What it’s like not being on Facebook

Published: October 2, 2010
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It’s like being free, not being on Facebook.

I seldom go out. When I do, every time I meet new people, the goodbyes invariably include: “Keep in touch. Are you on Facebook?”  And I answer, not like most people: “Uh! Sorry! I’m not.” Yes, I don’t have a Facebook account.

This declaration is usually greeted with surprise, even shock. People start reiterating the advantages of being on Facebook, and how it has made not just searching for old friends and contacts so easy, but also ‘to be searched’. However, the monotonous explanations of all that is great about Facebook – being able to keep in touch with others without meeting them in person – nor regular Facebook invitations to my email account enough to persuade me.

It’s astonishing and funny at the same time when my eight-year-old nephew counts to me his already seventy-three friends on his two-month-old Facebook account. For people who avoid socialising, it certainly is not a place to be, like myself. It’s like avoiding people, not being on Facebook.

Why do we want others to monitor our whereabouts, our friends, and our hangouts?

At a friend’s house last week, one of them took three hours and forty minutes to search for her just-engaged ex’s account to have a look at his fiancé. This was followed by photos of a colleague’s wedding, which was followed by endless comments, some appreciating, most not. The experience reminded me why I am not part of the social networking site: I don’t want to be talked about.

The idea of bringing the world to a single platform and then making it so captivating that it almost becomes impossible to disengage from, sounds to me as if someone is controlling it, and the users. I certainly don’t want to be controlled.

It’s like being free, not being on Facebook.

ayesha.jehangir

Ayesha Hasan

A sub-editor on the Lahore desk of The Express Tribune. She graduated from Kinnaird College with a masters in mass communication and is a Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Fellow of Journalism at DW, Bonn.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Waqas

    I usually get asked WHY? Like its a part of a conspiracy or something. When someone pushes me to answer, I just respond by saying that you just demonstrated why, the need to know is quite an addiction.Recommend

  • Maheen Rahman

    ToucheRecommend

  • http://www.geo.tv zahid

    i have also the same views about facebook. Absolutely true and nice views
    Commedable really
    zahid
    Geo tvRecommend

  • Haris

    i’m also not on facebook or any other ‘social networking site’ particularly the equally annoying twitter. i’d rather the whole world not know the ins and outs of my private life, where the only thing people use it for is mindless gossipRecommend

  • Hamza Ahmad Khan

    DAMN I had been searching fb for your name before reading the article. But you’re surely on Orkut, or MSN? :P

    On topic though, yes I agree. I deactivated fb for a month last year and you just have so much more time in your life without fb! It’s amazing. Everybody should try it atleast for a week.Recommend

  • abc

    Completely agreed, same reason im not on fb as well. People look you up, pass comments, aunties might check you out on it, fuels gossip only. Better off without it.Recommend

  • Anum Khan

    Facebook has ruined a lot of lives and is a bad influence on children and teenagers
    I’m serious!!!!Recommend

  • Munib Khan

    well… you are 110% right….

    these was a time a few years ago when i used to stay on facebook… wondering here and there, playing games, chating with friends but i found it of no worth and then the most recent issues arise… espacially for a jobber person like me it just not working at all… after a long day hardwork, from 8:00AM till 10:00PM who gets time to for it….Recommend

  • Ali Hassan

    I will prefer to call the above writings as “intellectual extremism”, by covering only a singe and very tiny aspect of something that is very BIG. And i believe, Readers in this country have failed to develop critical thinking towards what they read or may be they don’t read and only nodding there heads on everything they hear.
    if the Writer haven’t yet touch FB how come she thought to write about, perhaps, just for the research purposes, she was supposed to get her hand on it. indeed, She failed to do so. Lazy! Recommend

  • Samreen A.Khan

    you are absolutely right! its really like being free, not being on facebook!Recommend

  • http://theterrorland.blogspot.com Rehman

    Ayesha! You need a Facebook account immediately to know and write the other side of the story in your next blog… ;-) Recommend

  • NeoKhan

    Remember YOU control your account and its privacy, not the other way around. So there is nothing to be afraid about being “talked about”. Just learn to tweak the privacy settings to your liking and there you have it.

