Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pervasiveness - Facebook Chronicles

I rejoined Facebook last night after having left in December, 2011.  More than 3.5 years of doing my own thing and not worrying about what all my 1,2hundredsomething "friends" were up to.

Ugh.  I hate Facebook.  I really do.  I hate how essential it is to most people's lives, particularly social lives.  I hate how it owns all your photos and tracks your every move and targets marketing toward you and seems to replace actual, in-person communication.  I hate how they conduct experiments on its users.  I hate how they change it all the time.

I was pretty happy not being on it and not contributing to the Big Brother-ing of our culture but had an enlightening breakfast with my friend Hannah a few weeks ago.  I was a mess.  I had just learned of my ex and ex-friend's marriage.  I had strep throat.  AND I had a huge work deadline putting a lot of pressure on me.  I was telling Hannah how lonely and pitiful I felt this summer and she very directly told me, "I really think your not being on Facebook contributes to this.  I have to consciously think of you and remember that you're not on it when I'm creating invitations.  I think you just get left out of a lot of things because of it."  Usually I wouldn't mind being "left out" of things, but I know I've missed party and casual get-together invitations because of my absence.  People just use Facebook to replace direct communication, including invites.  It's a sad but true reality.

So I rejoined yesterday.  It's horrifying that Facebook bets on this.  ALL of my old profile popped back up like I hadn't been gone at all.  I saw all these names and posts that I didn't recognize, from years of working with international students.  But there they all were, bombarding me with questions.  I described it as though I'd just woken up and wandered into my living room in my underwear and all my friends were there in the throes of a big party.  I feel exposed and shy and weird.

I haven't been a complete social/technology hermit.  I'm very active on Instagram and Twitter.  But Facebook captures everything, I guess, and being away has made me even more socially awkward and anxious now.

I'm not putting the Facebook app on my phone or accessing it at work.  I'm keeping it at home only so I'm starting out with limited access and expectations.  I only want to use it to reconnect and keep up with old friends.  All those peripheral people who I'd accepted back when I worked with international students and felt bad or bitchy if I declined "friendship?"  If you don't know something personal or intimate about me, then you're getting ditched.  Not in a cruel way, but in a self-protective way.   I only want to interact with the truest of the true friends.

Does IRL (In Real Life) mean anything anymore?  Does it apply to Facebook?  The ubiquity of technology does not have to be a necessary part of life.  Useful, yes.  Necessary?  Perhaps at work.  But I will actively work to keep in-person relationships and communication a priority. 


Lori said...

I only have it on my laptop now. Took it off my phone and that felt really bizarre....for about an hour. No more "I'm here!" check-ins, no more "just glancing at" facebook when I'm with real people. It felt liberating and great. And yet I can still check in at home, when I'm alone, and that works for me kind of in the same way you're doing now, reacclimating. I made lists -- austin friends, my kids, ny friends -- so if I only have 5 minutes I can check in on the most important people and be done. The younger kids are apparently fleeing facebook so perhaps it'll just become the domain of we adults, who knows. But it does feel necessary, just as Hannah said. I for one was thrilled to see you back!

ste-pha-nie said...

In Real Life means so much more these days. I still write real letters to a few friends - I miss writing and getting them from my step mom (who passed a few years ago)....
The mobile app sucks. I haven't had the mobile app in like two years. But I check from work now and then, I admit. Let's get together and play for real soon.