Sometimes you read about strategies for interacting via social media that simplify things or alert you to a new, better way of using these tools to communicate with friends, co-workers, clients or relatives.
Then there’s this, which is just asinine. danah boyd, a Microsoft researcher and Harvard fellow, posted about a new way for people to fly under the radar on Facebook. (You may remember boyd, who insists on not capitalizing her name, as the theorist behind the “MySpace has become a digital ghetto” thing.) According to boyd, some users “super logoff” Facebook by deactivating their accounts every time they sign off the service.
boyd, who looks way too old to be engaging in grammatical shenanigans, makes a case for the stupid, inconsiderate and attention-whoring practice of repeatedly deleting yourself. boyd cites a young woman who uses the super log off, and the reasons behind it:
Mikalah uses Facebook but when she goes to log out, she deactivates her Facebook account. She knows that this doesn’t delete the account – that’s the point. She knows that when she logs back in, she’ll be able to reactivate the account and have all of her friend connections back. But when she’s not logged in, no one can post messages on her wall or send her messages privately or browse her content. But when she’s logged in, they can do all of that. And she can delete anything that she doesn’t like… Mikalah is not trying to get rid of her data or piss of [sic] her friends. And she’s not.
Would that not piss you off? Why would anyone go to the trouble of interacting with someone on Facebook if they kept continually disappearing, removing their content so public conversations appear incomplete, and moderating every interaction you have with them so stringently? A lot of social media interaction is variable, but surely this level of control-freakiness means that maybe you just have nothing to bring to Facebook?
In many ways, deactivation is a way of not letting the digital body stick around when the person is not present. This is a great risk reduction strategy if you’re worried about people who might look and misinterpret. Or people who might post something that would get you into trouble. Mikalah’s been there and isn’t looking to get into any more trouble. But she wants to be a part of Facebook when it makes sense and not risk the possibility that people will be snooping when she’s not around.
It seems, though, that removing almost all of the opportunity to interact with you on Facebook is less a “risk reduction strategy,” and more just completely eliminating the point of having a Facebook account altogether- interaction.
boyd covers another form of this, too- people who delete every interaction on the site after it occurs- because, they say, it avoids “drama.”
Shamika doesn’t deactivate her Facebook profile but she does delete every wall message, status update, and Like shortly after it’s posted. She’ll post a status update and leave it there until she’s ready to post the next one or until she’s done with it. Then she’ll delete it from her profile. When she’s done reading a friend’s comment on her page, she’ll delete it. She’ll leave a Like up for a few days for her friends to see and then delete it. When I asked her why she was deleting this content, she looked at me incredulously and told me “too much drama.”
Again, while boyd makes the case that Facebook is useful to Shamika despite the fact that she sends “1200 text messages” in a single day, I think the larger point of how this kind of behavior affects other users stands. Deleting things on Facebook, people or actions, is not a friendly way to behave and only worsens the self-centeredness using media like this can encourage. And while Facebook, Twitter and the like are frequently pegged as vehicles for narcissism and navel-gazing, they don’t have to be. Any “social media expert” will tell you that your interactions on these networks should be far more often about others than yourself- or else you’re probably a sucky user with very little of note to contribute.
Have you used the “super logoff” technique to avoid “drama” or just general interaction? Would you keep someone on your friends list if they kept appearing and reappearing? Are any or many of your Facebook friends “loose cannons” that you fear will embarrass or incriminate you on your page?