I’ve made up my mind. I’m breaking up with facebook, and this time it’s sticking. The only reason it’s sticking is because you can finally actually delete your account. This was not always the case. I have no illusions that if the only option on the table was to deactivate, then I would be back after some number of days — or maybe if I was good — weeks. I’ve deactivated facebook a few times before; I’m not sure I ever made it a week before going back. As a sign of solidarity, I hereby refuse to capitalize ‘facebook’ anymore, despite autocorrect’s staunchest objections.
A friend had deleted his prior to moving west for a few months, to chase after his soon-to-be wife. When he moved back to town and was looking for an apartment, he lamented having deleted it so rashly because it would have been such an effective way to find out who had a spare room he could rent. I remember him saying something like ‘I don’t really want to have to do all the work of requesting my friends and setting up my whole profile again.’ I pointed out to him that his profile and friends were all still there waiting for him; all he had to do was log back in with his same credentials and everything would return to normal. A mixture of 27% confusion, 71% excitement, and 2% fear spread over his eyes as I reached for one of my favorite punchlines, ‘Didn’t you know? You may not delete the facebook, you may only deactivate it.’
I’m not really sure when they added the delete feature and I couldn’t find it through normal channels. I had to google ‘can i permanently delete my facebook profile’ — you know you don’t use capitalization or a ‘?’ when asking google questions either — hoping it was even possible. There is even a 14 day waiting period where you can take back your kill shot by simply logging back in. I’ ambivalent about leaving at best, and Mark Zuckerberg is standing outside my window blaring Peter Gabriel from a boombox.
So why am I leaving? I’m leaving because I allow facebook to feed all the worst parts of my personality. I post articles to egotistically educate my friends about things that I think they ‘should’ know about. I pick fights with people I otherwise get along with because they had the audacity to post something pro-gun. I say mean awful things to Zionists because I don’t know what else to do with them. I chastise others for taking the internet so seriously as I overdo the seriousness factor tenfold worse, all the while mocking them for not having the sophisticated understanding of interpersonal relationships and politics and enlightenment that I have. These problems were not created in me by facebook, but they are most definitely exacerbated by it. Zuckerberg’s brain child has become so ubiquitous to me that for a long time it would confuse me when people of my peer group didn’t have a profile. My mom has been on facebook for several years now, so for someone under the age of 30 not to use it wasn’t just weird, it was downright suspicious. What are you hiding? Who are you avoiding? WHY ARE YOU NOT LIKE THE REST OF US? This was my normal.
Don’t get me wrong, facebook is amazing, and I’m absolutely going to miss it. I have long said and stand by the statement that I think facebook is the most significant technological innovation since the printing press. (Ever noticed that Gutenberg and Zuckerberg rhyme? God don’t make mistakes y’all.) Just for the last week, I removed the link to it from my favorites bar in Safari and even having to type ‘fa’ into my browser bar instead of simply clicking the button three links in from the right was an anathema. Downtime on the internet isn’t the same when I don’t have the option to see if maybe someone left a funny comment on a link I posted, or better yet, maybe someone of an opposing political viewpoint started to argue with an article I shared. Sexism and racism are always good go-to topics for this, but by far the best and my favorite one is arguing with rednecks about guns. Summate all of these things and you have the problem.
A lot of people will say to this: facebook is what you make of it, and there is no need to argue with people. There are beaucoup privacy controls making sharing information with only the people you want it shared with as easy as could be. There is also no need to engage in drama on facebook, let alone actively court it as I have done for some time. This is very true, and that’s why deleting facebook is very much a ‘me’ solution and not a ‘for everyone else’ solution.
What I can say though, and for the first time in my life unequivocally, is that I no longer need facebook. I probably never needed it but always rationalized it with all of the household excuses we use to tell ourselves that something destructive in our lives is actually okay, maybe even good for us. I would say I needed it to promote my band, that I was using it to stay in touch with people I would otherwise lose contact with. Occasionally I would get a message from an old friend or acquaintance telling me how much they appreciated the particulars of the content I had been posting lately; good in my mind for a minimum six month reprieve from negative thoughts about ever leaving. None of these excuses have any actual merit though. I don’t deny the usefulness of facebook, I just deny its net positive value for me.
I am occasionally a contrarian. I understand thinking I am doing this to make a show of doing it. I am writing a blog post about it after all. To me though, that isn’t how this feels. It honestly feels much more akin to the few times in my life that I have been in a really bad relationship — and I knew for some time it was a bad relationship — but I stayed in it anyway. You don’t know her like I do. When it’s good, it’s so good. I remember how it used to be and I know we can get back to that. I make it seem worse than it is. Insert any garden variety bad relationship excuse here.
When it really comes down to it, it’s just a simple matter of conquering the fear of the unknown. In my heart I know I don’t want to use facebook forever, but I’ve always been afraid if I leave I might regret what eternally bizarre internet happenings could have been. Thinking about my profile being deleted makes me feel it’s void viscerally. This strikes me as an utterly stupid way to feel. Pause for a moment though, and the void is filled with true relief. The kind of relief you feel when the bad relationship is gone for good, not just swept temporarily under the rug, or placated with sex and memories of better times past until the next emotional outburst comes. No, this is the kind of relief you feel when after a long hot day in the sun, you jump into an 82 degree Baquacil-laden pear shaped pool.
Expressing this relief to other facebook users gets about the same reaction Bill Nye got in Kentucky at that creationism debate he won. It only feeds the contrarian argument that I am filled with confidence at the reactions of others to my decision. The more people that seem lost at what I will do with myself without facebook, my facebook, the more I rush to get gone. It also wasn’t my intent to make a public show of my leaving, but truthfully I had stupidly used the ‘Login with facebook’ button on a number of websites. In most if not all of those cases I was in such a rush to leave whatever witty pithy comment I had on deck that I couldn’t be bothered to go through the normal process of registering for an account. These two problems are connected.
The degree to which facebook had pervaded my life was startling, and so it is with much gusto and a teacup of trepidation that I hereby declare myself free of the Zuckerverse. I’m going to miss it, I’m going to phantom click the now-gone facebook button in my favorites bar for probably several months at least. I’m going to wonder what my friends are up to, what they are talking about and commenting on, and whose thread blew up into a three hundred comment political food fight. Then I’m going to go on about my merry internet way and not very much will have changed at all. Not very much except for the one thing I have the power to actually change, myself.
E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tweet me: @skinnyill