I’m Not on Facebook and I Don’t Regret It—Yet

I have inexplicably made it to my 30s without poking, posting, commenting, friending or planning a single thing on Facebook. And I’m still here. I’m still standing. I am the 7%, and it has not been easy.

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Illustration by TIME

I have inexplicably made it to my 30s without poking, posting, commenting, friending or planning a single thing on Facebook. And I’m still here. I’m still standing. I am the 7%, and it has not been easy.

Before I continue, let me clarify something before you fact-check the previous statements: there is a Facebook page with my name linked to my e-mail address. But it’s a blank slate and was initially created by a friend of mine due to my persistent stubbornness. I haven’t filled out my profile. I haven’t spent hours searching out friends from high school. I haven’t replied to the 123 waiting friend requests. (Only a few of them are bitter.) Apparently at some point I Liked the Willy Wonka Candy Company. But trust me, it was not intentional.

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This is bizarre behavior for a millennial – even considering that I’m on the older side of my generation, roughly defined as those born between 1980 and 2000. I was born in 1982. I graduated high school in 2000 (which is where the term millennial originates because we were the first class to graduate in the new millennium) and grew up with Hotmail and ICQ and Sega, all of which later morphed into Gmail, IM and PS3. Since a teenager, I’ve known what it’s like to chat online, to forego CDs for MP3s, to slowly transform my physical world into a digital ecosystem. I know the challenges of being unemployed, of going back to school to get re-employed, of struggling to pay off student loans, of asking my parents for money. I know what it’s like to doubt the American Dream but still be optimistic that everything will work itself out. Yes, I grew up in a household where I was continually praised.  I can be on my phone as much as the next millennial. I sometimes think my phone’s vibrating when it’s not (see: phantom vibration syndrome). And I like seeing that I’ve gotten a few more followers on Twitter. (I am on Twitter.) But I feel like a generational outlier simply because I don’t participate in the one thing I believe defines my generation: Facebook.

Around 2005, when the social networking site started worming its way into universities around the country, I slowly came to the realization that I wasn’t going to create an account. As a senior in college, I remember feeling indifferent about publicly stating that I liked The Beatles and the Rocky movies and Indiana basketball and that my relationship was complicated. It just wasn’t something that appealed to me. It felt peculiar.

The reasons why I never signed up are varied: I’m more private about my life than others my age, possibly because I was an only child; I often bristle at things seemingly everyone around me is doing, especially when they pressure me to do them (which was happening virtually every day in college when Facebook became ubiquitous); I usually don’t like talking about myself, which has made writing this column rather difficult; and frankly, there are some people who I don’t particularly feel like keeping in touch with.

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Basically, I’ve never been compelled to share details about my life to anyone with Internet access. And that’s how I viewed Facebook for years: as a tool merely to parade your life in front of others, as a truthy account of existence, like your own personal greatest hits, all of which have been auto-tuned. Apparently there are others out there like me, but it doesn’t seem that way. According to several polls, an estimated 93% of millennials use Facebook. (I’m sure you probably think it’s guys like me who somehow still approve of the job Congress is doing. I promise you, I don’t.)

A couple years ago, however, I started feeling differently about my conscientious objection.

In 2011, Facebook launched Timeline. It wasn’t merely an aesthetic design change. The entire ethos of the site shifted. Since Facebook’s founding, the social networking site had been about the here and now, the party recently attended, the dinner last eaten, the friends just made. But the redesign was more about the past than the present, and founder Mark Zuckerberg himself neatly summed up that shift.

“It’s how you can tell the whole story of your life on a single page,” Zuckerberg said when introducing Timeline. The whole story of your life on a single page. I soon realized I didn’t have that. In fact, I didn’t even have a single status update.

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Facebook’s redesign made the whole enterprise feel more like a running journal of one’s life rather than a platform to show off. It used to be merely about connecting with others (and it obviously still is), but it’s increasingly about individuals connecting with themselves rather than their friends. It’s now a thoughtful chronicle of one’s life that just happens to be public.

Or at least, that’s how I view it today, and I don’t have that. My neglected profile is there. Feel free to look me up. Just explore the space for a minute. It’s like walking through a haunted house in which nobody’s ever lived. Almost everyone in my generation, especially today’s teenagers, has a detailed account of their careers, their relationships, their personal milestones, hell, the very meals eaten each day, which used to be merely a function of survival but are now treated like online celebrities. But when I log into my account, it’s as if I never existed. I don’t have any political or religious views. I’ve never been in a relationship. I’ve yet to travel. I’m unemployed. As far as music, movies and books are concerned, I have no preferences. I’m social media’s version of lukewarm water.

Am I complaining? No, and I hope it doesn’t come off that way. Do I regret not signing up? Not yet. But the millennial funeral of the future will inevitably feature a digital screen with a running account of the deceased’s life thanks to Facebook. I have photos. I have videos. I have words about my life. I just have them stored as if I were part of Generation X, scattered here and there on my phone, on my computer, on paper, in shoeboxes even.

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I know I could still join. I realize that. I at least hope I’ll do a few more things in life that will be worthy of a Facebook update. Those parties I didn’t attend because I failed to get the Facebook invite? Those would’ve been fun. Seeing photos of the trips my friends go on and the weddings they’ll be having might be nice, too. But I doubt I’ll start. I’ve held out for eight years. I think I would’ve caved by now.

Honestly, those who do regularly use the site (and I’m talking about just about everybody here) impress me. It can be hard enough just getting through each day, much less extensively documenting it all. But in a sense, I feel like I’ve been more present in the present without it, more in tune to the moment rather than thinking about how best to capture it. I wouldn’t want Facebook to get in the way of all that, even if stalking my old childhood friends still sounds pretty awesome.

