Some people feel that Facebook is more of a foe than a friend.
Suzanna Zulkifli signed up for Facebook because her college lecturer used it as a teaching tool. After finishing her degree, she deleted the account. She feels her life is still complete without it – not something you would expect to hear from a 28 year old.
“I don’t see the big deal about sharing my daily activities. Life is busy enough as it is,” said the sales traffic executive for a radio station.
Suzanna is one of the few not on Facebook in an age when everyone is glued to social media on their smartphones and laptops, as if their lives depended on it.
For every three minutes online, Malaysians spend one minute on social media in 2014, according to Internet technology company comScore while the 2014 Connected Life study by market research company Taylor Nelson Sofres found that over 62% of Malaysians access social media daily compared to the global average of 42%.
Even some Hollywood actors have not bought into the hype. Mila Kunis has said she doesn’t think people need to know when she’s going to the restroom. Bond actor Daniel Craig told Seven Magazine, “I am bloody not (on Facebook). ‘Woke up this morning, had an egg’? What relevance is that to anyone? Social networking? Just call each other up and go to the pub and have a drink.”
Another person bewildered by the appeal of posting regularly on Facebook is Raj Raghu, 32, a key accounts and special projects manager at a healthcare company.
“Why would the world need to know what you are doing at every given moment? Facebook to me is shallow and is more limiting then enriching,” he said.
However, Dr Grainne Kirwan, Help University’s associate professor in the department of psychology, feels that social media networks are not time wasters.
“Sites like Facebook allows us to maintain ties with people who we might otherwise lose touch. Sharing our day-to-day experiences such as meals are one way of doing this,” said the cyber psychology specialist.
“It allows users to update their status and remain in contact with friends without having to think of new things to say.”
Suzanna was baffled that in the four years she was on Facebook, she saw so many people airing grouses.
“Everyone loves to share their personal issues and problems. I just don’t have time for those type of things,” she said.
Users tend to share fights with their spouses and problems at work on Facebook like it’s their personal Oprah Winfrey show. Some say there’s more dirty laundry aired on Facebook in a day than a typical household in a year.
“People may feel a sense of relief from complaining and knowing that their complaint is heard although use of Facebook posts in a hostile manner is rarely perceived as positive by other users,” said Kirwan.
Even though it’s more effective to direct the complaint to the person rather than posting on Facebook, users prefer social media because they feel they are more likely to get a response.
“In short, complaining on social media can have positive effects, but it must be done in a careful manner,” she said.
Comedian Johan Raja Lawak, 31, never saw the need for Facebook even as a promotional tool when he was first starting out in showbusiness a decade ago.
“I know it’s rare in the showbiz world not to be on Facebook as artistes see it as a way to promote themselves. I physically went out to see directors and didn’t just work my fingers,” he said.
“I do have an Instagram and Twitter account. The Instagram account is purely for family photos while Twitter is for me to catch up on news. But as far as Facebook is concerned there’s too much gibberish on it. It’s a total waste of time and even my kids don’t have time for it,” he said.
Johan has three sons, aged two, five and 11, and a four-month daughter.
“I’ve always focused their attention on physical activity rather than social networking. There’s a scrambler bike and a go-cart in our home. They enjoy being outdoors and have no problems not being on Facebook,” he said.
Counselling psychologist Dr Anasuya Jegathesan said that the type of content posted on Facebook really depends on the individuals, and their friends and interest groups.
As with any media or channel of communication, be it the Internet, TV, newspaper, book or magazine, there is quality content that educates, stimulates and inspires, as well as content that is worthless, said psychologist Dr Goh Chee Leong, also from Help University’s department of psychology.
Stuck to the screen
Some like businessman Gurmit Singh, 42, are worried that Facebook can take over a person’s life, especially the younger ones. “I don’t want my kids to be addicted to it,” he said.
“My kids (aged 11, seven and six) are banned from creating a Facebook account until they turn 15,” he said.
“There is some value in connecting with people but it does more damage than good. There’s so much info on Facebook that you don’t need. People post whatever they want and some are quite irresponsible.”
Gurmit deactivated his account six years ago and has never looked back. “Now that I am not on Facebook, I have more time,” he said.
However, Goh feels it’s not beneficial to stop kids from using social media.
“Rather than banning the use of Facebook, a more healthy approach is to impose limits and controls. Teenagers should learn to discipline themselves so that they don’t become addicted to any one activity, whether it is Facebook, the Internet, computer games or TV. The goal is to encourage our teens to have a balanced life,” he said.
With Facebook, addiction is a real possibility. Hayazi Zulkafli, 32, couldn’t stop playing Facebook games like Pet Society, Mafia Wars and Farm Town for six months. In the end, she had to completely abandon social media.
“I think I spent all my waking hours on it. When I was not on it, I was thinking about it and I even dreamt about it when I went to bed. Yes, it was that bad,” said the AV supervisor in a media monitoring company.
She doesn’t miss the networking aspect of Facebook. “If my friends want to connect with me, they can just call me,” she said. However, her friends didn’t take her Facebook exit too well and still want her back.
Supervised psychologist Ivan Lee said Facebook, like anything else, can be addictive but only if misused.
It’s only bad if it disrupts your social life, academics, financial status or relationships. If it’s used for leisure it can relieve stress, as it allows you to express yourself, he said.
Using Facebook means giving up privacy to Daryl Soong, 38, a freelance IT technical trainer.
“To stay connected, you have to open yourself to the world. On the surface, this may not seem like such a bad thing but Facebook, like any other site, isn’t 100% secure,” he said.
Facebook also tracks and monitor users which allows it to deliver targeted ads.
“I don’t appreciate being shadowed. It’s like an irritating salesman who just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Deena Saravanan, 29, a business planner with an IT company, felt that social media was a huge security risk after her friend got harassed by a stalker who got her personal info from her Facebook account.
“The stalker hacked into her account and got her personal details like her address. She made a police report and even after four years, he is still stalking her because he has her handphone number,” she said.
Jealousy is another concern, as social media has a tendency to bring out the worst in people. A 2013 study found that the most Facebook users compare themselves with peers who have tweaked their photographs and exaggerated their achievements. The study surveyed 584 users of Facebook in their 20s and was published by the Public Library of Science, conducted by Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan and Philippe Verduyn of Leuven University in Belgium.
“When we see our friends engaging in interesting and fun activities while we are engaged in a more routine activity such as watching television or having an early night, it may slightly depress us, as we feel that our life is less exciting,” said Kirwan.
“This occurs because we cannot see how many others are also engaged in the same routine activities as us because they are not posting about them. We may also forget that those who are currently posting about exciting activities will probably be engaged in routine activities at the time that we are having fun. As a result, Facebook and other social media can affect our emotional experience,” she said.
When they are in their 20s, it’s understandable that they are driven by competition, says Lee.
“They will compare their current status with others. They want to be better, they want to stand out to boost their self-esteem and confidence.”