    ACHTUNG! Pro at fb, or a novice, DO NOT put your personal pics up. Recommend

  • Deen

    In all honesty, being a veteran user, I miss the old days, when Facebook was limited to just University students from Anglo sphere countries(USA,UK,Canada,AUS,NZL,SAF) and the European Union. The global expansion, despite its benefits, has brought some drawbacks with it.Recommend

  • Majid

    Ayesha, I got to your article through FB :) and I came to know Express Tribune due to FB :) which is wonderful. Though currently I am in Pakistan but once you are abroad, you come to realize the power of FB. If you don’t believe it, give it a try.Recommend

  • Munib Khan

    Dear Majid

    very sorry to say but we live here in Pakistan, this is our country, we have our own culture…. so whats the point to talk about abroad…..Recommend

  • fahd

    totally agree!!!Recommend

  • http://www.beautyinnsalon.com Gulshan

    Facebook is a to be connected. I think its a good thing as far as you use it positively.Recommend

  • Omer Bashir

    what a ridiculous article. im shocked at the drop in standard of this newspaper. this article is shallow, badly researched and is worth nothing. if you dont want people to keep track of your whereabouts then DONT POST THEM ON YOUR Facebook. NO ONE is forcing you to comment. and as far as others commenting and “talking” about you…theres a simple solution to that …Privacy settings. OR DONT POST PICTURES OF YOURSELF. everything on facebook is optional. nothing is forced. and its still a great way to send a quick msg to a friend. im sick of this new trend that says resisting new technologies (like blackberry, twitter, facebook etc) is cool. its not. its stupid. technological innovations are the way of the future. like it or not. and in todays world there’s no progress without embracing technology. people lets move forward and not backwards. (im not just talking about facebook, but all technological innovations)Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    I found so many of my childhood friends on FB. I really like this social networking website because in my case it really helped me connect to my friends who got scattered all across the globe after their marriages and we thought we’d never get in touch with them again. Recommend

  • Majid

    @Munib Khan: It needs some common sense to understand my post. Perhaps I should have written for the people having low IQ “while in abroad being a Pakistani, you understand the power and usefulness of FB, which proves a cheap and gigantic source to keep in touch with dear ones back home” Recommend

  • Munib Khan

    Majid…. i totally got the point what you are talking about… but m talking about the people who live here… who cant even think to go abroad and have no links at abroad… but you got angry… hmmmmmmmmmmm anyways its just a misunderstanding… i appologies… take careRecommend

  • Hamza A. Khan

    @ All the people who are crticizing the article for not portraying the “other side” of the argument, relax guys! Why do we always have to pick on things which are NOT there when you can easily appreciate things which ARE. This article raised a very valid point that you get plenty of time to do healthier stuff when you’re not using fb. Simple as. Recommend

  • Neeraj, India

    The author and comments supporting her represent a typical Pakistani mindset. Reject everything that is new and modern, particularly when the medium is invented by an infidel. You remind me of the mullahs of early 1920s who by a fatwa, decreed the telephone ‘haram’ to the faithful. You Pak guys love to see everything in either shiny white or deep black, there are no grey areas for you.
    I am not a facebook fan and neither have enough spare time to search for old friends. But, that doesn’t mean that fb is just a useless tool. In fact, I know several small time entrepreneurs who say that fb has turned out to be a boon for their businesses. According to them fb not only helped in promoting their businesses but also playing a vital role in finding right kind of counterparts, contacts etc.
    Facebook is also helping the peoples who are writhing under the worst dictatorships. Burma could be cited as a best example. The ruthless policies adopted by the Burmese military junta has forced hundreds of thousands of people to find refuse in foreign lands. The fb has provided the scattered Burmese people a convenient, safe and cheap platform to get united.
    As for the misuse is concerned, if the religions can be misused to generate hate and killings then why blame the fb! Recommend

  • H. A. Salim

    Well, I usually tell everyone that I have left Facebook because I did not agree with their policies. Their privacy policies were getting more outrageous by the day, and their persistent refusal to handle Islamophobia on Facebook led me to not just deactivate but delete my account.Recommend

  • Fazeel

    I don’t know but I find this article so funny. I think the author is no different than the Lahore High Court judges who banned facebook in May. Recommend

  • Ghausia

    Neeraj, seriously, please don’t reinforce the mustrust/hate of Indians by trying to find negativity in Pakistanis in blogs about Facebook. Come on dude, the mullahs of the 20s, are you kidding me? And no, I am not a typical Muslim Pakistani hater. I’m agnostic, adore India and my Indian relatives and friends, would love to visit, and have no desire to spend my life in Pakistan, in case you wanted to brand me a mullah supporter.

