In this digital era, Facebook and Twitter were the platforms that helped cultivate a culture of hashtags. People bonded over shared interests and agonies, that led to the much scrutinised and criticised online activism. While such hashtags were pushed aside as mere armchair activism, #DeleteFacebook seems to have grabbed the bull by its horns. But how easy is it to walk away from a space like Facebook that has become a source of joy for many people, providing a sense of community where, no matter how real or fake, most try to project a happy image? Why are people choosing to stick around despite posting the new trending #Delete Facebook?
A difficult break-up
Breaking up with Facebook is proving tough for people and the reasons are many. “You can never part ways with Facebook. It is everywhere. If you're a netizen, you're a facebook user.
Even now in a way as you read this message, you're using Facebook as I always use Facebook Messenger to connect with people,” opines Shashank, a student.
For some it is difficult because their work is associated with this platform. Akshay Kumar, a public relations professional, says, “I personally feel that deactivation of Facebook is not the apt solution to the issue and it is actually not an easy thing to just wake up and deactivate a Facebook account when most of your work is done through social media platforms. We could do that only if there was any other better alternate to Facebook. I feel a few things might change now — like people might stop sharing every single thing on Facebook and start being careful with the platform. But I don’t consider deactivating a better option.”
Psychologist Nisha Khanna says, “People are so habituated to Facebook that they find it very hard to actually delete the Facebook account. They would rather change their privacy settings so that only their friends know about their personal life. Secondly, many people use their fake details such as their birthday and sometimes even their name on their Facebook account so they have no fear of getting their data leaked. Thirdly, Facebook is a platform which connects people to their family and friends who are living in far off places in India and abroad. So, it’s actually very difficult for people to delete their Facebook account.”
Indifference or ignorance
“The urban middle class boasts of the biggest mass and social media giant Facebook has no doubt created such a space in the hearts of its users that it has become one of the basic amenities of living for them now. Things such as security breach hardly affect such people.” says Shreyas Aatman, a student.
On the other hand, there are also people who are blissfully unaware of the dangers of such data breech. Anmol, a student, feels, “I won't stop using Facebook as I'm pretty sure that none of my intimate details are in Facebook and no one would find great use in that. But it also not good to leak data when they promised full safety. ”
Is Facebook the only culprit?
Pulkeet says, “Deleting Facebook is one step, however, it is like removing your gloves but keeping the rest of your winter clothes on while standing in the desert. Instagram and WhatsApp, the winter outfit, are owned by Facebook! One cannot escape the reach of Facebook in this digital world, and there are no open source alternatives that are readily useable.”
Other open source alternatives to WhatsApp like Signal and Telegram may be more secure, but their user reach is simply not there. “In countries like India, once a brand has established itself, it will be really hard for an alternative to take over, when it comes to freeware,” says Pulkeet, adding, “A saying goes ‘if you aren’t paying for it, you are the product’. One alternative to avoiding the ‘evils’ of this platform is to use a paid service, which most people would not do. Yet your data is at risk even in paid services, so even a paid social networking site would have to reassure its customers that their data will in no way be sold, or breached.”
Nakshatra Pachauri, author of the book Post Zombieism: Social Media Hordes says, “As we see, the privacy issues aren’t new and it’s also not that people haven’t been warned before. Yet the ultimate question which arises in the current context is why now? This is a competition to attract user attention. This shows clearly in the attacks on Facebook driven on (and by) Twitter. In fact, Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton, has supported the call for #deletefacebook. And to announce this he has also used Twitter! The free world crusaders are in an overdrive to cannibalise their own by facilitating the movement to bring Facebook to justice!”
Beginning of a new era
Nakshatra Pachauri, author of the book Post Zombieism: Social Media Hordes, feels there could potentially be a more problematic (and sinister) twist to the current crisis. “It is clear that Instagram is the new money-making machine for the Facebook conglomerate. Teenagers (the largest demography) moving away from Facebook was already apparent in 2013. As the mobile connectivity has risen, Instagram has become the medium of choice for a large population. Looking at the continuing popularity of Instagram, wouldn’t it be better for all associated with Facebook to jump ship? Hasn’t the corporate enterprise in the West done this time and again!”
Whether Facebook sails or sinks is yet to be seen but our species has a need for social spaces in the virtual world and they will keep improving the platforms and rules or keep looking for better platforms to unite online. One could call it the evolution of humans in the virtual world.
(With inputs from Angela Paljor and Ankur Biplav)...