The day facebook died for me was March 11th, 2011. Not a very auspicious date. 3.11.11. It would be more poignant if it had happened on January 1st.
I could blame my mother. Not for the lack of auspicious date, but for facebook dying. But that wouldn’t be fair. Nor would it be very accurate. Plus, my mom is awesome. And when I say that facebook died for me, I intentionally say “me,” though lately – as in, the last six or seven years of my life – I’ve become acutely aware how ideas I have are often shared by hundreds of thousands of people. Maybe millions. So maybe it’s happened to you, too. Or it will happen. Or it is happening.
First of all, I came to realize something. Now, this isn’t exactly the reason, because the reason was emotional and emotions aren’t, by definition, reason. This is the nice puff-adder to the emotional response after the fact. And that is this: facebook, or my use of facebook, actually went against much of who I am, or think I am, or strive to be.
For the life of me right now I can’t think of what those things are. I just had them, just before I sat down to write this. Damnit.
I mean, I could say all the obvious things. Facebook is a soap box of narcissism. Facebook, and most social media like it, is not about being legitimate, but being entertaining, or clever (and that could be redundant, since cleverness that’s given attention is usually entertaining).
There’s something that happens when someone tries to endorse something. If it’s their own wares they’re looking to peddle, then you have to be way clever about it. You have to chocolate-coat it. If it’s someone else’s stuff you’re endorsing, that’s a little more humanistic of you, and you may get some people on board. But that’s just it – this whole thing of getting people on board.
I was just sitting there minding my own business one day in early 2008 when I got this thing in my email that this girl had requested I be her “friend.” It was a girl I hadn’t seen for almost ten years, just someone I had met while on some job in New York and there had been some chemistry. That was it. I accepted the invitation and became a member of facebook. It all happened very fast after that. I sought out a few people to get the ball rolling. I turned a few of my close friends onto it. After that, the viral thing happened. Not really crazy viral, just a little bit of a cold. A sniffle that lasted for a short while leaving me with about 300 friends. The last of these, of course, being those wonderful persons I cited in the paragraph above. Difficult to say no when certain people friend you, isn’t it? And then your activity on facebook becomes one of diplomacy. You try to keep your stuff “clean,” and you try not to get into anything too controversial. Keep your nose clean and fly low. Where’s the fun in that?
In truth, I hated peddling to people. So I tried to sell a few books? So sue me. But it didn’t sit with me anyway. Many people I thought would respond didn’t (okay, I thought everyone who knew me and who had ever knew me would respond, I thought people would say, “holy shit, he wrote a book – holy shit, he wrote three books! And the games would begin) and that made me feel bitter toward them. I started going around thinking that people were corrupt, that my friends were just products of the system, apt to pay 80 bucks for a restaurant dinner they would excrete out soon after rather than a measly ten or fifteen bucks for my product created over three years of blood sweat and tears (with original cover art!) But there I was, a product of the system myself, buying into this garbage that with a website, facebook and twitter I would have the “magic triangle of trust” and envelope all of these potential fans.
Later it came to my attention that facebook, or any other social media, isn’t away to enlist new fans, or clients. You can only take your existing friends and make advocates out of them. And this comes back to not being legitimate, but being entertaining. Let’s not mince words; it means manipulating them. I don’t want to cleverly cajole somebody into liking me or my product. I understand that this is done all over the world by millions of people everyday, and it just doesn’t jive with me personally. I’m not a businessman.
Facebook just started to make me feel down. Down that I was bitter towards the personalities I knew on there, down that I didn’t “have what it takes” to effectively market to them, and down that the whole thing even exists in the first place.
So, you say, just have fun. I guess the problem there is twofold. One, I’m not the most frivolous cat on the planet. My girlfriend agrees I can be funny, but it’s a secret kind of funny, she says. It’s reserved for my family and close, in-person friends. The other thing is, my group of facebook friends had grown to include all sorts of people I would never let loose around at any other venue. Extended family to be treated with a certain sensitivity. People I knew through business affairs. Acquaintances; people I had just seen once or twice. The people I friended because they were friends of friends, well, those people are okay. That’s the audience when your doing stand-up. And we all know you can say just about whatever you want doing stand-up, as long as there is some universal quotient, as long as it’s funny. But the way facebook evolved, those people never appeared on my home page, and I sure never appeared on theirs. Instead, it became just the usual suspects. As the anthropologists and sociologists will tell you, humans have always tended to small gatherings. Fifteen or so people in your gang, and that’s about all your little brain is equipped to handle. Facebook became just like that, with the same people commenting or liking, and appearing in the feed.
