Today I deactivated my Facebook account. The farewell messages were kind, but they gave me the sense that I’m casting off for unknown seas, leaving behind everyone I know.
It’s true that I live far away from my friends, and Facebook has helped me keep up with them. I know about their new jobs, what they’re having for dinner, what silly hats their babies are wearing. And I’ve actually enjoyed following the minutia of their lives. With the exception of a few people who turned out to be rage-a-holics or sharers of banal image macros, my friends have been a decent group of people to mingle with on the internet.
Why, then, am I exiling myself from their social landscape?
There are the ideological reasons. Surveillance. The idea of a big corporation inhaling all the joys and sorrows of my life, using “likes” to triangulate my very essence. Big Data. Marketing. The demise of privacy. Real names.
People reasons. Too many people. I prefer to present different facets of myself to old friends, new friends, relatives, professional contacts, and randos from the internet. (Not because I’m a phony, but because I don’t trust everyone equally.) On Facebook you have the choice between collapsing all distinction or filtering every photo and snippet of text. All of this has been stressful.
The need to focus. I click on Facebook and refresh it over and over again when I should be doing something else.
The need to forget. And for others to forget me. Sometimes mysteriousness is a virtue.
Preference for privately corresponding with close friends.
Related to above: nostalgia for more individualized, text-heavy communication. I miss zines, letters, and even the heyday of personal web sites. By contrast Facebook profiles are uniform and bland: expressions of a capitalist logic, all data entered into boxes and ready to be mined.
So there it is. My goal is to go without Facebook for a year and see where that leaves me.
When I clicked to deactivate, Facebook automatically generated a few goodbyes: “James will miss you. Kevin will miss you. Sam will miss you.” For a moment I felt melancholy about all these friends I might stop hearing from. Then I noticed that my husband appeared on the list of those who would “miss me” if I were to close my account. Suffice it to say Facebook is not the main arena of our relationship. Same with all my friends: they exist independently of their user icons.
So goodbye, Facebook. I’ll miss you too, but the time has come for us to part.
In the meantime I’m blogging. No one is reading yet, but I’m here.