    @Ayesha I commend the effort but you can’t write a good anti-FB piece without having experienced FB itself. Sure, I rememeber when on my own friends list, a girl’s account got ‘hacked’ and pics of her making out with some boy were uploaded on it, and I’ve often gotten creepy messages from boys wanting frandship, but now, anyone who’s not on my FB can’t message me, add me as a friend, poke me, or see anything but my name general information. Plus, its a good way of keeping in touch with old friends, and btw, I can even block people on my FB from seeing specific posts etc which I think they’d find offensive. So kudos to you for having the courage to write this, but epic fail for being so one-sided.Recommend

  • Ayesha (the author)

    helloooooo!
    What is going on??? Why has everyone started taking it so personally!!!
    A) it’s not an article… it’s an OPINION! so for all those who do not know what it means…it means I can write absolutely anything.. n ppl don’t actually HAVE to agree with..it’s called the SPEAKER’S CORNER…if you missed.
    B) If u r on Facebook….BE! Nowhere in a single line I have suggested the users to deactivate their accounts…nor have I said that it should be banned..I believe it’s the same media control of the ‘freemasons’ talked abt in The Arrivals…many might disagree again…but here’s the whole point….U R BEING CONTROLLED!!! Subconsciously… and by the end of the day…if u read the first paragraph carefully (with a positive mind..ull know that I have indirectly mentioned the advantages too)..with so many ppl around me using it….i don’t have to be on FB to know abt it!
    P.S: So read..kill ur time..n if u dnt like other ppl’s opinions…. go log on to ur FB accounts :)
    GROW UP PPL…lolRecommend

  • Aqsa Tariq

    @Neeraj, India:
    the author just expressed her personal opinion about the social networking website. You have the right to disagree but no right to pass judgments on whether someone is acting like a mullah’s from the 1920s or whatsoever.
    Everything of course comes with a positive and negative side. We all know how much time we had on our hands when FB was banned in our country for a couple of days, but we also recognize the fact that it had a severe impact on several firms and their online marketing.Recommend

  • Humanity

    It all about choices and how we exercise those choices. FB can be a sink hole of wasted time or it can be a meaningful medium to exchange ideas about the current issues, about who we are and about who we ought to be !!

    Personally, I could care less about FB up until the recent unprovoked horrific acts of oppression and bigotry against unarmed civilians going about their business and living their lives without harming anyone. I found my FB wall as a good journal for my thoughts. I expressed my anguish caused by the hypocrisy and inhumanity that has become so deep rooted through my FB wall postings. Some friends were mum. The others were riled up due to exposed hypocrisy. A handful exchanged ideas and opened up for a discussion. It was a good exercise to know the real person within the FB friend.

    This experience has re-affirmed that I don’t need to know that my friends are doing laundry or getting a manicure done. That they want to share the details of their day is none of my business. I do, however, care enough to speak up and take a stand on issues of injustice, and oppression. Whether any one reads my posts or not is their business. The occasional debates on topics where ideas are exchanged, are quite healthy to open up our minds and to see things from other’s perspective. I find it a good venue to share thought provoking posts, interesting books and occasional music with the friends.

    The FB wall ends up being a mirror to occasionally see one’s true reflection. One can use FB as yet another medium for gossip, petty stalking, direct or indirect slandering, and personal attacks. Another choice is to use it as a venue for meaningful exchange of information about the stuff that makes life worth living. It is no different than how you would spend your time face-to-face with friends. How you use it depends upon the person within you.

    Salaam.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ziad

    ‘Being Controlled’? Now that is where i would disagree. I’m no fb user nor do i think one need to ‘connect’ with old friends through a medium , since they were Lost and Forgotten for a reason.

    Nevertheless, your analogy of people on fb being in control is kind of lame. You cannot negate something by just saying people would disagree because they are being controlled by ‘free-masons’. The above comment is incredibly hilarious and shows that you were not having a good day while writing that comment vs your article which is rightly put.

    Speak what you like, yes , but speak logically. I cannot say i’m a tomato and expect people to understand it.

    With all due respect though , i’m happy to see many who are not using facebook. It is true that it has become a social norm to be on fb and expect some astonishments when you nod to their question of ‘you’re not on fb?’. There is a logic of not using fb though, big concerns can be on privacy,bad peers who you got rid of during your social change, possible stalkers, even depression.

    It can be addiction but never control. Facebook is not forced upon like democracy is. Point is , you never wondered the same about democracy? Recommend

  • http://ahandfulofdust.wordpress.com/ Mariam

    Facebook is over rated and is a heaven for attention-seekers. Even if you are in sleeping, you tell people by updating your status. It is disgusting most of the times.Recommend

