What’s the longest you’ve gone without Facebook? A few hours? A few days? A few weeks? Shockingly, I talked to two NYU students who have gone without Facebook profiles for over a year.
To be honest, I wasn’t even sure it was possible to survive without a Facebook. How would I know when I friends’ birthdays are? How would I get invited to parties? How would I keep in touch with friends from high school or abroad? How would I know which of my kindergarten classmates now have two or more children?
I wasn’t even sure where to start. How do you contact someone without a Facebook? For my first interview, I trekked through the deep, dark, digital forests of Twitter to find John Dewar, NYU senior. He insisted that I refer to him by his Twitter handle, @JohnnyDewDew, for the entire article (I won’t). I initially contacted John by sending him a “direct message” on Twitter. It’s a lot like a Facebook message, but they limit you to 140 characters per message. Wacky! I asked John if he thought he was missing out on anything because he didn’t have a Facebook. “Do I feel like I’m missing out on social events planned solely on Facebook? Yes, I suppose,” he told me. “But then again, I’m not on Facebook to see the obnoxious status updates and photo albums containing 400+ terribly lit candids and selfies.”
I talked to Brianna Clark, another senior at NYU. I tracked her down on Twitter and actually had a real life in-person interview with her. It was the first face-to-face conversation I’d had in months. When I gave Brianna my list of things that would be more difficult to do without Facebook, she was able to counter every single one. Keeping in touch? “People who actually care about me will seek me out in other ways,” she told me. What about wishing people a happy birthday? She memorizes the birthdays that actually matter to her, she told me. Brianna actually laughs when I mention leaving birthday posts on walls. “I used to obsess over making my message unique. ‘Should I use two exclamation points?’ I can’t believe I used to obsess over that.”
Despite not using the saving grace that is Mark Zuckerberg’s glorious social networking site, John and Brianna weren’t completely isolated from social media. They both still had Twitter as a last tie to civilization. John told me that Twitter “retains the fun of spewing thoughts, but without the ability of others to comment on them without replying in a new tweet.” This cuts down on people responding for the sake of responding and instead encourages actual conversation. Brianna’s intentions were similar. Mark Zuckerberg has often described Facebook’s news feed as a kind of newspaper of your friends – if that’s Facebook, Brianna countered, then Twitter is like a note that she passes to someone in class. I asked her if that meant Twitter was more intimate than Facebook, and she shook her head. “No, it’s non-committal. It’s easy.” There’s not so much careful crafting of a self-image involved.
After Brianna and I parted ways, I wondered – could I give up Facebook? Would I be able to survive on nothing but Twitter and bread? The thought was quickly dashed from my mind, however, as I absentmindedly opened the Facebook app on my phone and scrolled through my news feed.
[Image via Wikipedia]