Friday, August 10, 2012


This was supposed to be a post about how I went skydiving today. Only instead of jumping from a plane, which, is always the best option, my group of jumpers was delayed by a passing thunderstorm and then uncooperative winds that were blowing one way at ground level and, strongly, in the opposite direction half-a-mile up. We rescheduled.

I was taking pictures here and there throughout our 3-hour wait to jump and everyone kept asking to review the photos to approve them before I posted them to Facebook. Then I told them I had quit Facebook. Which surprised them. The organizer of the trip said he thought I'd defriended him. I don't find that curious--suddenly he can't contact me on Facebook, that'd be my first assumption as well. However, he never asked me about it. Not only was I going on a trip he organized to jump out of a plane, I meet with him every week as part of a workshop group. I sit and drink with this man more often than I do with almost anyone else. Yet, because he couldn't find me on his friends list to invite me to the jump whose details I'd already confirmed, he thought I'd dropped him from my list out of some unknown spite. And he never mentioned it to me.

When I initially thought about writing this "Why I Quit Facebook" post, I wondered what I could say that was new. I thought there was nothing to add to its annoying omnipresence, how every update ends up ruining something that worked, how looking at Facebook at all just makes me depressed. The thought struck me that the only thing more common than quitting Facebook is Facebook itself. Then I had that conversation and I realized that was the very reason I quit Facebook.

via Shmitten Kitten

Facebook makes us stupid in friendship, makes us stupid in our emotional connections. The site and our use of it becomes not just an interface between friends but an actual stand-in for that friendship. Our Facebook connection becomes our real-life connection. Facebook was depressing me because I didn't hear from my friends on Facebook. They didn't comment on my posts they way they commented on each other's, I'd set up events no one would come to, and couldn't get support for any of my Story Slam appearances. On top of all that, I was constantly worried I'd see my ex commenting on a friend's post or would worry about attending an event that she was also invited to.

I'm not saying any of this isn't small, petty, and pathetic, it absolutely is. I'm arguing, though, that Facebook exacerbates this, that it makes all the small hurts sting more because it's composed purely of the small things. If no one responds to my inane comments or meme references in conversation, I'll shut up; if I call around to see if anyone wants to get together next weekend and no one's available, I'll be bummed but I'll lump it; if the people whose readings, events, and competitions I support won't reciprocate by supporting me, they're not really friends*. And if I want to avoid my ex, I can avoid going to the places she'd go. I don't need to preemptively worry about running into her at an event or getting angry over her commenting on a mutual friend's marriage announcement.

Facebook, by being composed purely of these small interactions that otherwise would have no space--and would not be missed if absent--makes them seem large and significant because they are removed from any context that shows exactly how small they are, and I needed to remind myself of the context.

So for the moment I am not on Facebook (though I am on OKCupid which raises its own issues of a web interface as a stand-in for a real relationship), but I will probably return. The ubiquity of the site is a strong case for it and the sense that I'm missing out on things, that I won't be invited--even though Facebook itself exacerbated those feelings--may eventually force my surrender. Until then, I am feeling much happier without access to the site and enjoying my time a little more. And hopefully I'll be able to talk about something more interesting than not jumping out of a plane next time.

UPDATE: Forgot to include this:

*Not to imply some need for tit-for-tat, but I support these people both because I think they're talented and because I like them. For them to constantly give me the cold shoulder when it comes to my own work says something about their opinion of me as a writer and as a person.

No comments: