It was early 2006, if I remember correctly. Hi5 was getting popular. It was a social media where each new member is encouraged to invite 5 of their friends to the platform. My friend asked me why did not I accept his invitation. I told him that I had an email account (Yahoo!), which for now was enough for me. He tried his best to convince me that Hi5 was good for sharing photos and chatting. He still failed. I did not even have a digital camera till early 2007 to share the photos. I told him that I would rather email the friends I care about, instead of joining another random platform.
2. Dawn of the Facebook
Later that year, I would join the engineering faculty, and in mid 2007 I joined the department of computer science and engineering as an undergraduate. New social media platforms were getting popular. Everyone had started talking about Facebook. At some point, a clear majority among the 100 of us in the batch had joined Facebook. I was not among them, despite having received an invite from one of my good friends. My reasoning was still valid - I had a very active Gmail account which I used for sharing photos and sharing emails (including cute pictures of cats and jokes, as well as the emails to project mailing lists and class email groups dedicated entirely for friendship and fun).
3. The Entry
In 2008, a lecturer who was teaching us Software Engineering finally managed to get me into Facebook. He asked us to create a Facebook group for his course, where he would initiate group discussions based on the lecture sessions we had. I was not impressed in the beginning by this idea. However, I eventually started to become active in Facebook by the mid of 2008. It felt great when I was able to connect to the friends from different continents. My school friends were distributed across the globe, and receiving messages and updates from them was so encouraging. Apart from the friends I already knew, I also got to know new friends from Facebook itself through mutual friends, and some online communities. My Facebook account was entirely dedicated for fun and friendship by that time.
4. Intern Diaries
I joined WSO2 as an intern in September 2008. The company encouraged everyone to be active in social media, and motivated us to collaborate and communicate in social media, spreading the word about what we do as a team. By early 2009, I had a Facebook account that also contained technology related posts in addition to that of a regular undergraduate that just had funny posts and photos. I even had friend requests from a few customers of the company. My Facebook friend list had grown above 1500 by that time, spreading across the globe. By that time, I knew that my Facebook account was a reasonably valuable asset to me, and losing it or deactivating it was never an option.
5. Professional Gangster
Around the end of 2009, I had become a professional Facebooker. I was aware of the scams of Facebook. I also knew which were the dodgy links and how viral posts were born. I never clicked or shared anything that had a hidden agenda. I carefully avoided politics. My Facebook was still in its golden era. There were even random people asking me questions through Facebook about some of the technology posts I made. As I completed my second Google Summer of Code in 2010, my Facebook had more content intense in technology with links and often content I wrote by myself. I also joined WSO2 as a software engineer later that year.
6. Social Media Pro (alias shameless promoter)
In the latter half of 2011, I was leading the social media engagement of the company and had shared massive amount of promotional material. Later in 2012, I quit my job to continue my higher studies in Europe. I eventually became a frequent traveller, and shared many of my travel stories and photos online, in Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger. Facebook became even more important to me, as I used it to connect to my friends back in Sri Lanka. It also helped me get news updates. I basically was logged in Facebook always. Never logged out.
My Facebook started to age, along with me. :P As we grow older, it also reflects in the social media. The number of fun posts started to decline while more promotional content from companies and photos of babies started to appear more frequently. When I went to China in 2014, I made sure to install and configure the relevant proxy and VPN solutions so that I would not miss the updates when I was away, since Facebook was otherwise inaccessible from China.
8. Facebook Wars
By 2015, I knew how "visionaries" or "thought leaders" and "idols" from Sri Lanka and other countries would manipulate their follower base to get their views across. It was easy for them to sensationalize their view points than merely stating the facts. Sometimes it got annoying to see how a large base of followers fall for trivial tricks and scams. It was easy for the visionaries to provoke an unsuspecting victim for their hidden agenda. Politics - I tried my best to avoid - was not always easy to omit. I had to engage in multiple occasions, when it appeared in my feed. I started to give my voice for whatever I felt was right.
9. Getting Intense
There were some failed politicians in Sri Lanka (as well as globally) starting to use social media to spread racism in order to regain the grounds. They did not have a really huge follower base. But they did have support from some "social media stars" and "thought leaders". Racism - I loathe in any of its forms. I tried my best to voice against the online bullies and racists, without sensationalizing the view points. In my observation, the IQ or EQ of average Facebook population was very minimal. Though I had a very intelligent LinkedIn, lately I noticed that this had started to happen to my LinkedIn as well. I unfollowed bulks of people who shared irrelevant content on Facebook and LinkedIn.
10. LinkedIn as another Facebook
I wanted my LinkedIn account to contain professional and educational material. Though not many of my contacts did that, still some irrelevant posts from the 2nd level connections ("connections of connections" or "friends or friends", though I do not usually call LinkedIn connections as "friends", unlike Facebook). Those who solve simple mathematical equations (even with the claim that only geniuses can solve them), those who claim how a few thousands likes will help them feel happy, help them quit smoking, or even help them recover from cancer, those fake recruiters who would ask you to like or post "interested" in their post so that they can review your profile, those who posts their random cute photos, those who seek prayers in LinkedIn for themselves or their far relatives, and also those who posts photos dictating LinkedIn ≠ Facebook (quite ironically), all I had to unfollow - those who posted them, or those who interact with these posts by commenting or liking. Even if you comment "Please do not post this", it appears on your followers' feed. So somehow I managed to keep my LinkedIn clean.
11. Unfollow Marathon
However, things were different in Facebook. I did like to get updates - random updates - from Facebook. I liked political posts - but not the way they appear sensationalized. I unfollowed around 500 racists and those who simply posted spam or clicked "virus contents" from my Facebook over my almost decade long stay in Facebook. However, racists and Facebook thought leaders managed to spread their view by commenting on others' profiles. Same story with those who posted annoying posts. I realized I was spending more time managing Facebook, which was not effective and worse - counter-productive. The social media is made in a way that it promotes viral content, regardless of its lack of quality.
12. Demise of a Facebook Star
One of my close friends had deactivated his Facebook, citing similar reasons. I decided to finally deactivate my Facebook account. After 5.5 years, I did not fail to notice that the Facebook deactivate and permanent delete options remain the same, with no change in display or user experience, regardless of tens of major reformations of Facebook itself.
13. Final Good bye
I re-assigned the ownership of the Facebook groups I had created to those I trusted as suitable candidates. I also sent my contact details to my Facebook friends, who would lose contact with me otherwise. By mid-December, I deactivated my account, and kept it deactivated for 2 months successfully, without ever going back. I did re-activate it once in a while to send some quick messages, as required. However, I was simply able to break the habit of social media. I rather increased my updates to my Blog and twitter. If in the future, a better social media platform appears, I would of course give it one more try.
14. The End
This marks the end of my 8 year long Facebook life - the rise and the fall of my Facebook kingdom. :P My friend who initially deactivated his account had it reactivated though. However, looking back, I felt like I had travelled in a circle. I feel like I have come back to the period of 2006, after 10 years. I do not really feel I am missing something by not having an account in the most popular social media platform of the world. It is not to boost that I am saving more time or have become more productive. We always find ways to waste some of our time in the Internet, regardless of the existence of Facebook. Just I find that my time with Facebook has come to an end. I will however continue writing in the other platforms, such as this blog and my Twitter account.