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I'm 26 years old and want nothing to do with social media

#DeleteFacebook is trending in the wake of the latest row over data and privacy. But some people have avoided social media all along

I’m 26 and I’ve never been part of any form of social media.

People are generally baffled by this and wonder how I manage to live my life without it. Sometimes they think I’m making some sort of political statement.

I’m from the first generation to be really hit with social media. I remember being at school when people started to go on Myspace, then Bebo, then Facebook.

At the time, I couldn’t see the point of social media. I could speak to my friends directly and couldn’t see what it would add to my life.

I won’t lie, I thought it was a fad. When Facebook first came out, I thought, 'in a couple of years’ time, everyone will be on to something new'.

But that wasn’t the case. It’s quite successful I hear.

Even now that it’s so ubiquitous, I’m not tempted. I appreciate that social media can make a lot of things easier, but ease can devalue things as well.

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When people remember my birthday, I’m genuinely quite moved. I know it's because of a conversation we had, or because they’ve made the effort to remember it.

People use social media for arranging events a lot, and I probably do miss out sometimes. But it doesn’t really bother me. If someone can’t find the time to send me a quick text, or drop me a call, then they’re probably not that interested in me being there.

Also, I read George Orwell’s 1984 at an impressionable age, and the idea of being under constant surveillance terrifies me.

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When the Snowden story broke a few years ago, I felt many things, but not surprise. The idea that intelligence agencies like USA's NSA (National Security Agency) can just tap into the information social media companies have about me – that’s not something I’m comfortable with.

New people I meet assume I must be intensely private, but I’m actually a very open person. I just like to choose who I’m open with.

With Facebook, and social media in general, everything is just out there. Most people don't remember to make their profiles private, so their entire character, or some version of it, is on display for all to see.

It’s become normal for everyone to judge each other based on their social media profiles, and I think that creates pressure to conform. It encourages people to create an ideal online version of themselves. But it’s not real.

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For example, my sister can smile in a million different ways. But, on Facebook, she has one smile. It’s the same, identical smile in every single picture.

Yes, sometimes when she smiles she can look goofy as hell, but that’s part of her personality and it’s been edited out in favour of one idealised version of herself.

I believe we care about our true friends despite their flaws, and in a way, social media eradicates this. My sister’s Facebook profile makes me sad because she’s so much more complex than she looks on her profile.

I think if I was on social media it would be bad for my self-esteem. I think I’d get sucked into the whole destructive cycle too.

People feel compelled to constantly update a feed of information about themselves to the public world, and I feel like that’s replacing actual interactions between people.

I encounter things that I love all the time, and I think of people I want to share them with. But I’ll tell them a week later if I see them, or I’ll give them a call and talk to them about it.

When I was growing up, my godmother would come and visit us a couple of times a year. She’d arrive with a wallet of photos that she’d taken.

Every photo had a story, and we would listen to them for hours; we'd be told what was happening and who the people in them were.

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Because I don’t have Facebook, people show me their pictures manually on their phones, and I get to have those same conversations with them. I think that’s so much more meaningful than just seeing them in my feed.

Often, when you go out, you see everyone’s eyes fixed on a screen. There’ll be groups of friends doing nothing but taking and posting pictures, instead of actually having a good time together. Something is being lost there.

I know that not all people who use social media use it in the same way, and people should be able to do what they want.

And, really, you can’t completely abstain. I’m in other people’s photos and I’m mentioned in other people’s profiles.

But just because something has become normal behaviour does not mean that the behaviour is in itself normal.

This article was originally published on 14 June 2017

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