Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why I left Facebook

I've always felt participating on Facebook is way too evocative of Junior High School days.  And not in any good way.

[A note of explanation to all readers under the age of, oh hell, just for you young ones, OK? Let's not get into the numbers.  What I endured as Jr. High is now called Middle School. Onwards.]

In my public Jr. High school there were all sorts of activities built into the school year that seemed designed chiefly to underscore how popular you were (or were not).  Student Council elections, cheerleader elections, student dances, movie days.

The most egregious offender was a series of fund raisers where for a contribution, groups of student council members (aka the popular kids) went around from one classroom to the next delivering carnations with a knowing flourish to...you guessed it....all the other popular kids.

If you couldn't figure out for yourself how popular you were (or were not) the evidence was there at the end of each class period.  Clear as the flowers not on your desk.  Not that most of us needed the visual. Most of us were all too aware of our status.  Trying to find a way to live with, or in spite of that, was the emotional burden we carried along with our textbooks day to day.

On Facebook the "friend"counts and incessant thumbs uping and downing were taking a similar toll. It felt so much, too much like an online lunch room with the attendant strain of figuring out where it would be safe to sit.  The constant rankings and ratings, the cookie cutter thumbnail indicators of "we are FOR this" or "we are NOT FOR that" began to feel like a very unspecial episode of Glee, minus redeeming musical interludes.
I resented how every online shop and brick and mortar store now insisted I like them on facebook.  I was supposed to share my purchase information, offer product reviews. Suddenly every social or political action taken carried along with it an expectation I would next-step: use my wall to re-publicize the cause.

I clicked and posted, filling my page with videos, petitions and updates on my every waking thought and mood, yet I was never sharing anything particularly special or unique.  It was all so packaged.  So contrived.  So... commercial.  There was not much about myself or my life on Facebook that a quick rummage through our trash cans, recycling bins or worse yet, a quick scan of my credit card receipts wouldn't similarly reveal.

Was there anything of the real me on Facebook or was it all simply manufactured simulacrum?  Did it matter?  Did I care?

There were boundary issues.  On Facebook there is a pile of permanently preserved detritus unearthed by the less than judicious post. For me it all began to take on creepy overtones. Pulling up certain people's pages on Facebook felt way too much like driving  s-o   v-e-r-y    s-l-o-w-l-y  around a neighborhood to spy on other people's front porches or into their garages.

Sure I could see what was posted there.  But should I?  Who's fault was it if when I looked?

I was becoming way too comfortable alternating between indulging other people's inner flasher and/or my peeping tom.

It all came to a head the day I got the email informing me my account had been hacked.  I was advised to change all my passwords and email links.  Everywhere.  The vulnerability of trying to be so very accessible to everybody meant that in my case, the site had become a Trojan horse.

I kicked myself as I reset log-ins for all bazillionty sites I frequent.  I had met the enemy and she was me.  I thought about what I stood to gain and what I stood to lose, then simply took my page down.

I let a few people know, but mostly I just quietly bugged out.  Within the span of a few key strokes I willingly, knowingly, relinquished the capability to effortlessly view relationship status updates and uniformly adorable baby photos of my friend's kids and grandkids. I accepted I would no longer be able to send messages to or be virtually reminded of other people's birthdays, anniversaries or travel plans.  

So far, so good.  I realize my absence makes it a little more time consuming for other people to keep in touch.  It will take more to get caught up with Actual Me than simply scrolling down a page to check for breathless updates on the weather or my latest purchase.
I'm OK with that.


Erika said...

well... I googled "eggplant butter" and you were the first link. I read your offering and decided that I "like" you bc of your perfect analogy about elastic pants, I'm one of those girls too. How could I not like you? Austin, Hill country, humor: my kind of girl! So I'm looking on your page for the "fb like" so I can keep up with all of your bright ideas easily, and there you are falling off of the wagon!

TexasDeb said...

Erika: Ha! My record for off timing remains intact. Welcome and sincere thanks for all the kind words. Hope you'll simply keep up with me here. I can tell you'll bring lots of pizzazz to the table.

Tina said...

Amen, sister! I'm on Facebook, but barely. I joined to be part of a group that in real life, I have no time for, although I wish I did. I realized early on, that FB "community" really isn't true community. That belief was cemented when one of the members of this group died after several months of (apparently) being very ill. None of these "friends" had any clue this person was sick. I also noticed that less than a handful of FB friends assisted in any preparations for the memorial service. So much for community or friends. I don't think these folks are bad, just limited in what they believe community is. I could go on, but won't. I still like you and your blog.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: Aww. Thanks, lady. I like you and your blog, too!

I reluctantly joined FB to share photos with a group I see once a year. Not everybody in the group ever joined, and again, I always had issues. (As our running family joke goes "years....years and years of therapy....)....

PassivePastry said...

I understand completely and so well put.
I am a first-generation facebooker... having been a member since it was introduced and open to large University students only. It has been really interesting to see it evolve, now my grandparents and relatives I haven't seen in years are "liking" my photos and commenting on my life. My 12 year old niece is flirting with boys in her class through it, people are writing catty comments to their ex's new lovers, etc.
As you know, I have had the opportunity to be disconnected from it for months at a time and I find myself overwhelmed by all the changes going on and the details everyone is willing to share about their lives. nevertheless, it is the only way i am connected to a lot of my friends and past schoolmates who are located all around the world- i can't severe my ties from it just yet. poo for me, but good for you. :)

TexasDeb said...

PPastry/Jen - First off - congratulations on your decision to stay in the Peace Corps for another year. I want to say once more for the record how proud I am of you!

As to FB it is entirely appropriate for you/your generation to be there, but for me it always felt forced, like an unnatural pose. I've got all sorts of other ways to stay connected (living quite the opposite of a young adventurer far away from home) and I'll use those preferentially until/unless something changes.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I deleted my facebook and it's the best decision. I don't need to know what's on everyone's mind. Half the time I'm depressed to find they're thinking stupid, narcissistic stuff. Too much pressure to keep up the popularity contest. If you ever wanted to go back to high school or middle school, just get a facebook account. Anyone I liked or once respected lost their mystery and allure on there. I knew that I would lose mine if I got more addicted and fell into it all...so bu-bye facebook. I will not be another victim!
You can read more of my thoughts on facebook at my blog:


TexasDeb said...

Anon: Thanks for weighing in. Wow - an entire site devoted to your ill will towards FB. And so many commenters on your site as well. (I'll admit it - I'm a little envious.) There is certainly a lot of energy there - clearly Facebook engages folks on a deep level - positively or negatively.