Saturday, May 08, 2010

More on the Culture of Facebook

I've received a few emails asking why I got off of Facebook (FB) in the last week. Some of the reasons are personal, some are more open for public discussion. Doc and I had an extended discussion about this yesterday, so I thought I'd throw these thoughts out there for whoever wants to pick 'em up and run with them.

I went through several phases in my FB "career." I started out as a newbie, with maybe a dozen friends and a very cautious attitude about the whole thing. Then I cut loose. I posted where I worked, my school information, my pictures and quotation preferences...all that juicy stuff that marketing organizations would kill to know. I accepted friend requests from people I knew and people I didn't. I mixed acquaintances with friends with work associates with total strangers. And I developed a "FB persona" (writing style) that seemed to fit the punchy social environment. I got about as "web savvy" as a 40-year-old introvert can get, adding applications and games, and beefing up my FB "friends" list to 500+ people. But then the problems started.

Some of the strangers were a bit odd. I'm thinking of the kid from California (or wherever) who TYPED IN ALL CAPS a lot, using bad spelling, random ellipses, and other odd symbols. Some folks were "space groupies," gung-ho just to glom onto someone who worked for NASA. My first "culling of the herd" was to get rid of the 150+ strangers on my FB list.

FB started getting uncomfortable for me when I started getting friend requests from coworkers, bosses, and customers. Suddenly I had to watch my language, watch what I was saying, maintain a certain "level of performance" or whatever. And because I accepted all of these invitations, it became more and more apparent to me that I was always "on stage." It was like being a celebrity with paparazzi following me around all the time, but without the money that comes with it. And despite the appeal of my online persona, I realized that it took a lot of energy to be "happy/funny Bart" all the time. I couldn't vent about certain things (for instance, the potentially imminent demise of my current dream job or personal or family issues) because it was all on stage.

People worry about "the surveillance society." I worry about "the exhibitionist society." There are some things I'd rather not share or discuss with the entire electronic world. My desire for privacy is almost quaint and hypocritical now, given my presence in the blogosphere, Twitter, and elsewhere, but there are still some parts of my life that I consider nobody's damned business unless I make it your business. It baffles me how people can and will share their major personal crises on the web (but then I found similar behavior on Jerry Springer, Sally Jessy, et al., also peculiar).

I didn't like getting lectures about joining this or that FB group because Someone might not approve. Whatever happened to free speech? Free association? Well, a lot of that goes away if you expect to pay your bills. So I decided to take my business, space, and local acquaintances off the list. That left people from high school, Disney, and other folks from my life pre-Huntsville. Two hundred and fifty folks gone. And an interesting note there: of those 250 I removed from the list, maybe half a dozen of them followed up with me to ask WTH I was doing "defriending" them (as if my FB status somehow affected my actual state of mind/friendship in the real world). No, no, I assured them. This was strictly a business/personal decision.

Now since then I've had a lot of other things happen in my life that are, again nobody's damned business, and those other situations, are not things I care to share with the entire electronic world, or, more specifically, the 250 people I had left on my FB friends list--family, friends, or other. So I quit, cold turkey. And yes, no doubt I've hurt feelings here and there through this action. But really, I have work to do in the real world, which includes taking care of situations that are nobody's damned business. That requires time and bandwidth (mental and electronic), which are now freed up because I'm not on FB anymore. Will I return? At some point, yes, no doubt. But it will be in a more limited fashion, on my terms, and with any luck it will not be a daily activity. There's a real world out there, which I need to get away from the computer to enjoy.

Think I'll do that right now.


Anonymous said...

Bravo, Bart. Enjoyed your candor and unabashedly old-fashioned desire for (oh what was that called again? oh yeah, PRIVACY!) I used to be on Facebook too and it created some very awkward moments in my personal life - it has this terrible tendency to erase normal social boundaries - friends, family, coworkers, friends of friends, all in the same soup bowl. And yes, it does take a lot of effort to be "on" all the time, while also posting to an entire undifferentiated group at once.

Here's to the real world, warts and all...

Anonymous said...

Facebook is just another stage. And I mean that in the showbiz sense. It's when people start thinking it's real life, real communication and letting it substitute for real connections that it gets hairy.

Though about as INTROVERTED as one can be without just turning inside out, I actually enjoy the "stage" - both the real one and the flakebook one.

However, I too have had at times concerns about the nutjobs, the stalkers, the corporate creeps who might actually use what I post against me. I find the BLOCK function to be useful, and no desire to explain (and really? why would ANYONE ever ASK why they were unfriended?! I mean, DUH!)

All that typed, however, I think it's great that you purged one thing from your "Distraction" list. And anybody who'd beef you for that is, well, probably one sick mofekki anyhoo.

Vinglo - the captchas keep on tickling me