by Thomas Wailgum

Why I’m Just Saying No to Facebook

Jan 14, 20084 mins
Enterprise Applications

It’s been really hard to keep my face out of Facebook. Now, my reluctance has nothing to do with any reasons of vanity on my part. (In fact, I’ve been told that I’ve got a face that would be great for radio, so maybe I’m doing you all a favor.)

It’s more that I don’t need the “time suck” from another digital distraction in my life. But now that 60 million people or so swear by Facebook, I’m having a more difficult time saying that I don’t have a Facebook page to friends and colleagues, whose photos, preferences and life details grace Facebook’s webpages, and want me to join up.

The editor in chief of CIO, Abbie Lundberg, loves her Facebook. In her post “Confessions of a Facebook Addict,” Abbie details the fact that she can communicate and interact with friends and colleagues—”people I trust, whose interests I share and whose company I enjoy.” She also notes that her Facebook addiction was surprising to her, because she’s basically an introvert at heart.

But actually, all that makes perfect sense to me. I’m an extrovert. I love face-to-face meetings and any type of social events. And that personality trait figures into my reluctance to use Facebook: I’d rather go meet someone in person or pick up the phone and have a live conversation. (Even instant messaging is good in my book.)

So, to be an armchair psychiatrist for a second, Abbie’s love for Facebook, with its virtual connections, allows her to get over her natural introverted inclination. Whereas my preference to have more personal communications mitigates one of Facebook’s biggest selling points.

Now, for all of you Gen Y’ers out there, please save your vitriolic, anonymous comments for somebody else: I get what Facebook is, all that it can do and the power of social networking. I’m not a dinosaur, Luddite or someone who’s afraid of new technologies. I get it, OK? (I’m on LinkedIn, and it gives me all the business “connectedness” I need.)

At this stage in my career with the daily job demands and pressures, playing Scrabulous with my friends, listing all of the things I should have done today (but didn’t) and avoiding messages (or “pokes”) from old acquaintances I’ve not spoken to since high school just aren’t going to be big productivity-enhancers for me. There’s no doubt that Facebook can provide meaningful social connections; but it also can be a huge productivity killer. And that’s what I don’t need more of in my life.

I did some very informal IM polling of friends and colleagues (from different generations) and asked them about their Facebook use. Like Abbie, they loved the ability to stay connected to friends and a few select work contacts.

So while I don’t take any issue that Facebook provides you an easy way to keep in touch with friends, I’m much more concerned about how and whether it actually helps my colleagues do their jobs better and further their careers. I asked them what business value they received from having a Facebook account. Two of the answers I received were noteworthy: “Not a lick,” said one, and “None, but I think that’s a premature question for a site that’s only been up since 2004,” said another.

The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is older folks, presumably from the business community. So what’s all the fuss about? I wonder if the 60 million people on Facebook are there just because there are 60 million people on Facebook. Or are they actually getting something more out of it than just hanging out in a cool place and looking at photos?

Unfortunately, that cool place isn’t going to be hip for much longer. After CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rather uninspired appearance on “60 Minutes” last Sunday, it’s a sure bet that my septuagenarian parents (and millions of other Baby Boomers around the world) will be creating their own Facebook pages this week.

Alas, the roar of the Facebook drumbeat becomes more deafening with each day. The business pressure to join is palpable. (In fact, CIO now has a CIO Forum on Facebook.)

I suppose I have to face up to the fact that one day I will have to reluctantly join. But until then, I will use the time that I would probably have spent playing games or reading other people’s pages doing something much more productive. I promise.