I Will Not Be Your Facebook Friend
Note: This post originally appeared on my Facebook profile one week ago.
Dear Facebook Friends,
First of all, sorry for the harsh seeming title for this thing I’m writing right now. I don’t mean it to be unfriendly, it’s just a fact. In one week I will once again be deactivating my Facebook account, and I don’t intend to return. Of course, that could change again one day, much like it did six weeks ago when I dusted off my profile to promote that competition I had entered. But I’m inclined to believe that won’t happen.
Facebook is a magnificently useful tool. I don’t doubt that it will endure as one of the things that most significantly changed human history, let alone our generation. On a global scale and on a personal scale, Facebook provides services the value of which no one can deny.
So why should I step away from this part of the internet? It has given me so much! The support I received from so many people for that aforementioned contest is just a fraction of the good that I’ve gleaned from Facebook since reactivating my account. I reconnected with old friends, I laughed at funny jokes, I received heartwarming messages from strangers, I heard some wonderful new music, I went to concerts I otherwise wouldn’t have known about, I saw pictures of my friend’s baby, who I had never seen before! All of this stuff is really, really great.
But at the end of the day, while I love all of these things very much, the fact is, I don’t love Facebook. I’ve tried to determine why that is, and I’ve had many conversations about it with people who enjoy Facebook, people who think it’s a necessary evil, people who’ve never opened Facebook, and people who have also periodically opened and closed their accounts. I’m perfectly comfortable with my decision to not use Facebook, but in the effort to make a cordial departure, I’ll try to explain what it is about it that I’d rather not have in my life.
For me it really comes down to a conversation that I had with a friend of mine shortly before the last time I deactivated my account, about a year ago. She was one of the last of my friends to ever make a Facebook account, and she was the first to deactivate her account entirely and not come back. She explained to me her reasoning, which I feel touches perfectly with my own feelings. I don’t think that everyone will agree. But I agree. She said that when she would visit this website, it would either be A: in order to post something she’s excited about or proud of or interested in or B: as something to do while bored. In case A, she would be met with “likes” and comments and approval in many forms, and she would feel good about herself. She’d feel cool. In case B, she would scroll through and see all of the things that her friends were excited about or proud of or interested in, and she would feel uncool, because she’s not doing anything cool, she’s just being bored on Facebook. These are two caricatured cases to emphasize the extremes, but they are definitely both cases that I have experienced myself. And perhaps that’s more indicative of a personal self-esteem problem than it is of a need to stop using Facebook, but the fact remains that Facebook is, among other things, a stage to jump onto or jump off of in order to compare oneself to others.
Another friend of mine once shared with me the two things he knows to be true in life: You shouldn’t ever think, “if only it had been this way” or “if only I had done this differently”, and you shouldn’t ever compare yourself with other people. I agree with those things, and I think that by not being on Facebook I will do less of the latter. That’s reason enough for me to be leaving.
The most sensible objection I’ve heard and anticipate hearing more is, “why don’t you just go on it less? Why don’t you just use it to keep in touch with friends and that’s all?” My answer to that is, I can’t. When I have a Facebook account I tend to automatically log on like I automatically check my email, and I usually don’t log off until I’ve already missed the chance to do whatever productive thing I was planning on doing when I went to my computer. It’s a weird addiction, and I honestly don’t feel that I can control it. And you might say, “of course you can control it! You just need to try harder!” But I just don’t think it’s worth trying harder. I think I can keep in touch with people well enough without it. And the positive things it brings me and has brought me don’t justify the negative costs.
Again, let me emphasize that I’m just talking about myself here. I do believe there is responsible, positive Facebook use. I just don’t think it’s for me.
I won’t be checking my Facebook account anymore after I post this. I’ll leave the account open for one more week, and then in a week I’ll sign in, read and respond to whatever comments may have been left on this post, and then I’ll deactivate. I apologize for the inconvenience I may be causing anyone trying to communicate with me, but this is a personal decision and it’s important to me. Now, as before, and continuing forever (unless otherwise indicated) I am best reached online by email at m________@_____.com. My phone number is 323-___-_____.
I also will continue writing stuff on my blog at http://fourththing.wordpress.com and on Twitter, where my username is @mickeymangan
And now I will try to provide As to any Qs you might have:
Q: Wait, you have a blog? Isn’t that the same kind of digital self-promoting garbage you are leaving Facebook to avoid?
A: Well, yeah. I guess it is. Isn’t that weird? But it’s also a little different. My blog won’t ever show up uninvited on your screen. You’re simply welcome to go there whenever you want if you’re interested in witnessing me forcing myself to practice writing.
Q: Okay, but how do you explain having a Twitter account?
A: I never said I didn’t like trying to make people laugh or share things I find interesting. Twitter’s really good for that. It’s a fun way to connect with new people around the world while somehow sparing me the feeling of being intrusive that I get on Facebook. Also, Twitter limits the amount you’re allowed to write in a post. I think that limits encourage creativity. Facebook doesn’t have limits. (None that I’m aware of, anyway.)
Q: How are you going to keep up with friends you made while traveling?
A: The same way I’ll keep up with you. We’ll be friends.
Q: This whole post makes you come across as self-important. Why do you think people care so much?
A: Yeah, I guess it is a little presumptuous to think that someone would even care or notice that I’ve left Facebook. I know that many people hadn’t noticed the last time. But I figure that maybe somebody would wonder at some point, and maybe this will save them any concern. Besides, isn’t that what Facebook is for? Feeling important?
If you can think of any other Qs, post them in the comments and I’ll A ‘em in a week. That’d also be a good place to post any links to what you’re up to so that I can bookmark them.
Please stay in touch. I will too. And remember, just because I’m not on Facebook doesn’t mean I won’t donate to your charity or back your Kickstarter campaign or run in your 5K or read that thing you wrote or go to your concert or buy your record. Just shoot me an email.