  • Neeraj, India

    @Ghousia, @Aqsa tarik Don’t blame me dears. I am not trying to find negativity in every Pakistani. I was pointing out at the abundant negativity hidden behind this particular author’s blog post. She is painting the fb in total black, without realizing the fact that millions of people around the world depend on this medium to earn their bread, if not butter.
    You point out at a donkey and declare it as a finest Arabian horse and when I tell you that it is not true, you draw your sword by declaring ‘ It is my opinion, do you have a problem with that!’ Can you both, with a straight face, deny that, this attitude is prevalent amongst the majority of Pakistanis today?
    In the 21st century, a highly educated girl, that too a sub-editor, holds such a backward, obscure and depressingly narrow minded thoughts about a thing modern, then, if she reminds me of good old Arabian mullahs, shall I be blamed?
    Ghousia, you are most welcome in India. I wish you a wonderful visit. And it is good to know that number of the faithful has declined by at least one!! Recommend

  • Ali

    Good article. Recommend

  • Ghausia

    I’ve met a lot of Americans, Australians, Europeans who dislike FB. And most of them are atheists. Do they qualify as mullahs too then? Please don’t confine such things to race, its very biased. Some people hate FB, some people love it. Plain and simple. While the writer’s claim that we’re being controlled is ridiculous, her dislike of the site is valid and well within her rights. Sure, I think she’s insane for not liking it but hey, whatever floats her boat. Its not because she’s Pakistani and hates technology and advancement. As I said, don’t confine everything to race and religion.

    And no, the opinion you speak of is not prevalent among Pakistan. You’d be surprised at how open to people are to discourse and different ideas these days, I think both countries need to do some kind of a foreign exchange program to eradicate such misconceptions. Recommend

  • Hamza Ahmad Khan

    Ghausia

    You said

    “@Ayesha I commend the effort but you can’t write a good anti-FB piece without having experienced FB itself. Sure, I rememeber when on my own friends list, a girl’s account got ‘hacked’ and pics of her making out with some boy were uploaded on it”

    Can we have the link pleaseeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!Recommend

  • Hamza Ahmad Khan

    And no, I am not a typical Muslim Pakistani hater. I’m agnostic, adore India and my Indian relatives and friends, would love to visit, and have no desire to spend my life in Pakistan, in case you wanted to brand me a mullah supporter

    Sadness. Reflective of our foreign policies. Bravo, you’d make a good politician. In Pakistan.Recommend

  • Hamza Ahmad Khan

    @ Neeraj, with all due respects dude. You talk about the author making an opinion without doing research about a (mostly)useless Social networking site and yet feel at complete liberty to make an opinion about a Country, and People, you have never seen. Stop believing everything NDTV shows you.Recommend

  • Ghausia

    @Hamza Dude trust me, I was the only one online at the time that album was uploaded, I tried in vain to save it but my net died, I told a friend and she just saw the thumbnails because she had family around. lol and she claimed she got hacked but I highly doubt it, although she is married now so I do feel bad about doubting her.

    And my personal beliefs are none of your business, I stated my faith to make a point, not to invite discussion over my beliefs. You don’t know me, so you can’t judge me. Practice what you preach dude.Recommend

  • Neeraj, India

    You claim to be an agnostic, yet, you are supporting a blind hatred. Yes, I would call those gora atheists as mullahs, simply because they are as irrational as the author has been. In civilized societies, you are not allowed to hate anything blindly. It hurts others. The author is in a responsible position and owes certain responsibilities to the society she lives in. It applies to you and me too.
    Facebook is a part of media. The author is a media person, then, how come that she is spewing venom against an organ of the media? And that too without realizing the fact that, by doing so, she is harming, may be unintentionally, the people who are benefiting from it. Particularly, in country like Pakistan, where a vast number of believers are so touchy that even a trivial issue leads to riots and bans, one must be careful not to promote bigotry any further.
    Yes, like everyone, she too has a right to like or dislike anything or everything, but, writing a totally biased article on fb is not fair. After pointing out at flaws and evils of fb, all she could have done was to highlight the positive side of it, by adding a few more sentences. She didn’t do it and that is exactly what made me angry.
    You have guts to ask me not to confine everything to religion and race? O really! When did I do that? Is giving an example of Arabian mullahs make me a racist? Pointing out at the prevailing closed mindset in Pakistan, which you hate to admit, makes me a person who sees everything through religious prism? Bravo lady! Is everyday exploding human bombs are not enough to wake you up?
    As a fellow agnostic, let me tell you this. Welcoming and listening to the new ideas with open mind is the first commandment of our faith. Jumping to the conclusion, without verifying is considered a greatest sin in the holy book of agnosticism! Recommend

  • Hamza A. Khan

    @ Neeraj
    You say:

    *in country like Pakistan, where a vast number of believers are so touchy that even a trivial issue leads to riots and bans*

    Yet there have NEVER been so called “Hindu-Muslim” riots in Pakistan, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Muslims. The muslims of Pakistan have never gathered and demolished a Mandir BRICK BY BRICK. Get your facts right before you come here and spread your stupidity and your blind hatred.

