Original posted June 5, 2013 (revised April 8, 2018)
Facebook, that is. Why, you ask? Well, so did 90% of my friends on Facebook. Why in the world would someone who has 900+ friends and a decent "following" deactivate their account? Their FREE account, mind you. What about family connections, high school connections, political connections, work connections? What about the umpteen photo uploads and tags, the clever postings, the ubiquitous "Likes," the ever constant stream of "news?" What about all of the missed birthdays and events and announcements and cat videos and Cheezburger quotes and memes?
OK, they have a point, all these naysayers. For all of these reasons, Facebook and its cousins for that matter (Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram etc.) are truly a wonder of our modern age. Social Media has allowed connections that might not have otherwise occurred, and established a social outlet for many. In my case, my family is thousands of miles away. I've missed births, deaths, birthdays, graduations, marriages, divorces, and while I may not have been there in person, thanks to Facebook, I've often been kept in the proverbial loop.
So, you would think that I'd want to keep my account, my profile, my claim to my nine-years-in-the-making cybersquat. And you would think that a person like me who enjoys writing and sharing my opinion—hence this blog—would want to maintain and, in fact, cultivate a following in the Social Media stratosphere. After all, what are opinions without sharing, and what is a blog without a following? In fact, in this day and age, some would go so far as to ask what is a life without logging into Facebook morning, noon, and night?
Perhaps the answer lies within that very question: What IS a life without logging into Facebook morning, noon, and night? Well, I'm about to find out, and while this was a surprisingly difficult decision, I actually feel refreshed and free. The truth is that while I think Facebook has many wonderful qualities, for me, at least, there are many I find disturbing, both within the structure of Facebook itself and the way in which it is utilized. In other words, my reasons for quitting are as vast and varied as my proliferation of friends. This all boiled down to the following.
1) With 900 "friends" and counting, how personal is "staying in touch?"
Facebook essentially decides whose Newsfeeds you see, based on your repeated patterns of navigation and whether or not you're willing to periodically update your preferences each time they change their layout. So, there's no guarantee as to who sees your posts and vice verse, unless you make a concerted effort to either keep your friends to a minimum or check in on certain people, while at the same time, commenting or "liking" their activities so as to generate an automatic Newsfeed.
Isn't email easier?
2) Of these 900 "friends" how many really are friends?
I have about a million family members, so that's a good portion of my pie, but if I'm being honest, I'd say maybe 100 of those 900 are people I actually know. Sure, I may have gone to school with some, or worked with some, but that doesn't mean I know them the way we used to actually know people we called friends. Just because I went to elementary school with Sally doesn't mean Sally is someone I’d want to know today, or, well, isn't a serial killer. I'll put this another way, my real friends have my contact information.
3) The constant barrage...
While keepin g in touch is great, I'm not so sure I need to know every single thing every single one of my "friends" is doing at every single moment of every single day. I think it's too much. This perpetual chatter is overwhelming while, ironically, a good percentage of the time the content is actually underwhelming. Mine included. I mean, do I really want to know when your husband is going in for his colonoscopy?
I realize that I may indeed be hypersensitive, but I honestly think that most of the time, social media content is either vitriolic, depressing, or frankly, so "Kumbaya" that it's kind of nauseating.
a) Vitriol. When did it become OK to be an arse? I think of computers as vehicles and the Internet as a highway. When you're in your car and an idiot cuts you off, it is somehow perfectly acceptable to curse them to hell and back. Why? Because you're safe within the confines of your seemingly distant space. The Internet is no different. You can be who you want and act how you want, behind the comfort and safety of a computer screen. And you can bet on it that people do.
There is a divide brewing in our country and culture, which is propagated by social media. People's religious and political preferences are public in a way never before seen. The landscape of privacy has changed inextricably and the old adage of "never discuss politics or religion" no longer exists. So, G-d help the person who disagrees. And G-d help where we're headed, because freedom of speech is one thing (and something I wholeheartedly support), while righteousness and bullying are something entirely different.
b) Depressing shit. I know that the whales, rhinos, and rain forests need saving. I know that there are countless homeless dogs and people. I know that breast cancer affects 1 in 8, and that human trafficking is alive and well and coming to a town near you. I know what happens to animals going to slaughter and how many toxins are in our air, water, soil and food. I know that our planet is dying, that our politicians are corrupt, that Iran has nuclear weapons, and that Kristen Stewart is gay. This week. At what point does all of this leave us so desensitized that none of it is ultimately important?
c) Kumbaya. Used to be you actually needed to do something to be considered wise and a suitable mentor, like, you know, get an advanced degree, write a book, cure a disease, head a country. Nowadays, we have unlimited access to all kinds of feel goods. In fact, there are companies dedicated to doing this, and for some reason, we all believe that pilfering and redistributing enlightening quotes somehow makes us Gandhi. So, while I think that this is probably a response to all of the aforementioned depressing shit and vitriol, and I do admittedly enjoy most of it most of the time, sometimes it's just enough already. As in, who in the hell is really THAT happy?
