This post was originally published on Mashable.
In today’s world, not having Facebook is akin to leprosy. Surely something must be wrong with you if you have no social account to show for your life. How will people follow your achievements, your relationships or your weight gain without a social presence to stalk?
The existential crisis of the 21st century has become: “If something happens and you don’t put it on Facebook, did it ever happen?” Joking aside, it’s true many of us feel that Facebook is the be-all and end-all of socialising; that having no social network is the same as having no friends.
But what our connected world has not taken into account are the several ways in which Facebook can harm our lives, instead of enhancing them. Sure, you can reconnect with lost friends and family, find job opportunities and keep a digital log of your life. But more commonly Facebook has become a dark hole – a place where jealousy and competition breed, where self-worth is defined by a catalogue of carefully tagged pictures and an overall productivity time-suck.
Ultimately, we risk comparing our everyday lives to our online personas, which are often overwhelmingly composed of curated success stories and positive experiences.
So why not simply log off? Though it’s much easier said than done, willpower comes in stages. Deactivating could be the cold turkey option, but simply reducing time spent on the site could greatly improve your quality of life. Here are some reasons you should consider it:
1. Unconscious addiction
Facebook is habit forming. Much like any other addictive substance, it’s completely plausible to get hooked on social networking, one study claims. But unlike smoking or other dangerous activities, it’s much harder to notice the backlash from Facebook addiction, meaning you might not even know just how hooked you are. On average, women spent 81 minutes per day Facebooking, and men spent 64 minutes.
Seth Fiegerman points out Facebook is like a credit card – it encourages you to overspend in time you may not have. It’s wiser to avoid it now than realise the lost resources later on.
2. Low self-esteem
As if you haven’t punished yourself enough for that holiday weight gain, leave it to Facebook to make you feel worse.
One study shows Facebook users, especially females, feel more body conscious by looking at friends’ online photos. More than half of the 600 study participants said looking at others’ online albums left them wishing for the same body or weight as the person pictured – creating more negative feelings than a fashion magazine might stir up. The study added that younger users were more likely to develop eating disorders because of the pressures of social networks.
Other studies have proven that younger Facebook users are even open to increased narcissism, aggressive behaviour and sleeping problems.
3. The job hunt
The job search may be the most contested reason for deactivating your Facebook account. Though studies have shown 90 per cent of job recruiters will use a candidate’s profile as part of the screening process, those same studies indicate 69 per cent of those recruiters have rejected a candidate based on the content they saw.
Other studies have shown that employers may believe a person not on Facebook is a psychopath, although that’s one of the most extreme conclusions.
While you might not think your profile is in the realm of scandalous, you never know which small no-nos might trigger a company’s reconsideration. You can always let your potential employer know that you had a Facebook, but deactivated it to spend more time in the real world than the online. That sentiment alone could communicate that you aren’t a Facebook addict, that you will ultimately be more productive at work.
4. Applying to university
Much like applying to jobs, similar rules apply for university applications. You don’t want your high school mistakes to shape the rest of your educational opportunities.
As a bonus, you’ll notice the application process goes by a lot faster without a Facebook interruption every five minutes.
5. The breakup
If you’re going through a breakup, do us all a favour and get off Facebook. No one wants to read your Taylor Swift-fuelled, bitter statuses claiming to be “over it”. Clearly you’re not. And trust us, no one is believing your post-breakup albums of “girls night awesomeness” either, so instead of looking pitiful, opt for mature.
Then after the messy breakup is over, you’ll be able to forget your ex that much faster – without stalking him or her. They don’t say “ignorance is bliss” for no reason.
6. Facebook envy
No surprise here, but Facebook breeds jealousy, a new study shows. Most people use the social network to post celebratory moments – forget the bad stuff. Reading a continuous stream of other people’s happy moments can almost directly correlate to feeling negative about yourself, as well as comparing your accomplishments to others.
Furthermore, Facebook envy also bolsters gossip and online bullying, which can only make those involved feel worse. Deactivate and feel less pressure about creating a life of online coolness.
7. Exam time
Procrastination is in a student’s blood. Whether it’s studying for a test or the HSC, a biology quiz or the bar, any student can become easily distracted by Facebook, potentially leading to lower test scores.
Deactivating your account during exam time makes it that much harder to refresh your news feed, aka slack and lose focus – since it will seem like the majority of the world is out enjoying themselves (even though they’re probably procrastinating, too).
If you feel like you don’t have the willpower to stay off the site even after deactivating, ask a trustworthy friend to change your password and keep it out of your hands until you’re done hitting the books.
Privacy is always a huge concern for web users. But Facebook’s ever altering data policy should be reason enough to consider logging off.
Features such as graph search render all your likes and dislikes available to anyone who can navigate a search bar. Marketers have access to significant details of your life, as well, which should make you at least slightly uncomfortable. And while you can delete pictures or statuses, nothing ever dies on the internet. Just ask US news anchor Katie Couric, whose party pictures were downloaded and used against her, or the girl whose Facebook status about President Obama lead to a federal investigation.
Without Facebook, your pictures, thoughts, work and ideas remain your own, inaccessible by potentially harmful intentions.
Mashable is the largest independent news source covering digital culture, social media and technology.