So, why leave Facebook? I’ve certainly taken advantage of its networking potential and also used its benevolent aspects to reconnect with old friends and promote my creative projects. And I do occasionally find something of interest in the links that other people post. The reasons for my leaving now are myriad and complex, but I suspect will ring true with many who read this.
REALLY, IT’S NOT YOU... IT’S ME.
Barack Obama was re-elected last November and, while it was the outcome I had hoped for, the reaction in the country made it impossible for me to ignore the fact that this nation is hopelessly divided. It’s truly Us vs. Them. Seeing the vitriol--on both sides--covered in the media made me despondent. And it spilled over onto the newsfeed on Facebook; I was actively bringing it into my own home. And since--amazingly--I really don’t know 5300 people (how did I get 5300 friends when the limit is 5000?) a lot of venom was being spewed at me first thing in the morning from a bunch of strangers. In early December I decided to take a break from Facebook and, during that break, decided I would also pare down my friends list. I retained those individuals that I either actually did know personally, or had had pleasant interactions with on the site. That got rid of a cool 4500 names. (Took about a week to do manually, if you’re considering a similar action.) There was a subset of eliminatees that, while I did really know them, the last Facebook interaction we'd had was when I accepted their friend request. Why keep them on? And finally, as long as I was clearing dead wood, I realized some of my real-life friends, well... I wasn’t actually too fond of them.
Long story short--when I logged back on to Facebook in January I had just [just!] 800+ friends on my list.
(Oddly, several people wrote to ask me to reinstate them. I thought, you’re just noticing now?)
I hadn’t really missed posting daily updates and as I scanned the newsfeed I didn't see any essential information I couldn’t have gotten elsewhere, so the germ was planted to abandon Facebook for good.
REALLY, IT’S NOT ME... IT’S YOU.
With over a billion members, how could Facebook be anything but the lowest common denominator of human thought? I like the idea that--in theory--a discussion could be instigated among friends and strangers on some subject or other. But far too often the comments would get off-topic and I’d find that the conversation quickly went south. The abuse and ignorance directed toward other people’s opinions and them personally truly dismayed me. And I hate to break the news, but most people aren’t all that funny, even when they try. Bruce Villanch can deliver a pithy one- or two-word zinger. The rest of us should really sit back and observe.
I like hearing what other people have to say, but copying and pasting recycled thoughts as one's own, I just don’t get. Those faux-Victorian calling cards with the line drawings and “zingy” aphorisms give me apoplexy. (Of course, it should be noted that posting cute cat photos absolves all other Facebook sins.)
In short, what I think could be Facebook’s greatest aspect appeared to me to be corrupted.
OK, REALLY IT IS ME.
Above all, I’m abandoning Facebook because it is the direct cause of this blog going to pot. The place I had directed most of my creative energy has become moribund and stagnant. If a one- or two-line Facebook status update garnered 60 comments and 100 “likes”, why toil away on a well-crafted 1000 words? The essays I created on gusmattox.com--before there was a Facebook--provided the material for a book. I can’t imagine my “check-ins” and food photos selling very many copies between two covers.
My plan is to return to essay writing with at least an attempt at regularity. Along with an occasional picture or paragraph or two of oh, I dunno, maybe what I saw on my hike that day. I may still post photos of a meal, but if I do I’ll most likely also publish the recipe. Everyone is free to subscribe to the blog so you can be assured you won’t miss a word. For now I plan to stay on Twitter (@TomJudson) if I feel the need to expostulate on something stat. I’m oh, so easy to reach--there’s an email link right at the top of this page--and it’s not like I'm heading off to the Arctic.
So, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it. Just think of this as a 783-word status update.