Why I am not on Facebook

I have never got round to using Facebook.  The explanation may be found in research carried out in a Canadian university which has concluded that, in the words of the newspaper headline reporting it, Facebook users ‘are insecure, narcissistic and have low self-esteem’.  Apparently, Facebook allows users to thrive on ‘shallow’ relationships while avoiding genuine warmth and empathy. 

The research appears to be based on a small sample, but I’ll leave Facebook users to come up with other objections to the findings!

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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15 Responses to Why I am not on Facebook

  1. Jonathan says:

    There are plenty of good reasons for not using Facebook, mainly relating to privacy. Why do people like to, in effect, publish their address book online? I don’t particularly want to advertise online who my “friends” are.

    I will admit to having an account that I use in order to find people I don’t have contact details for – unfortunately, many people’s only presence on the internet is Facebook. I’ll send an e-mail via the site, but I won’t add anyone as a contact. However, as of yesterday, Facebook have insisted that I confirm my identity by giving my mobile phone number to them: no chance! The result may well be that I create a new profile under a false name and register the number of a free SIM card that I acquire for the purpose. Hardly proving my real identity!

  2. djb13 says:

    I have a Facebook account which I use regularly. Most of the time I use it for friendly banter with people that I wouldn’t otherwise be talking to. I probably have shallow relationships with these people, but without Facebook I’d have no relationship with them.

    Sometimes I use it for arranging events.

    I don’t know if you’re aware, but you have a fan group on Facebook, with 166 fans! http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Kingston-Upon-Hull-United-Kingdom/The-Lord-Norton-of-Louth/238964720392?ref=ts

  3. franksummers3ba says:

    Lord Norton,
    Imust have missed those huge rivers of genuine warmth and empathy that the average literate and tech savvy person could be wallowing in. My 824 (this morning) Facebook friends include associate and former real life friends and acquaintances from many states where I have traveled, many schools I have attended and businesses where I have been engaged in my own country. My list also includes some of my friends from Mexico, Colombia, China, the Philippines, Samoa and also institutions and their members with which I am associated there and in other countries like New Zealand. Frankly I like staying in touch with a goodly number of ex-girlfriends I would never be in contact with otherwise in a way which does not threaten their varied current positions. My friends and associate who are priests, nuns, bishops and lay ministers in the Roman Catholic Church have interactions in some small way with my friends who are not Catholic or even Christians in many cases. I have institutional friends like the Hansard Society at my fingertips. I also administer 14 groups that have between 3 and more than 3oo members and belong to other groups most of which do something worthwhile. I can stay in touch with my younger relatives without being the prying old uncle or big brother too often. Is it shallow in tendency?
    Absolutely!
    However for a very large number of people it does at least a few things that people really feel a genuine need for and cannot do elsewhere. I think for those who like it the first year is the one that is a bit magical if they join as adults. After that one stays in and appreciates what it can do but sees the cost and benefit differently.

  4. Chris K says:

    I’ve always had mixed views of facebook, and resisted it at first, but eventually succumbed to its hideous strength.
    Currently I am being bombarded by messages about events at the start of university, societies etc which may prove to be very useful. Although the sponsored ones for ‘dubstep’ and ‘grime’ are slightly irritating.

    Privacy/security isn’t really an issue to me. I don’t just add anyone as a ‘friend’ and regularly delete people I don’t think I’ll ever see/talk to again. In any case, I have met people off the internet (!)

    • franksummers3ba says:

      Chris K.
      I simply must applaud any possible reference to C.S. Lewis’s adult fiction at least while I am in this mortal coil and not yet out of the silent planet or should I say till we have faces I will applaud such references.

  5. Lord Norton says:

    I am struck not only by the stark divergence of views, but also by the fact that one or two people have contacted me by e-mail to express similarly divergent views (‘I love it’, ‘I’ll never use it’). I wonder: Is Facebook becoming the new Marmite? You either love it or you hate it.

  6. djb13 says:

    I disagree about your marmite metaphor. I don’t ‘love’ Facebook, I just find it’s useful as one tool amongst many for social contact.

    I rather think Facebook is part of the infrastructure of the internet, like email, Google search and twitter. Like the train network in real life, you can abstain, but you’ll find that it’s very hard to get around.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Facebook is not part of the infrastructure of the internet, it’s a private website. The web and e-mail are based on open standards. If you don’t like Google, you can use a different search engine. But if your contact is only on Facebook, or they post photos on Facebook, you are forced to sign up, or else not to be able to contact that person. If people would only stick to using open standards: a website, e-mail, using RSS to follow people – then it would eliminate the need to be dependent on – and forced to hand personal information over to – a private company.

    • Frank W. Summers III says:

      Jonathan,
      Your point about the metaphor is partly true but there are private roads and trains in the world. I think all of us like adifferent mix. However, quite a few od like capitalism, private clubs, restaurants with reservations, sex with our spouses, kissing our own godchildren on the forehead and not having our bank accounts emptied quietly by our neighbors. Open and good are not synonyms. Even our gracious host here might be less eager to do his bit at Lords if they held their meetings at Hyde Park and not Westminster Palace.

      • @Frank W. Summers III: So Facebook being a private site makes the information it contains safer and ensures the privacy of its users? That couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, in common with the population at large (and probably most politicians too) I don’t think you are familiar with the concepts of open source or open standards. It has nothing to do with making all the information on its users publicly available.

        If you like analogies, Facebook is like a railway that uses a completely different gauge to any others in the world, and that may for all you know sells the details of every journey you’ve ever made, or publish them online in the future.

  8. djb13 says:

    That’s what I meant about Facebook being part of the infrastructure: it’s a monopoly, like the train system is.

  9. franksummers3ba says:

    Second Half season ticket holder,
    First please contrive a longer name. Second, I just recently dared on LOTB to to lecture Baroness Deech on the dangers of conflating Secrecy and Privacy. I would do the same here. Most of the institutions I mentioned are not secret they are private. I miss having some friends and loved ones on Facebbok and the fact that I have less time to reach them compared to when I only dealt with my old e-mail list is a cost. But I also like having a network of known entities who are on my list for a period of time and have taken steps to enter it. It is a kind of community (second rate to be sure) The secrecy is not an issue. You could not be expected to know this, but I can expect to have only those secrets most uninteresting and/or carefully secured. I have had formal dealings with the CIA, the Chinese PSB, the Vatican’s Rota and others who can keep track of most of my reference points any time they wish — really and yes I am sure. What they choose to do is not known to me but I have no expectation of an easy secrecy. Privacy is really different it is the right to live “as though” one and one’s intimates or consensual associates were the only ones involved. It must be more than an illusion but need not be a hard line of secrecy. By the way Westminster just might be an other one of those places. Once one voluntarily creates a relationship with such a place things get blurred as regardss laws protecting one’s secrecy. However, the three groups I mentioned earlier were really tied to me in some formal legal way at one time or another.

  10. MCF says:

    Lord Norton, it would seem you share esteemed company in the form of the UK editor to WIRED!

    http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/09/six-reasons-why-wired-uks-editor-isnt-on-facebook/

    Surely the Lord Norton of Louth facebook site isn’t run by your good self?

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