So then why keep up with it? Before I was able to deactivate my account, facebook took me through a couple of steps. It felt like the crescendo of a movie when they break out the strings, zeroing in on your tear ducts. There was a picture of my son and my girlfriend and I, happy at dinner. There was a picture of my niece and son together, eating marshmallows. I felt like I was about to destroy their memories. I was going to lose this identity of mine, and lose some connection to them. But what is that? An overactive imagination, for one. And really nothing more than what a good old fashioned photo album can achieve on its own anyway. Remember sitting on the couch and browsing through photo albums? Remember popping VHS cassettes into the VCR and watching home movies? No different.
Then I thought of the people I knew who never had it in the first place. My brother. My girlfriend’s brother. One of my oldest friends. My stepfather. They were all still alive, still breathing, doing just fine. And my ancestors had made it through, too.
Still, I hesitated. Why? Well, what about all the books I could sell? Yeah, well, after two years plugging my literary efforts on facebook, I’d sold about a dozen books. But the dream dangled, like devilish, shiny lure. I batted it away. What about when I blogged a new post on my website? Who would know? Who would go read it?
The answer to that: who cares. In fact, the answer to just about all of the questions and concerns regarding facebook: who cares.
So, I did it. I killed my facebook. I went through the steps and shut it down. Afterward, I felt the kind of liberation and relief you feel after getting out of a troubled and dysfunctional relationship. One that you’d hung in on because of your addictive nature, or your fear of being alone, or your need of validation. One that you hung on to, in other words, for all the wrong reasons.
I told myself, you’ll get more work done. I told myself, this is what Ayn Rand would do. I told myself, this is what’s legit. Because trying the angle of being legit on facebook would not be legit at all, but entertainment in disguise. The only thing true was to destroy it.
I told myself these things. I am telling myself these things now. I’ve quit other stuff in life, much harder substances to kick, one would think. I’ll be tempted tomorrow to use, oh I know it. I’ll be tempted the next day, too. To pick up that mouse and flick it over to the browser and start to type: f – a- c –
I shudder to think it. But I can be strong. I can get through this. I wonder if there are any support groups out there? Is there an AA for facebook?
Or maybe there are suitable cross-addictions. I started drinking a lot of caffeine after I quite drinking.
Maybe, I think, I could go back to Friendster…
P.S. Perhaps the Detroit Symphony Orchestra could sympathize with me. For years now they have been…well, orchestrating musical events. Getting musicians gigs, getting the people something to see and do other than throw rocks through windows of abandoned buildings in Detroit. The DSO is awesome, and relies on its patrons and contributors to sustain itself. Recently the DSO made one itty bitty little post on facebook about how they would like to see more donations and support, and WHAM, everybody was in a tizzy. All the people who like to make “issues” out of things jumped all over the DSO and 180-some comments later, they were just another smoking ruin. Well, not really, they’re doing fine, but you see the point. You can’t use social media for anything other than blowing all the people all the time.
P.S. Oh! I just remembered what one of my reasons were, one of my this-is-not-me reasons I figured out after getting mad at facebook and killing it.
That simple. Facebook is ephemera. We seem to be spiraling down to smaller and smaller bits of ephemera. I heard now there’s some site where you can only post one word. Soon it will be only one character.
All those “conversations” on facebook, those wonderful threads after someone posted something entertaining and everyone hopped on to make clever remarks about it, that will be all gone. And hey, maybe its my repressed fear of death talking, but I like the idea of lasting value. Even if it means sitting here alone on my off-line laptop and writing this. I’d rather do this. I really would. Sure, I’ll think about posting it later to my website and all…
I’m liberated! It’s true, I’m telling you. I’ll write for the fifteen people in my hunter-gatherer gang. Or the two that read my blog this month. Or just for me, just me, as I sit here.
Lawd lawd, as my pal Zeke would know, turkey and biscuits, lawd lawd. Be well, do your thing, and don’t get kilt by nobody.