I’ve been taking a quiet, not-very-strict break from Facebook for the past few weeks. I didn’t post a dramatic farewell. I didn’t delete my account. I haven’t ruminated on my wall about the pros and cons of such a choice. I just… haven’t liked how I feel when I go on Facebook lately. And because I’m not the kind of person who likes feeling yucky, I’ve just… not gone there.
But, now that I’m sort of ghosting Facebook, I’m realizing some things about it. About why I hate it. Why I love it. Why it makes me feel yucky, and why I can’t just forget my password and never sign in again. (Though I have done that at work. I had to clear my cookies. And I’m too lazy to reset my password everywhere else and I don’t remember either password. So I can’t get on Facebook or Twitter at my desk, and it’s sort of amazing.)
I suspect that my observations may resonate with folks, so I thought I’d share them. Also, writing them out helps me think through and unsnarl them for myself. I’m going to plunk them down here and see what threads I can start to tease out.
Learning Things vs Feeling Inundated
I have certain friends who have taken it upon themselves to educate their Facebook family. For whatever reason, they feel like the however-many people who are receiving their posts need to be constantly kept abreast of Information with a Capital-I.
Much of this is political. Some of it is pre-election politics, but frankly, these people talk politics when there’s no election to be had. Some of this is social – commentary about what’s in the news, for example. Sometimes, it’s the latest feminist / environmentalist / whateverist take on some cultural phenomenon.
And sometimes, with those posts from those people, I learn things. I like learning things. I like learning things enough, and I like those people enough, and those posts are intermittently valuable enough to me that I continue to follow those people and their posts.
However, when I’m not in a learny mood? Or when I have already read quite enough about whatever topic is being posted about? Those people, and their hyper-informative posting can get… Preachy. Or when the 2-3 hyper-informative posters become a crowd of 12-15 hyper-informative people? Or if those 2-3 take to Facebook and just decide to up how often they are linking to things?
At this point, maybe because it’s an election year. Maybe because of a combination of my mood and a bad mix of too many people deciding I don’t know enough and having too much time on their hands… I’m seeing way too much of this type of post right now for my taste, and not enough baby pictures.
Instead of feeling vaguely interested, and like my intellectual curiosity might want to go haring off on an adventure, I feel… I feel like I’m inadequate.
I feel like I’m not a good enough feminist because I just don’t want to find out what the casually sexist things I should stop saying are, or because I don’t think I need to download the chrome app that stops me from saying “sorry” in my gmail.
I feel like a bad American because this election is full of yahoos that I don’t want to vote for. I don’t want to click on any one of those links about any of those people doing or saying something I disagree with. I don’t click on any of it.
Yucky feels #1 for the potential pay off of 1 possible click through of an informative read out of what 15-20 links I scroll past?
Let’s Chat About Post Spam vs. Anti-spam
Never the twain shall meet.
So what happens is, my feed is full of BOTH sets – like a pair of dueling banjos.
I have 5 minutes to chill before I have to go do something stressful. Can I just see a photo of your dog doing something adorable? Status update of what you’re up to today that is out of the ordinary? Funny thing your kid said? Picture of awesome lunch? Anything.
Nope. I get to scroll through the dueling banjos of spam and the information-holics.
Then there are the THINGS THAT JUST WANT TO MAKE ME CRY
I really feel like a horrible person because I don’t do anything to help the abused animals – WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE POST HORRIBLE PHOTOS OF ABUSED ANIMALS?
Seriously. I rescued all of my pets. I love them. They are the starfishes in whose lives I’ve changed everything. I can’t do anything about the horrible abused animals and now I’m going to cry.
And how happy this dog is when he sees his Veteran master home from war?
Shut up. You’re crying. Not me.
Why do we post things that make us cry? Why? I don’t want to cry. This is not okay. Why do I want to get on Facebook to cry? I don’t.
I get on Facebook when I’m bored on a MARTA train and want to catch up on the mini-newsletter of my friends’ lives. Unless it’s your dog and your husband coming home from war, I’m sort of over all of it.
What I FREAKING LOVE about Facebook
You know what I love about Facebook?
I knew that my friends in Paris were okay. Or my friend in Egypt.
It’s a tool. It’s a powerful, global tool that can be a force for good in the world. It was absolutely essential to the early days of Saving Sweet Briar. Closed groups can be safe places to talk about things you wouldn’t want on wider social media, and can be powerful generators of ideas and “Packs” of people who can team up and create amazing things, like the quests I do in December. I feel like I know how my family members are doing, even though none of them live in my hometown. And sometimes, when you’re lonely, it can be a real way to reach out and connect with a friend.
It’s annoying to have to fiddle with settings constantly, and trying to fix the algorithm so it stops showing me that same Lifehacker post again and again.
It’s a tool. It’s a weird habit that I’m kinda breaking. But mostly, it’s a way to stay in touch with people – if we do it right.
Well, at least we’ve stopped poking each other.