4) How safe is it?
Aaaaaaaaah.... I can talk for days on this topic. Yes, you can change your privacy settings on Facebook, but, again, when they add new gimmicks, most of the time this requires a re-review of your preferences. At this very moment, Timelines are NOT private, not in the way pages used to be. Our main photos and even some of our posts are public fodder, something many of us don't even realize, and something that cannot be changed. In fact, you may think that your settings are keeping you safe from public view, but when you comment on a page that is public e.g. a news channel, or on the page of a friend who has not updated their privacy settings, your comments are out there in Googleland. For. Ev. Errrr. This may not seem like a big deal, until you apply for a job and your comments about whatever (religion, politics, sexual orientation, sports) show up in a search and offend the person doing the hiring.
There has also been a lot of chatter about using smartphones to upload to social media, because of built-in GPS functions and the ease at which our every move is readily available to those who want it. This may appear über-cool until it is your child who is uploading photos of herself... at the beach... in a bikini. So, not only are you now a target for the gazillion ads that grace Facebook's pages (have ya noticed how many are targeted toward your likes and dislikes?), any wacko in mom's basement has access to your whereabouts! And your child's whereabouts. At the beach. In a bikini.
Which leads me to the sharing of countless photos of your most precious cargo, your children. I'll qualify this by saying that I don't have kids so I'm not here to judge those of you who do, and I do understand that sharing is indeed what we do in this ever shrinking world. But, I will ask that you please consider the risks and take precautionary measures. Because as vulnerable as you are, your babies are all the more so. Really, whatever you put out there—and trust me, I'm guilty of this myself—makes you a sitting duck for any loon who gets a feather up his bedonkadonk. Even if the loon isn't a pedophile or rapist, he may be an identity thief. I cannot reiterate enough about persistent vigilance as far as privacy settings go, because I promise you, Facebook isn't doing it for you and there's a reason why PleaseRobMe.com exists.
Here's where it gets really fun, folks. What if you "like" or comment on a page that is being scrutinized by the government? Yes, this really does happen, probably more often than we'd care to know. Let's pretend that the person you're "liking" is stockpiling weapons unbeknownst to you, or secretly plotting a coup. Now, you're on a list to watch simply because you follow this putz. Not to mention that some of the time, the person whose page you "like" isn't even the person you think it is, because it's pretty stinking easy to fake a profile. Just ask anyone who has ever tried online dating.
5) Facebook has effed up.
Lastly, we all know what's happened to Facebook of late. Zuckerberg is in the hot seat, and so he should be, and time will tell what will happen once he’s testified before Congress. Honestly, all I care about is that my data is out there, and besides the potential legal ramifications, it’s just plain icky to know that our personal information is for sale.
Look, maybe I'm onto something and maybe I'm just an old fart. At the end of the day, this is a personal decision and one that I've made with clarity and at the same time, trepidation. As an art director, I know the value of targeted marketing and social networking as well as the expectation that I remain attuned to the latest and greatest technological advances. As a military spouse, I know how lonely it can be to not have connections as we move from state to state and country to country. As a daughter, sister, aunt, niece, friend, I know that there are those that will miss my presence online as I will theirs. But I also know that keeping my ego in check is part and parcel of being a yoga instructor (my side passion) and living a yogic lifestyle. As is uncluttering and removing myself from the negativity and potential dangers, both the kind I perpetuate and the kind I'm drawn to in my Newsfeeds. Mostly, I know that vulnerability and metaphorically putting ourselves out there, is not the same as oversharing and actually putting ourselves out there, as discussed here by Dr. Brené Brown.
As I wrap this up, I am well aware of the irony of writing a blog I'll have a hard time promoting, not to mention that writing a blog is, in and of itself, a form of egotism. Hey, I’m a work in progress and I’m navigating new territory despite the fact that a decade ago this particular topic would not have even been on the radar.
So, what IS a life without Facebook? I'll let you know, if, that is, I can get you to follow me.
p.s. Full disclosure... I did deactivate my account for 9 months and I didn't miss Facebook at all. In fact, I felt less tormented about stupid stuff, and I read actual books, the kind with real pages and a smell. I went back on because part of being a Creative Director in today's world means staying abreast of the digital sphere, which includes social media. So, as of April 2018, I am once again (still)l on Facebook. Sigh.