MILLENNIALSThe Me Me Me Generation

8 comments
suzanna30
suzanna30

I love you. 


I HATE facebook too. I am now two weeks without facebook. I am also born in 1982. I think life was so much better before facebook. Since i started facebook in 2007 . I probably deactivated it about 3 times.


I don't want to know what every person I ever met in life is up to on a regular basis. It is just a waste of time. I am also a very private person and only want to share the details of my life with my closest family and friends. i am not interested in being popular or only sharing with people the positive side of my life. I also think people are meant to keep most of their thoughts to themselves. I don't think it is healthy to be bombarded constantly by other people's thought's and opinions on every aspect of life constantly. Facebook is a strong example of TMI.


I am not interested in making people think that I have alot of friends. I also don't believe in having alot of friends and don't care really how many friends other people have.  


Facebook indirectly forces people to judge others based on stupid things like that. 


The fact of the matter is that no matter how many people you know or how famous you are most human beings only have a handful of real friends. Facebook is very superficial and indirectly making millions of people shallow. It has completely watered down the meaning of the term friend and making our generation shallow.  It has even gone so far now as to introduce categories for friends. Please who cares why bother ?? Who has the time to be analysing their friend list into levels of friendship. You must have alot of time on your hands. I  think the world has become such a sad place where people especially of the millenial generation define each other by their facebook. Also most people I know on facebook are completely different in real life. Why interact with something that gives you a false perception of who someone really is?


Maybe Mark Zuckerberg didn't intend it to be that way but it has spiraled out of control and is that way now. The fact that people can be being bullied over facebook and children are commiting suicide over facebook shows that it is unhealthy. Yes facebook is a tool and it is up to you to decide how to use it but i think we would all be better off with out it. It is encouraging vanity, excessive self love, narcissism and fakeness to an extreme because it indirectly forces you to be constantly comparing yourself to other people and to feel like you need to post things regularly for people to remember who you are and interact with you.


I am pretty sure Mark Zuckerberg does not use facebook for connecting with people. He is too busy trying to figure out how it can make him more rich and famous. Like most business men he is making a fool out of millions of people. People that have real hobbies and interests in life do not have time for facebook .

freemind166
freemind166

I don't have a Fbk account, for pretty much the same reasons you listed. I felt a lot of pressure to get one and it makes it even more repellent to me. Why does it have to be such a big matter ? I don't want the story of my life on a single page. It would never fit, haha. I wanna chose what I share and with who. I also don't wanna be linked on several websites, I do have a privacy concern, surely more than most people. I'm Ok with all that and I applaude people who can think for themselves.

DW
DW

I found your article in a search to satisfy my own questions about the subject. As an 18-year old, I probe my mind for answers that don't exist in the brains of the majority of my generation. Why does Facebook irritate me? Why did I try it for a day about five years ago and suddenly decide to terminate my participation? Am I making the right choice by not having one? Will I have to make one in the future? Will I have to join Twitter as well? Sometimes I think I know the answers to those questions, but at other times I experience a nagging doubt. 

Nevertheless, I think it will be interesting to see how things have changed twenty, then fifty, then maybe even seventy years down the road. The new "timeline" concept of Facebook seems somewhat appealing because I am somewhat of an amateur historian. However, I don't feel that there is a need to share my history with everyone. That's one of the main reasons why I find it difficult to keep a blog going, as well as why posting videos on YouTube still causes me some discomfort. I'm happy to know that all of my "friends" won't see this post automatically, since I'm not  "linked" to any websites that they can use to infiltrate my privacy. I'm not ashamed of what I'm writing here... Why would I write it if I was? Still, the constant "connectivity" of Facebook and Twitter leaves me with a bitter aftertaste. I don't even have a smartphone and I don't text. I'm perfectly happy with my communication preferences as they are. 

Oh, great, this is starting to sound like a Facebook post, isn't it?

Well, what can you do?

Anyway, I applaud your strength against the constantly tugging undertow of social networking. 

mall77
mall77

Sir you are not alone. I do not use it either, and I am 20 and a full time college student. I despise the existence of Facebook. I have a pretty active social life and manage fine without it, so see no reason to join. It is a narcissists haven and one that I am proud to stay away from. My friends still keep in contact through email and phone anyway. People like us are looked upon favorably by employers and academics, don't give in :).

davemyyz
davemyyz

I felt the pressure to use it to keep in touch with friends that are out of the country but I rarely log on. I just use it as a peripheral for Twitter. All my tweets go to it so all 12 of my friends will at least see that. Other than that...could care less.

LeahMarieinLV
LeahMarieinLV

Hi Josh, I'm with you, in that lonely 7% of millenials without facebook by choice. When I told my new colleagues I didn't participate in Facebook after quitting a few years back, the gasps were audible. At social gatherings, people always tell me to 'find them on facebook' and honestly, I'd rather not. If we're going to be friends, send me a text and we'll stay in touch. Never once have I ever found myself saying "(sigh) I really wish I had facebook to waste the day away" and I'm sure my employer thanks me, too. 

jenrebecca70
jenrebecca70

Josh, you would be a great Gen X-er! We still don't feel like we have to post everything. Sometimes we don't even text, but call! I often remember like an old fogey how things used to be. I will say, it doesn't have to be like Facebook. People used to communicate differently. 

I found a ton of old letters in my closet the other day. My first reaction was - how quaint, and why didn't they email them? Well, imagine this - there WAS no email. None! We survived just fine. Had relationships, careers, children...

Anyway, hold out, Josh. Make us X-ers proud :)

LFM
LFM

Don't give in Josh.  FB is trash!