Tremors of fear travel up the spine when people think about how to deactivate their Facebook account. I'm gonna do it! This is the last straw. We're through Facebook! We're done! But then they stay. I don't blame them really. When I deactivated my Facebook account, the social network's marketing team put four sentimental photos, lit with memories, under the "Are you sure?" message.
My wife was gazing back at me with beautiful eyes, "Mellody's going to miss you! Send her a message." One of my buddies was pointing at me, with a beer in his hand from my wedding, "Manny's going to miss you! Send him a message." My own brother was looking back at me, as he was giving me a bro-hug! "Eric's going to miss you! Send him a message."
I caved. I succumbed to the tremors up the spine, and held off disabling my account. I justified it by reminding myself that I manage a couple of business pages with my Facebook account, and would need it to moderate them. I opted to just trim my friends down drastically. I got the "friend" count under 80. It was just close family, real good friends, and anyone I'd actually sat down with and shared a coffee with in the last year.
The lite news feed was refreshing! But then there was this awkward disdain. People were offended that they were "unfriended." We haven't spoken in 11 years, Jimmy Bill from High School!
I exaggerate a little with the last one. A couple of people were mildly offended, but I never cared about that anyway. Two days later, the nagging was back, though. I wanted my Facebook account gone. So I followed through with my initial intuition and deactivated it. This time Facebook fought hard and had my precious Grandmother staring back at me. "Kathleen's going to miss you! Send her a message."
Dang. Broke my heart. I clicked confirm anyway! I'll call you this weekend, Mana, I promise.
I can't put my finger on it precisely, but there are a few reasons I canceled my Facebook account, and these are in no particular order:
1.) Micro-Blogging Killed the Blogosphere!
It's not gone, gone, but micro-blogging put a large dent in the blogging world. People abandoned their blogs and started dropping little mini-blog nuggets, one little thought at a time. Eventually, it evolved into a small circus of self-promotion and who-can-be-the-wittiest contests.
I started "blogging," as it came to be known, in 2004 or '05. I wanted to express some random rants about religion and clubbing, or something, so I coded a basic website from HTML, hosted it on AT&T's homespace they used to have online, and kept updating it. To let viewers know what was fresh, I put summaries on the front page, with a little blockquote coded in for aesthetics.
People ate it up. Other people actually cared what other people had to say.
Later I found out that this was called a blog, that I was contributing to an emerging Blogosphere, and shortly after that, I stopped coding on my own and switched over to Squarespace so I could just publish what I wanted to say, and not worry about the dirty work behind the browser.
Blogs thrived for a while, then started withering about the time Myspace hit its tipping point.
When blogging was hitting its stride, we used to "visit" each other at our sites, engage, leave comments, and communicate. It was like visiting a friend at his home. Facebook, on the other hand, is like living in a college dorm where all our rooms look the same and we see each other all the time, occasionally engaging with each other in the common spaces, or writing a note on the door.
Blogging is like walking into someone's rich and unique environment, their ranch or condo, high rise apartment, or even tent in a park, hanging out for a little bit, breaking bread, and communicating. It fosters more creativity. It has more texture!
2.) Facebook was Leaching Off My Creativity.
I found that I was dropping little seeds of thought throughout the day via micro-blogging. A thought here, an observation there.
The problem with that is none of them ever grew into robust trees of discovery. Little sprouts here and there, but never a strong powerful evergreen! I was suspicious of this two months ago when I started This Blue Couch. Blogging made me a stronger writer, contributed to my essay writing success in college, and helped me fill content for four business sites, and one charity. Lately though it was all kind of, eh.
I felt the full contrast of this when I helped my wife with her Philosophy paper that compared Socrates' principles with Martin Luther King Jr. Normally I would just post quick insight about it via micro blogging, but by actually blogging about it, I produced more content, and dug into more sources. I got into MKL's Letter From a Birmingham Jail, and reviewed Plato's account of Socrates and Crito...and I found great online resources for both of them.
So instead of one quick paragraph on Facebook, I ended up with 1,000 words of reinforced knowledge, and an incredible new respect for the actions and wisdom of MKL Jr. That did it for me, Facebook was gone.
3.) I Wasn't Using Facebook for Its Original Purpose. (And Most People Aren't!)
This one became most clear to me when I linked my Twitter account to post on my Facebook account. I had already departed from Facebook at that time, just didn't admit it yet. I used to hate the people who constantly plugged stuff on their Facebook page, or threw up links, or used Twitter's hash tags, and then I became that person. Partly because Twitter is a better medium.
Then I started recording written thoughts again on the channel that I own, this blog. I would put a link to the articles on my Facebook page, but nobody cares about your links. They're obnoxious! On Facebook, if you want to tell me something, tell me something here. Don't make me click a link.
The problem is that I didn't want to be there anymore. I wanted to be here, on This Blue Couch. This is where I'm talking.
When I realized that Facebook had just become a platform for me to try to get others to join me on another platform, I realized it was time to go. If you want someone to actually follow you somewhere, you have to start walking there. If they don't follow you, they weren't going to go there anyway. Move along, Sir. Nothing to see here.
4.) I Was Scared to Leave Facebook.
This one is the hardest to explain, but I think it was one of the most compelling influences. I was scared to leave. ...so I left. NOTHING in the world is going to stop because you are no longer on Facebook. I promise. A few things locked this in for me.
1.) Twice, on separate occasions, I was on Facebook and noticed that I was missing a brother. One cancelled his account for 30 days of Lent. The other cancelled for, well I still don't know why, but he was gone for a while, and then miraculously back.
Nothing happened. I talked to either of them as frequently as I ever did before, via text messaging or emails. I even asked one about it, and found out about the Lent trend, but nothing dramatic happened. He was back later, and I was still there. That's it.
It's the same phenomenon as when a coworker goes on extended vacation. You're still there at work. They're not. A couple of weeks later they come back. You say hi and pretend to care about their vacation. Had they never come back, you might have wondered only once or twice where they went.
2.) I never checked often, but I'm confident that people have "unfriended" me. I never knew because I never noticed that I wasn't seeing them. That would imply that I never noticed them anyway, so who cares?
3.) People that I did know, died. They were on Facebook. Their pages haunted for a little bit, people left them messages on their page, we'll miss you, after they were already gone, and eventually the page went away. That one is very insensitive, but it is a reality of separation, and it should illustrate well that life is going to go on very well without you on Facebook.
I was scared to let go for reasons that I couldn't identify clearly. So part of discovering that is me letting it go.
What Happened After I Quit?
Honestly? I text more. I spend a lot more time on Twitter (which I prefer anyway!). And I'm more attentive to my email, which is where most of my business is conducted, so that's not a bad thing. I also blog. And in doing so, I exercise the creative mind considerably more than I used to!
This post is at 1,500 words. All of them are my words. All of them are contributing to a more concrete understanding of what social networking was for me, and what I want it to be. Instead of a fleeting quip on Facebook, I got richness and texture.
I'm not frivolously "liking" photos as much, and yes, I no longer know if one of my ancient high school friends got a new dog, or haircut, but I don't really know if I care yet. I can't say I miss it.
I will administer the business pages through my business partner's account, who's exposure as a comic is actually impacted by how many people are in his "friends" list. And if people want to find me, there are more than enough sources online that will point them right to here. And here I am.