A few weeks ago, I decided to withdraw from interaction on Facebook.
I did not delete my profile entirely, or completely disengage, but I decided to withdraw from anything deeper than base-level “social” interaction–cute photos of my kids, questions about popular culture, etc. The decision was prompted by a long-distance friend hastily “un-friending” me after a brief exchange. The “conversation” was about negligent (in my opinion) parents who seem oblivious to their children’s lack of social skills–specifically, children who bully younger kids. After a few comments were exchanged back and forth between me, her, and a few of my other “friends,” she wrote me a message saying she was deleting me. She said she didn’t like the way my Facebook persona made her feel about me and thought it best to save whatever was left of her opinion of me. To her credit, I really, really like this friend and I think she was probably correct, in a way. And she did try to make it clear that she still likes me and thought the picture Facebook was painting of me was wrong. But, what happened with this friend solidified what I’d been thinking for a few months–I need to say “goodbye” to Facebook.
See, this is not the first time I’ve been “un-friended” for the way I expressed myself online.
A while back, and old acquaintance from high school deleted me after I posted a blog where I challenged American ideas of gender inequality, when compared with the severity of abuses committed against women worldwide.
A few months ago, another acquaintance (a friend of a friend, basically), deleted me after an exchange between me and few of my friends in which I joked about how my kids were going to be homeschooled. Other friends chimed-in, some of them homeschooled themselves and others very anti-homseschooling, and the conversation steered toward joking about how all kids end up as “freaks,” regardless of where they live or how they’re educated. She was offended by something that was said, commented harshly, then deleted me. I tried to contact this person to make amends, let her know she probably misinterpreted something that was said, and apologize for offending her, but she had blocked messages from me.
I’m sure these aren’t the only three people who have deleted me. And, in a way, it’s not a big deal. But, to me, it is a big deal. And that’s why I can’t do it anymore.
1. Social media is inherently disingenuous. We can all look good online. All we need is a few shiny photos, some clever quips about our day, a quote or two to say what we cannot, and we are suddenly desirable to the public. My guess is that most people are not nearly as impressive or interesting in real life as they are online–me included.
2. Facebook is not an intellectual medium. No matter what the topic, it’s impossible to have a truly intellectual (and beneficial) conversation on Facebook. The medium is simply wrong for it. Everything moves too quickly, people post too hastily, and many people chime into conversations that they have no business being a part of. Nearly every Facebook “conversation” I’ve been a part of has been derailed by someone who has no idea what is actually going on. These interactions are frustrating–emotionally and intellectually.
3. Internet relationships are not “real.” Yes, it is fun to connect with people online, to see their cute kids, their nice house, and to know what books they are reading. But, Facebook “friends” are not friends. Online relationships are relationships of convenience and comfort. We log on when we want, read what we want, engage when it’s desirable, and turn off those we’d rather not listen to. We have no responsibility to our online friends, and no commitment to respect or mutual benefit. It’s all the fun with none of the work. And this is exemplified by the fact that we can simply “delete” those who they don’t want to bother with anymore. Heck, I’m guilty of it, too.
Which brings me to the reason I finally had to draw the line:
4. Facebook makes me sad. A few weeks ago, when that friend sent me the message to warn me that I was being deleted, it crushed me. And that “friend of a friend” who deleted me a few months ago? I can barely be in the same room as her now. Why? Because I like them. And I want to be their friends–their actual friends. But, something I believe or something I say or the way I say it makes them so intolerant of me that they would rather turn me off–delete me–than engage in a constructive way to understand me. What it says to me is, basically, “I don’t mind looking at pictures of your kids, but I don’t want to know what you actually think about anything important.”
And this is the point:
Facebook is a joke. It’s disingenuous, anti-intellectual, and fake. But I already understood that. I made a bunch of “friends” and tried to use Facebook to socialize in a way that’s most natural and most important to me–to engage with people I like, about ideas. Other people might want to talk about books or movies or sports. I don’t care about those things. I care about ideas. And, so, I talk about ideas. But, when you talk about ideas, some people get really uncomfortable.
I understood the limitations of Facebook. And I understood that the people I engaged with online were important and valuable, even if they were different from me. This is why, on any given day, my Facebook feed covers everything from politics to parenting, religion to atheism, urbanism to professional sports. In the past, I have deleted people because I don’t actually know them or because we never interact, but I have never deleted someone because they liked the wrong football team or Presidential candidate–no matter what they said or how they said it.
I would like to think that anyone who knows me in real life is not surprised that I have strong opinions about things, or that I make friends with people who have strong opinions about things. And I would like to think that most people understand that strong opinions are only a part of the story and that a quip or quotation from a person cannot give you a comprehensive understanding of how they really feel about something.
In the world of Facebook “friends,” you can have strong opinions about the guy who cut you off in traffic, the referee in the football game, or the amount of/lack of snow on the ground but not about things that actually matter like faith or the goverment or family life.
So, I’m withdrawing from ideological interaction on Facebook.
For a Thinker-Introvert like me (I’m an INTJ–look it up), this is a painful decision. It means that I cannot connect with people the way I appreciate most–by hearing what they think about things that are important. And it means that I cannot express myself in a way that is most honest.
Instead, I’ll give you a “like” every once and a while and leave it at that. Oh, and I might ask for a movie recommendation or show you a picture of my new shoes or something along those lines. Apart from that, I’ll be MIA for a while.
If you want to know what I actually think about something, you’ll simply have to ask–in private–or engage with me on my blog. I won’t be commenting on Facebook.