveal. I do it thoughtfully and voluntarily. By the same token, no one forces me to listen to the personal details of other people’s lives. That ended when I became an adult and I didn’t have to listen to my parents anymore. Unless, of course, I wanted to.
This may come as a news flash to many people, but Facebook (and Twitter, and Instagram, and Tumblr … ) doesn’t owe us anything. Facebook is a private (publicly-traded) company. It is not a function of the government or an elected official, and our tax dollars do not, at least directly, fund its existence. It is free to do as it likes, within the boundaries of the law. Most important, it is our right as consumers not to engage with it unless we want to.
Will all of this complaining about social media lead to the death of certain social networks? There was all sorts of buzz last week, on Facebook, about the demise of Facebook. It all started when a group of Princeton researchers published a paper comparing Facebook to a disease that is beginning its phase out stage. The paper suggests that Facebook could lose a painful 80% of its users by 2017. The students based their projection on epidemiological models, traditionally used to chart the spread of disease, using the demise of Myspace as a case study.
Data suggested, “Facebook has already reached the peak of its popularity and has entered a decline phase,” the researchers wrote in the paper, which has not been peer-reviewed.
Of course, Facebook then proceeded to humorously refute the paper by turning the study’s flawed “correlation equals causation” methodology of tracking Google search volume against it. Facebook’s study showed that Princeton would lose all of its students by 2021. I love it.
What it boils down to is this — if you don’t like social media, don’t use it. Wouldn’t it be a much more powerful statement to stop using it rather than continue using it to whine about those who use it? As I found this weekend, it’s also very easy to silence those individuals and/or brands that you don’t want to listen to anymore.
Now is the time. Do it. Stop whining.
For more on how to do this on Facebook you can check out a post I wrote a few months ago, Facebook Transgressions | When to hide, when to unfriend, and when to block | I’ll show you exactly how to shut me up.
PHOTO CREDIT: New York Magazine