It’s interesting to witness the increasing number of people who are opting out of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. What is it, exactly, that provokes someone to abandon what is arguably the most comprehensive list of past and present friends, family, classmates, co-workers, and just plain old people they’ve friended online for one reason or another?
Perhaps the most visible of these social media dropouts is singer Lily Allen, who’s final Tweet -- “I am a neo-luddite, goodbye.” – signaled her rejection of technology, which she viewed as an addiction, and a return to healthier inter-personal relationships and more privacy. Interestingly, Allen is also quoted as saying that she cut back on alcohol at about the same time so it stands to reason that the talented young singer was probably doing a lot of soul searching when she gave up everything in 2009. Who knows? Personally, I suspect she just got sick of it, especially considering that all of her social networking pages are still up and running… just without any of her own comments, insights and updates… which means they’re strictly commercial now and most likely run by her management, record company, etc. Maybe I don’t have it quite right, and pardon me for saying so, but wouldn’t a neo-luddite give it up altogether?
Less visible to the entire world but equally vexing to me is the number of my own friends who have recently rejected social media, albeit by proclaiming their rejection, where else, but through social media. One friend even changed his profile picture to the Facebook logo with a red “X” in the middle. His final message, “Later Facebook – I can be reached at…” It also included his personal email, so at least his “real” friends won’t lose touch altogether. I’ve gotta wonder, though, what happened? I certainly hope it wasn’t anything that I ever did or said online (hey, it’s all about me!) but obviously somebody did or said something to really upset, disgust, aggravate, frustrate, or whatever, an otherwise really nice guy who knows a lot of people, most of whom are probably genuinely interested in his life, even if it is only on a casual and superficial level such as that provided by sites such as Facebook. Ironically, there is at least one post following his last final pronouncement. Hopefully, he’s still checking his page from time to time so at least the late poster won’t feel completely offended and give up on the friendship for real.
Of course, there are those who finally give up on social media completely by cancelling their accounts and just kind of disappearing from the scene without any sort of announcement whatsoever. Last year, I reconnected with a childhood neighbor who I’d tried to find many times over the years and it was great catching up on everything we had both been through and become since the last time we saw each other as young teenagers. One day, I realized his posts had stopped and found out from another old friend that he had given it up, cancelled his account, and really didn’t want anything to do with it. Too bad, it was a lot of fun while it lasted. Rest assured, however, that I will find a way to track him down again and will be sure to ask what happened. Either way, I miss our occasional Sunday morning chats and finding that we’re really not all that different than we were at 13 years old when we were still under our parents’ wings and our priorities were a little different. I hope he’s okay.
It’s all been said before but this whole social media thing is really just as much a social laboratory. I suppose there must be some sort of social media lifecycle out there that makes this sort of behavior kind of inevitable. Based on my own anecdotal observations, it seems like there’s that initial swarm when you first join a network and you’re reconnecting with everyone. Lots of online smiles, hugs, and kisses. After a while, I suppose, you settle into the sort of comfort and ease of assumed familiarity with old friends and acquaintances. What happens next is also completely human. Some people embrace the opportunity to be more social, adding and dropping friends depending on their feelings about those people, while others kind of keep to themselves and really only pay attention to the few people who really matter to them and still others simply reject it altogether, choosing instead to go their own way or whatever. I know it’s over simplification but I really think there’s something to it.
Anyway, I’m sure that I’m somewhere in the middle, just like my personality in general. However, please be assured that if you’re my friend on Facebook, follow or are followed by me on Twitter, or have joined my network on LinkedIn, then you are somebody that I like, trust, respect, and/or admire. I am not a neo-luddite (what’s the opposite of that, by the way?) and I have no desire to abandon this important social phenomenon. Basically, I’ll always be here and sincerely hope that all of you will be too.