There are over 17 million Facebook users in Thailand and their number continues to grow. From Facebook statistics, by country, Thailand ranks 14th among nations with the highest number of subscribers to this popular social networking medium.
Like it or not, Facebook has become a part of many people's lives. Probably yours too.
Mark Zuckerberg's larger than life baby is now factoring in our personal, political, social and cultural spheres. On Facebook, we now make plans, talk to family members, reveal political inclinations, post food pictures as well as tag friends and much more _ all done within three minutes or less. The other side of the coin is that Facebook uses these subscribers to further its business interests _ as we are fully aware.
The benefits of Facebook have been trumpeted as much as its downside ranging from privacy issues to crime-baiting tools. Facebook addiction has also been acknowledged or actually accepted as a social illness for quite sometime now. But of late, the fear of Facebooking, or for want of a better term, Facebookphobia, has been gaining ground.
There are those who deleted or deactivated their Facebook accounts, as well as those who were scared away even before they had signed up.
"I don't see the point of Facebook. It's not necessary for me. I prefer face-to-face interaction or proper phone conversation. Those are a much better ways to keep in touch with people. This is why I haven't signed up, and I'm not planning to do so anytime soon," said ML Choopol Chumpol, a freelance writer and jewellery designer, who's also a regular face at cultural events around town.
The negative psychological effects of Facebook are real. In an online survey conducted by Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland, 12% of the respondents admitted that Facebook induces anxiety. The survey further revealed that those with the most "friends" were more inclined to suffer stress caused by Facebook activities.
Besides issues of time consumption, privacy and vulnerability, one of the most cited reasons for quitting Facebook seems to be the fear of addiction itself. Prominent stylist/designer/TV personality Araya Indra, who has deactivated her account for more than a year, knows all too well.
"I used to check my Facebook the moment I woke up. I was really tangled up with wanting to know what was going on. Then I realised that I must have been a Facebook addict, and when you've become addicted to something; you must definitely quit it for your own health," said Araya.
Araya was thinking of quitting Facebook for a couple of days to see if she could live without it, but those Facebook-free days were so liberating that she decided to call it quits permanently.
"Also, I wasn't feeling comfortable with Facebook anymore. I received a lot of unpleasant messages because I began to get a lot of requests when I appeared on TV. I didn't accept the requests, and people could be very nasty about it," said Araya.
Facebook hostility is not limited to the personal level. Overt, aggressive political convictions are not uncommon on the social network. For Thais, Facebook is a battlefield where we make political stands and stand-offs, resulting in heated arguments leading to loss of jobs and friendships. Such extremity pushed Anuwat Tunhuad, a promotion officer of a film distribution company, to shun Facebook; it's been more than two years now.
"One of the reasons I quit was because I felt that people had no filters when they could hide behind their computer screens. They voice their opinions in rude ways they would never do if you talked with them face to face.
"Facebook is a good way to get information, and keep up with the world, I will not disagree. But there are also other less emotional ways to do so. The flow of information can be too overwhelming. I don't need to know every tiny detail of everyone's life," he said. Anuwat added that to him, the dark side of human nature became too visible in his news feed, and the attention-mongering antics by some on his contact list still keeps him from reactivating his account.
"I feel like people are hypersensitive and overly needy when they expect reaction, 'likes' or 'comments' in everything they do. Everything is so dramatic, and so blown out of proportion when people feel like they can say whatever they want to without regard for others. Then you see all the negativity, which is more than I bargained for, and definitely more than I can handle. I'm not against Facebook by all means, but it's just not for me."
Superbaker's lead singer/guitarist Prapob Chomthawon agrees that hate pages got the better of him, in addition to wasted time and increasing Facebook dependency. Prapob took a break from Facebook two months ago.
"My health took a hit because I would stay up late browsing, posting this and that. I didn't get enough sleep. It became too stressful. When a friend of mine posted that he would quit to spend more time with himself and his family, I realised I should take stock of my routine too. So I deactivated my account, and it's been great," he said.
Araya and Anuwat feel that their lives are better after they decided to forego the online frenzy. They don't feel they are missing out because they can still receive information from the other areas on the vast internet landscape. Both feel they are now in control of knowledge influx.
"I know that a lot of things are happening on Facebook, and it has sneaked its way into a lot of conversations. Even journalists get news from social media and photo sharing sites these days. As a person who has never signed up for Facebook, I don't feel that I'm missing out on anything at all because my friends usually tell me what's going on in the Facebook world," said ML Choopol.
For Prapob, we may call it a relapse as he has rejoined Facebook.
"As a musician, it's necessary for me to be have a Facebook presence. It's like a free medium and promotional channel that I should make the most out of without losing my head over it. I think my Facebook habit has changed though. I don't spend so much time on it. I don't write about emotional status now. So the break was really a good decision to re-evaluate. It was a vaccination to rebuild my immune system," he said.
However, even the strongest opponent ML Choopol would testify that Facebook is a crucial marketing tool these days. When his jewellery line is complete, he will consider joining Facebook as a business brand, but might let an associate handle it rather than get involved himself. Others also agree that business accounts or fan pages, based on the current Facebook fever in Thailand, are also important to their trade, but once it's not personal they can easily be detached from it.
"Technology comes and goes. You just really have to find the right one that fits you. If it doesn't fit, or you've developed an anxiety over it, then, darling, it's time to find a new outlet," said Araya.
About the author
- Writer: Onsiri Pravattiyagul
Position: Entertainment Editor