I use it anyway.
To clarify, I have a grudging respect for Facebook. I’m savvy enough with social media to understand its current prevalence as the social media platform of choice.
According to research group Pew Internet, Facebook is used by 53% of all adults and 73% of those aged 12-17.
It makes me a strange outlier then, to be one who uses Facebook yet does not have fun using the service.
Instead, I’m one of those curmudgeonly sorts who realizes Facebook’s many uses and prefers other services to fulfill the same needs.
Uses and gratifications
In communication theory, there’s a theory of uses and gratifications that tries to find out why a particular media or form of media is used and what people gain from using it.
Referring back to that Pew Internet survey, it seems I really am an outlier, because I use Facebook differently from others, making me a less-than-ideal user for the service to cater to.
Pew’s research says most men and women start liking Facebook because they are able to find funny videos or photos to share with their friends or family. Unfortunately, I use other forms of social media – notably Twitter, Google+ and Reddit – to fulfill those needs.
Unlike most members of my family, I do not follow a lot of family members on Facebook. Rather, I simply maintain my Facebook account now to keep tabs on friends and establish connections with businesses so I can easily message them and get a centralized location for responses.
It would be easier to say that the value I find in Facebook comes from finding people or companies that have a social media presence on the service, then allowing myself to learn more or otherwise gain information from them when I need to, or coordinate events with friends who do use Facebook.
The lowest common denominator
One of the qualities people enjoy about Facebook is perhaps the same thing I dislike about contending with the social network: everyone uses it to share things they think are important.
Unfortunately, what this also means is it panders to the lowest common denominator of Facebook users: those who want to share a lot of “intriguing,” “important,” or “informative” posts without doing any form of fact checking, vetting, or critical thought.
Stranger still, some people post satirical articles on their Facebook pages without a disclaimer, expecting a country and a people that doesn’t exactly “get” satire to assume you’re spreading satire.
While I myself enjoy satire, and I find Jonathan Swift’s modest proposal to sell children to the rich as food (rather than for food) to be a wonderful treatise much like Mayor Duterte’s adoration of vigilantism and extrajudicial killings, I understand that the “lowest common denominator” issue requires me to make sure people don’t think I actually believe a satirical article is true (note: Swift’s proposal and my acceptance of Duterte’s stance should not be taken seriously).
Pointing out other satirical or hoax articles, however gently, also rubs others the wrong way. Some think you’re insulting their intelligence by not knowing they know it’s satire. Others think you’re insulting their intelligence by trying to deceive them from the honest truth. Either way, you either forcibly swallow your pride or ultimately unfollow people who have nothing meaningful to add to a sensible conversation.
That said, when public officials supporting extrajudicial killings become cool topics of conversation online and pointing out hoaxes is seen as an attempt by liberal media to squash free thought, you can say I take a bit of issue with that.
Unfortunately, even if I wanted to leave Facebook, I couldn’t. As I stated earlier, I use it to share stories I’ve written, and primarily use it for information gathering and chatting with friends during my personal time.
To abandon Facebook is to deny myself a perfectly valid avenue for connecting with people.
That is, perhaps, the thing that keeps me sane despite how frustrating it can be to be forced to maintain a Facebook account. Facebook obviously has value as a service and, combined with Twitter, it acts as a great tool to keep in touch and stay informed.
So I choose to find ways to stay sane while using Facebook and contend with the annoying bits for the great times that sometimes come my way on the service.
I’m hoping that, if current trends prove accurate, Facebook will either change or improve itself to provide a more varied and inclusive service for people like me who want to use it as a tool rather than as a form of social capital.
The other option, of course, is for something better to come along. For Facebook to die a horrible, horrible death, coupled with an extended mourning period and postmortem from Mark Zuckerberg as to what could have gone wrong.
I certainly hope that never happens.
Victor Barreiro Jr. is a technology reporter for Rappler.com. He prefers Google+ and Twitter to talk to people and have insightful conversations, and uses Reddit for finding funny pictures and maintaining information streams on topics such as writing, video games, and contrarian arguments.