Facebook is now ten years old and over the past decade, it's grown from a college social tool to a world-wide network. But even at 1.2 billion users, not everyone is enthralled like they once were.
On its tenth birthday, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel ran a skit claiming Facebook could actually be “ruining your life.”
For 25-year-old video-journalist Kyle Gamble of Lancaster, Facebook just isn't as fun, post-college.
“People are going to post things on Facebook that they're going to post and at the end of the day, I really didn't care all that much what people were doing,” he said.
So about a year ago, he made a bold move.
“I just decided one day just to get rid of my Facebook, and really haven't looked back ever since,” Gamble said.
He's one of thousands of young people choosing to leave the social network altogether. Mashable.com — a leading source for tracking social news — called Facebook the “cigarette of 2013,” in other words, a bad habit. A recent Facebook survey found 46% of users have considered logging off for good, while 61% said they have already taken an “extended break.”
Harrisburg University multimedia professor Charles Palmer said his students participated in a “Facebook blackout” last year, and reported they were much happier without it.
“Sometimes they're disillusioned with the conversations that are taking place, they don't like the community that's being generated around them, or sometimes they just get bored with the activities that are there,” Palmer said. “One of the things (my students) mentioned was that they felt more tuned in to their actual life because they were away from their virtual life.”
For abc27 News anchor Al Gnoza, his relationship with Facebook became “complicated” when he hit the 5,000 friend limit.
“I went to a fan page, and I didn't realize that then you don't necessarily get a bunch of sympathetic people,” he said. “You get — let's call them 'hate-ahs' — who just kind of go on there as a forum to say whatever they want and it irritated me to no end.”
So, like Kyle, Al ditched his Facebook until some of the 'non hate-ahs' eventually begged him back.
“Because people were saying that they missed it, and sometimes I would get a friend request and I accept it and they'd say 'Thanks for accepting my friend request' and then I think 'Ugh, I can't kill it now',” he joked.
Al can now be found at his “Albert J. Gnoza” friend page, but he's treading lightly.
“I have a hard time not throwing back a brick,” he said. “I would rather take the position where I don't have to throw back a brick by not getting a brick thrown at me.”
Palmer says Al's approach is actually the best, especially if you're concerned about ever-changing privacy policies.
A 2013 study out of Carnegie Mellon University found Facebook can actually track key-strokes on a status even if you never “post.” Palmer said this is a normal practice of other big data companies, including Google.
“I'm not sure all of the mystery behind what they're trying to capture, but really it's choice,” Palmer said. “They're trying to figure out what drives us to make certain choices so that they can develop better search engines and deliver things to our feed so they might respond positively for.”
Palmer says if all of this makes you a little uneasy, you're not alone. While you can't control how Facebook operates, there are things you can do to minimize your public profile.
First, share statuses only with friends — not “friends of friends” or “everyone.” Second, set your controls so that you have to approve photo tags before they post to your timeline (i.e. 'Timeline Review'). Finally, Palmer suggests making a habit of continually purging your friend list of those you haven't talked to in more than a year.
“Now people say post-college 'How are you keeping in contact with everyone?' But I just have my cell phone, I have their numbers and I can text them or call them,” Gamble said.
At the end of the day, know that if you're putting something online, it's being seen. But sometimes, that's not a bad thing at all; especially for your friendly neighborhood newsman with a big heart.
“Some of my relatives will send pictures of their kids and I love that,” Gnoza said. “You can see them right away. You know, a kid falls asleep on the couch, Mom takes a picture and puts it on Facebook; it's perfect for that.”
For more information on Facebook privacy settings, go to https://newsroom.fb.com/.