A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in bed browsing Facebook on my iPad. I started thinking… What would I be doing right now if Facebook didn’t exist? It suddenly dawned on me that without Facebook I might not be able to communicate with my friends as effectively as I do now. Had I become so used to using Facebook to communicate that I could no longer go back to simply using a telephone or sending an email?
I decided there and then that I would give up Facebook for 7 days in an attempt to discover how I use Facebook and how it affects the relationships I have with my friends, family, colleagues and clients.
I stumbled upon my first issue the moment I woke up on Day 1. The first thing I do in the morning is check Facebook. Now that I couldn’t, I started to question why I do this. Was it to catch up with the events of 11pm to 7am? What could really happen that was so exciting during these hours on a Sunday night? Then I realised this is not the only thing I use Facebook for in the morning. I also read the news, check my messages and check the business pages I administer. As a community manager, this sort of information is vital to being ready for a day at work.
During the days that followed I began to feel more and more isolated. I was fascinated by how many conversations begin with the word’s “Did you see … on Facebook?”. It started to become irritating. If you strip social media back to basics it is one giant conversation happening online involving millions and millions of people. It is therefore unsurprising that this conversation can start online but then be transferred offline, or vice versa. As the days went on I felt less and less involved in this conversation.
I noticed around Day 3 that my Klout score had dropped significantly. For anyone who doesn’t know, Klout.com is a service which scores you on how influential you are within your online network. It seems that being away from Facebook for just 3 days had already impacted this. If you are using Facebook as a business this is something you may want to think about. The key to a good social media campaign is quality fresh content, we know this already, but this experiment suggests that content may not stay fresh for as long as we had thought. If you’re only posting once every few days, it may not be enough for today’s information hungry Facebook users to stay engaged.
It has been said that technology changes our perception of how we view reality. An example of this is the camera. When you own a camera, you begin to think differently. The thought “that is a lovely view” changes to “that would make a lovely photograph.” Communications theorist, Marshall McLuhan once said that “the medium is the message”, suggesting that the medium in which we communicate shapes and controls the communication itself. Now that I couldn’t use Facebook I started to see this theory in action. I noticed that I do things differently simply because they would look good on Facebook. I began to develop an anxiety which I shall call “share itch” – A constant need to share information. I noticed things that I would usually share on Facebook and I simply couldn’t. There were now conversations that I wanted to have with people that were not relevant in the offline world or that would become irrelevant by the time I next saw them.
In conclusion, I have learned that without Facebook I can not communicate effectively with the people in my life. These tools have given me the ability to communicate freely and efficiently and I have taken that for granted. Without it we are cut off in the same way as when our mobile phones run out of battery. Facebook should not be viewed simply as a website, it has completely revolutionised the way in which we communicate.