Earlier this week I started thinking again about cancelling my facebook account. I do this on a regular basis, like thinking about getting a tattoo or joining a Pilates class, but I usually talk myself into just limiting the number of minutes and hours and days I spend watching the tide that is my facebook Wall, rather than opting out altogether. (I also dismiss the notion of a tattoo on account of being scared of pain.)
And that’s what it’s like, isn’t it? The tide? You can sit and watch the tide for hours, seeing what gets washed ashore, poking about in the flotsam and jetsam for some interesting tidbits. Ooh! Look at that! Isn’t that cool? Isn’t that peculiar? Isn’t that odd? Err… Isn’t that a little bit too much information??
I think I joined facebook in the same way that a lot of people did: somebody whose opinion I value suggested I join up. As a long-time blogger, the whole notion of writing about myself ad nauseum was completely familiar to me and so I signed up with enthusiasm for this new opportunity to tell the world about the new recipe I had found or to complain about the weather or announce my plans to find a Pilates studio.
Then it became a useful – almost necessary – tool for keeping in touch with old friends. For a while, I think I believed that this was a really valuable function, and it quickly replaced the phone calls I used to make. I wouldn’t call someone to say hello, even if I hadn’t spoken to them in months, because I knew they were OK because facebook said so.
And then I started getting requests to play Farmville. Or change my status update to support a worthy cause. Or to ‘friend’ someone whom I had no real need to ‘friend’ (nor desire to, in some cases). And then I stayed up late, chewing my nails and worrying about how someone might feel if I unfriended them or even just unsubscribed to their updates. Because there are only so many times I need to be told how deeply and passionately and madly in love you are with your husband, or your car, or your mountain bike.
And then, oh my goodness, I started posting complete and utter rubbish on my own Wall, out of some sense of duty to keep my profile updated and fresh and current even if that meant writing about Sarah Palin.
And then? Then facebook did that thing AGAIN where they change the Privacy settings and I have no idea if someone whom I declined to ‘friend’ was now able to see the photos I was posting of myself doing tequila shots at the school reunion because they were the friend-of-a-friend and so had access.
And then I started getting notes in that sidebar-scrolling thing, where a friend of mine commented on a photograph of a friend of theirs whom I’ve never met, and I could click on that notification and suddenly see that person’s whole photo album. That bothered me a lot.
Oh, and also? I have two daughters, aged 11 and 13, and I would like to set a good example for them. See? It is possible to live without facebook, girls! I don’t want them to get sucked into the vortex of facebook. Especially when they’re supposed to be doing their homework. And since I’ve always had access to Madeleine’s account*, just so I can check it periodically for signs of cyber-bullying or worse, I’ve been able to read what some kids are saying to each other. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure I was having the same sort of conversations with my friends at that age. BUT I WASN’T HAVING THEM ONLINE WHERE SOMEONE COULD TAKE A SCREEN-SHOT AND EMAIL IT TO MY MOTHER OR SISTER OR THE GUY I HAD A CRUSH ON. The world is different, and not in a good way.
So these are the reasons I’m closing my facebook account**. In case you were wondering. I’ll let you know what deep impact this has on my life, if any. What I do hope will happen is that I’ll rediscover the art of letter writing and phone calling and actually visiting people face-to-face. I think I’ve let a few friendships atrophy a little in the mistaken belief I knew how they were going because we comment on each other’s status updates.
*I told Madeleine I was de-facebooking and she revealed that she’s been considering doing that, too, because “I don’t have time for it now I have a puppy, and nobody says anything interesting anyway.” That’s my girl.
** I’m doing it right now. Goodbye, facebook!