    And @Ghausia, I was not talking about your beliefs Ma’am, but the shocking comments you made about the average Pakistani being “A muslim hater”. Truly shocking for a young, educated, and politically aware Pakistani to say. Looks like you have not seen many Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Neeraj, India

    @Hamza A. Khan,
    Develop the common sense to understand what I am saying. I am not going to answer your downright abuse.Recommend

  • Ghausia

    I’ll have to agree with Neeraj there Hamza, my point was to contradict his POV that all Pakistanis are narrowminded hate-filled fundies, as that isn’t the case.

    @Neeraj, the writer’s point was to state her dislike for FB, plain and simple which is what she did. Give it a rest. I think, just like I’d be able to write about how Indian people are actually nice and their country is beautiful and amazing and so much a part of us if I could visit, similarly, you need to visit to see beyond the exploding bombs. Come on, not all terrorism and acts of violence are caused by Muslims in India are there? There are evil people in every country, every religion, every community. But India just does a better job of keeping it in the family, something I discussed in a blog which I think even you commented on. Chill. Its not worth being angry over.Recommend

  • Hamza A. Khan

    Nice Tag team play there. ClapsRecommend

  • Neeraj, India

    @Ghousia, I no longer care what your dear author’s intentions were on the subject and if you want to keep defending her I have no problem with that either. But, for God’s(?) sake, stop dubbing me as a Pakistan bashing hate monger without indicating a single flaw in my explanations. How did you surmise that I consider every Pakistani as a hate filled fundo? Are you using your love for India to hide behind it, so that you can punch me harder. That is cowardice.
    If you ever have bothered to read my comments here on ET, other than on your own blog post, you might have noticed my appreciation and encouragement for the Pakistani writers with sane mindset and attitude. I am not just harsh on mullahs, I equally hate hindu bigotry or for that matter any kind of rigidity including that of atheists. Yes, atheists, during my offical visit to Tamilnadu ( a land of temples but ruled by two so called atheist parties), I saw the little herds of ‘rationalists/atheists’ demonstrating in front of the millenniums of old temples and urging the devotees to desist from worshiping gods and goddesses. They looked no better than the brutish mullahs or pundits.
    If you still want to keep calling me names, I don’t give two hoots what you think about me. But, I am not going to be cowed down by the petty people who have nothing to offer but hate, want an example, just look at the commentator above! Recommend

  • Ameer Hamza

    fb makes people want to commit suicideRecommend

  • Muhammad Bajwa

    @the author… if it is purely opinion, then why there is a comment section.. i think you need to develop a little tolerance..Recommend

  • Naveed Javed!

    Very well articulated thoughts i must say.. Yeah this is your opinion and you have all the rights to put across it..
    Facebook is a blessing and an malevolence at a same time, it’s totally up to you how you want to use it.. As far as my personal belief is concerned i like Facebook as i like social networking and it helps me a lot in staying in touch with my old friends..Recommend

  • http://humayuniftikhar.wordpress.com/ Humayun

    Facebook makes us controlled by others. May be, to some extent since everything will about us will be easily availed by our friends. However, one can think the other way round. A mere observation of facebook profiles of others can help you know all about them — their level of proficiency over English, their religious and political mindset, their approach on various issues. You could have a better picture of them whenever you are going to communicate with them in real life. And Facebook does not ask you to upload your every event’s photos, update your status or for that matter you can even leave most things in your profile blank! So, a better approach would be to stay on facebook and monitor others.Recommend

  • Pooja, India

    I am indian and I am short and dark and jealous of the author’s beautyRecommend

  • Nasir

    Poor author does not know what Facebook really isRecommend

  • A

    Neeraj, a newspaper’s comments section is no place for you to vent your racism. You should really be ashamed of yourself. Recommend

  • http://ahsanjehangir.blogspot.com Ahsan Jehangir

    I really appreciate efforts and your opinion.

    Well a simple answer of all questions: one should know what one is doing and one should decide himself what to do and how to do and appropriate place.

    Mark Zuckerberg said:Age of Privacy Is Over,

    “we decided that these would be the social norms now.”

    We have culture and places to prove ourselves and this is what we are doing …

    Author: Stay blessed and keep doing the good work :)Recommend

  • http://www.mbakhan.com M B A Khan

    No, I don’t think that it’s possible anymore to avoid facebook and reach out to mass audiences. The aurthor is only making a value judgement which is just her preference nothing more than that. I mean come on you’re a Mass Comm. graduate who’s talking about not being social, not being on facebook!Recommend