Unfriending Facebook

Power up. Pull up browser. Open Facebook. Scroll, scroll, scroll. For many of us, these steps are so habitual they feel natural. They happen ...

Feb 21, 2015

Power up. Pull up browser. Open Facebook. Scroll, scroll, scroll.
For many of us, these steps are so habitual they feel natural. They happen automatically, without even a premeditated thought about what we’re doing or why. Hours later, in many cases, we realize that we’ve been aimlessly scrolling our News Feed or sending quick quips via Facebook’s ever-pinging Messenger application. As something that occupies so much of our time and attention, it is worth examining what is gained from Facebook versus what is lost to it.
“Every day,” responded freshman Louise Claire, when asked how often she uses Facebook. “Because I have Messenger on my phone, I’m not necessarily going in to check the News Feed every time, but most of the time I spend on Facebook is on Messenger.”
Facebook is the way that many NYU Abu Dhabi students communicate with friends — it is perhaps more popular than communicating via text or other platforms such as WhatsApp.
“Facebook just became a reflex, I went on it whenever I had nothing else to do,” shared junior Sala Shaker, who recently deactivated her account for a week before joining the Facebook world again.
“It was incredibly cathartic. I felt much more productive,” Shaker said of her initial feelings in the days after deactivating.
In contrast, Claire doesn’t think that the time she wastes on Facebook would be better spent without Facebook.
“I’d waste my time on other things like Instagram and Pinterest,” said Claire.
Additionally, it may be important to examine whether the relationship that an NYUAD student has with Facebook is an option or an obligation. Much of NYUAD’s social and informative sharing takes place on Facebook. It is home to the organization of many Student Interest Groups, the advertisement of events and opportunities on campus, the answers to any last-minute requests and undoubtedly many budding relationships still in the awkward stages.
Making the choice to be off Facebook, then, seems like a daring response to an arduous task and an important personal choice. However, some NYUAD students who have decided to go off Facebook have done so impulsively. One such student is junior Veronica Houk.
“Though I make many important decisions impulsively, I don’t think of this as a particularly important decision,” wrote Houk to The Gazelle.
There were, however, reasons why it was the right choice for Houk.
“I don’t think Facebook contributed to my happiness in an exceptional way or led to efficient time use,” wrote Houk. “I did not feel connected to a lot of my friends except through social media, and seeing updates from them seemed irrelevant or led to a life comparison. Sometimes I also felt swamped by communication.”
Houk did, however, point to times when not having Facebook has been inconvenient.
“Challenges are mostly related to school and disseminating information for SIGs or other events,” wrote Houk. “People are less likely to respond to email or sign up for email lists. I also have a lot fewer pictures of my friends and myself from the past three years, when I deleted my account.”
Shaker also felt this strain.
“I think the biggest problem was that I found it harder to interact with my friends,” said Shaker. “We were emailing… I felt like I had to make bigger of an effort.”
Shaker also found communicating to be more difficult during her time without Facebook, though she also used platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram to keep in touch with her friends.
Both Shaker and Houk commented that the lack of availability that accompanies being off Facebook can be a good thing.
“It was great suddenly being very detached from it and not feeling the need to share everything with my friends or just the Facebook community in general,” said Shaker on the feeling of liberation she felt post-deactivation.
Houk said that being off Facebook had the effect of supporting meaningful relationships.
“I use other forms of communication, like texting or email, to keep in touch with the people with whom I have strong relationships,” wrote Houk. “I probably have fewer casual online conversations with other friends, classmates [and] acquaintances than if I had Facebook.”
When asked if they think that NYUAD students should cut ties with Facebook, Houk and Shaker gave different responses. Houk emphasized that it was a completely personal decision.
“If students think that they are using Facebook productively, which is definitely possible I think, then I don’t think there’s any reason they should feel the need to reduce their use,” wrote Houk.
Houk is, overall, happy with her decision to leave Facebook, and said that she doesn’t miss it or think about it often.
Shaker, on the other hand, seemed more skeptical of the possibility for students to be Facebook-free.
“I know of a couple of instances of students that are off of Facebook but it’s either that they are kept in the loop by their friends or they are just not very well informed of what’s going on on campus,” said Shaker on the fear of missing out that can come with not having Facebook.
Hannah Taylor is deputy features editor. Email her at 
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