Living Outside the Network

(Marie Lambert)–A little over a year ago, I deactivated by Facebook account for the final time. Since its birth during my freshman year of high school, the account had been killed and resurrected several times on the whims of my younger self. I continually went back and forth on the issue of my Facebook, trying to create order by constructing a mental list of pros and cons of the site:

Pro: Fun for wasting time/creeping on people.

Con: Very effective at wasting time.

Pro: An easy way to stay connected with high school friends after college.

Con: My mom wants to be friends with me (i.e. no secrets even on the internet).

I stuck it out through the first third of the fall semester, and then firmly deactivated my account, this time for good. I would have completely deleted it, but Facebook makes that very difficult to do, so deactivation was good enough for me. Why did I do it? A myriad of reasons: shady business with personal information and privacy, how easily it facilitated procrastination, but interestingly it was the fact that Facebook connected me to so many people that eventually drove me away. Particularly as a freshman at a new school 1,000 miles away from home, I found it was easier to live in my virtual world with already existing friends than to go outside and actually make new friends. Facebook was a crutch, a security blanket, except it didn’t make me feel happy, but pathetic. Look at all those people doing things and having fun. What are you doing?

So while deactivating my Facebook didn’t make me less of an awkward freshman looking for friends, it at least forced me to pursue real-life interactions, many of which led to actual friendships that still exist today. And I’ve been happy living my life basically free of social networking. I don’t have a Twitter or a Pinterest, and am proud to say I’ve recently broken a long-standing Tumblr addiction. This is mostly just because these days I’m too busy to spend time on the Internet that isn’t used productively, but it’s also nice to know that I don’t leave behind that much of a digital trail. Perhaps naively, I’m not incredibly worried about my statements or information being shared with the citizens of the Internet, but knowing that it’s a plausible concern only affirms my reasons for avoiding social networking.

So what’s the problem? As someone interested in the publishing industry—an industry concerned with the distribution of media and information—the Internet is a major asset and environment one must know how to effectively navigate. Social media literacy is becoming increasingly important to employers as well as to those searching for employment. Our very own Amherst Career Center uses Quest, an online database of where one must create a personal profile to search for job/internship listings, to direct students towards such opportunities.

While I do have an account with Quest and used it successfully last year to secure an amazing summer internship, I can’t help but feel that my lack of connectivity puts me at a disadvantage when looking at my Internet literacy skills. I’m a fairly technologically competent person and definitely know my way around the Internet, but how can I demonstrate that to a potential employer without actually taking part in the world of social media? The children of today are growing up in a technology-saturated environment that I never knew, and although my Internet skills are passible now, I’m sure there will be a point in the near future when I cannot even navigate my way around a friend’s Facebook page.

Must I give in and fully enter the “social network,” or continue to resist, and accept that my skills and knowledge will always be obsolete at some point?