Here’s the deal: I watched The Social Network the other night. I realize that it’s a fictional portrayal of Zuckerberg and the real life of this real person was Hollywoodized for mass appeal. However, it served to rekindle the undercurrent of ickiness that I feel when I use Facebook.
And I use Facebook a lot.
My friend, Jenny, introduced me to Facebook about three and a half years ago. She and I were friends in middle school and she tracked me down through LinkedIn. She shared her blog (Something Made Different, which showed me that her quirky sense of humor had survived adolescence intact) and suggested I check out Facebook.
Even back then, I had an anti-Facebook stance. Jenny understood, but still encouraged me to join.
“The dark side, though, has turned out to be pretty fun,” she wrote. “Even a little addictive, so watch out…”
Is it just me, or is this like something you’d see in an Afterschool Special?
And of course the next e-mail I wrote to her lamented the fact that I was letting my anti-Facebook ideals languish in a corner while I set up a profile for myself.
In the dramatization of my life, this e-mail exchange would be followed by a musical montage of me sending hatching eggs, poking people, playing Facebook-based games, updating my status 57 times a day while getting angry at my daughter for interrupting me, and going on an orgy of finding and friending people I’d not talked to in nigh on twenty years, including some I didn’t even remember after I looked them up in my high school yearbook.
My addiction to Facebook, however, never will be dramatized because it’s not a unique story. Not remotely. If my life gets dramatized it will likely be for being the last person under age 70 without a smart phone. I just have to hold out for another year or two.
So, I’m thinking again about deleting my Facebook account. Even this isn’t unique, even to me. Every few months I think about deleting my Facebook account.
It used to be that even a deleted Facebook account would lie dormant on the site, just waiting for the escapee to reach the nadir of their exclusion from online social life and come crawling back. When they did, they found that all of their friends were right there waiting for them. They’d start back up on Facebook and it was like they never left.
Their escape really was no escape after all.
Then there came the apps that helped you commit “Facebook Suicide”, allowing you to watch as each of your friends was unfriended, all of your photos were deleted, each of the tags mentioning you were erased. One, Seppukoo, even created a memorial page for you. These apps themselves were quickly killed by Facebook.
Now, so Facebook says, they’ve made it easier to leave the site and delete your profile. I’m not sure I buy it, and I suppose there’s just one way to find out.
I stopped posting photos of myself and my kids about a year ago, but there are still dozens of photos of us on Facebook (and elsewhere) that others have posted. Even if I leave Facebook, I’ll still be on it. I just won’t know what about me is on the site anymore.
If I leave Facebook, I can no longer promote my blog there. That would be a blow since I still get most of my page views via Facebook. I can’t commute my personal profile over to my blog Page. The only way I could have my Facebook Page without having a personal page is if I delete myself and the page, then go back in and create a new blog Page from scratch. Which is possible, but kind of a lot of work. And I’d still be on Facebook.
Then I think about all of the other positive things Facebook has brought me.
It’s let me reconnect with dozens of people I barely knew in school and stay connected with the people with whom I actually want to keep in touch and with whom I’ve not kept in touch actively since we parted ways in the real world. Which I think includes about three people.
It’s helped me to get rid of possessions when we were moving away from Utah. I posted a note with the things we wanted to get rid of and within 48 hours, it was all spoken for (well, except for a table and a trunk, which I donated to a yard sale for a local nonprofit). I could have listed those on Freecycle or Craigslist, though.
It’s alerted me to nurse-ins and other protests, allowing me to give vent to my righteous indignation about a host of issues.
It’s provided a more reliable means of e-inviting people to parties and recitals.
It’s allowed me to quickly poll my Facebook-using friends about the best housecleaners and babysitters in the area.
It’s been a place where I could ask my friends to have their kids write my daughter letters to ease her loneliness after our recent move.
It’s reconnected me with my cousins.
It’s how I learned that my great-aunt had died.
On the other hand, it’s sucked hours and hours of my time away as I comment on even the most mundane topics and refresh endlessly throughout the day. It’s led me to yell at my kids for interrupting me while I’m trying to comment on something. It’s ruined my sleep when I’ve been unable to calm down after a particularly contentious comment exchange. It’s triggered arguments with my brother about homeopathy. It’s caused me to be proselytized by members of various Christian religious sects. It’s made it easy to be rude to people I care about.
I want to think I want to leave Facebook to uphold some kind of pure ideal. I would be leaving in order to hold myself to a higher standard. But really, I’d be leaving to fight this addiction I seem to have to the network.
And if I stayed, it would be for the sake of page views on my blog and because I worry about being left out of the loop. I worry that, if it’s not easy for my friends and family to keep in touch with me, as it is on Facebook, they simply won’t.
So the question really is, do I feed my insecurity by staying on Facebook, or do I cut myself loose and force myself to make personal connections or none at all?
Would deleting my Facebook profile help or hinder my pursuit of a more positive public life?
I suppose there’s always Google+.