#89: Why I’m Quitting Facebook
January 8, 2015 2 Comments
There’s a great episode of Mad Men in which Don Draper takes out a full-page ad in the New York Times and airs his grievances with Lucky Strike Cigarettes by writing this open letter:
I am not going to take out a full-page ad in the Times, nor even the Wilmington Star-News, but I am going to use my modest platform to air a grievance in a similar fashion. Like many others before me, I am going to attempt to quit a habit that has become even more detrimental to my overall well-being than cigarettes. This is:
Why I’m Quitting Facebook.
People talk all the time about Quitting Facebook in the same tone that they might use to talk about quitting drugs or alcohol. Facebook has become so ingrained in not only our culture but also our day-to-day lives that the thought of deleting it brings about reluctance bordering on anxiety.
After all, how do we live if there’s no electronic proof of our exploits? It doesn’t count as a trip to the gym or to Whole Foods if there isn’t a litany of photos/posts/tweets documenting the experience.
But most of us understand how narcissistic and self-indulgent Facebook and Social Media at-large tends to be. In fact, I’m not even the first person to write an article with this title:
1) To consciously remind myself of why I’m deactivating my Facebook account
2) To encourage readers to ask themselves how much value Facebook and perhaps Social Media in general is adding or subtracting from their lives
With no further buildup, here is Why I’m Quitting Facebook.
The Main Reason
The main reason – and the story is so ridiculous I’m not going to fully repeat it – is that my relationship with a close friend has been damaged severely due to a freaking Facebook post. Adding insult to injury, it wasn’t even a post that I made.
I tried to hold down my temper as I apologized and explained that the Facebook post was taken well out of context, but it was too late. My friend’s feelings are hurt, and as I write this it has obviously damaged our relationship. To what long-term extent, that remains to be seen.
It doesn’t matter that I consider Facebook and similar Social Media a total joke, because reckless Status Updates clearly have the ability to hurt the feelings of people I care about. I apologized to my friend through gritted teeth, because the notion that a Social Media service was causing me a real-life problem was infuriating enough to make me rip my steering wheel off the column, but ultimately it didn’t matter. The damage had already been done.
Facebook claims I have around 210 Friends, but the reality is that I have four or five. I have a bunch of acquaintances that I could happily do without, but in terms of true friends – meaning people I could count on to support me when the chips were really down – at best I have a handful. Now I’m down one because of a Facebook post that I didn’t make.
Something I like to say is that Social Media is Free Marketing. My logic has always been that if you run a business or a service, you should have as many Social Media accounts as possible. If your business or service generates one lead or sale via Social Media, you’ve won, because you invested zero dollars in constructing an account.
But the converse is true as well. If I lose one actual friend because of something ridiculous that was seen or written on Facebook, Instagram, etc., then that particular service has outlasted its usefulness.
I’m Quitting Facebook mainly so that this same situation never has the opportunity to repeat itself. But there are some secondary reasons why Quitting Facebook is a good idea anyway:
Facebook Murders Productivity
I’ve written this before, but I’m retiring Jack Has Spoken at #100 because it detracts too strongly from my other projects. Aside from Reboot Hockey, I think I have a novel or two up my sleeve, and they aren’t getting written as long as I allow myself to write self-indulgent articles about Cougars or whatever.
In a very similar fashion, for me Facebook is a stop-gap activity that impedes productivity. It’s entirely too easy to go home for the night, pull up a combination of Facebook/Netflix/Whatever and call it Living (more on this in a minute).
I would challenge most people to keep track of the amount of time they spend on Facebook or similar Social Media in contrast to the amount of time they spend exercising, expressing themselves artistically, or having actual conversations with other people.
Facebook is ultimately worthless, and if you disagree, ask yourself: what happens if you have the most Facebook Friends or the coolest profile or the most-clever Status Updates? Do you get paid? Do you get an award? Does it make you healthier? Is it truly improving your relationships with other people?
I’m Quitting Facebook because it does the opposite of all of the items mentioned above. It doesn’t pay me, it doesn’t improve my health or relationships, and in the end it builds toward nothing. I would rather disconnect from it and make better use of my time.
Facebook Isn’t Living
I’m sure you’ve gone on Facebook and looked at someone’s vacation pics and thought to yourself, “it must be nice to be in Miami/San Marcos/Cozumel” or whatever. Facebook is much less about Living and much more about constant one-upping, with people demonstrating how much better or happier they are living than you through the use of strategic photography and carefully-doctored Status Updates.
Using Photos and Updates strategically isn’t a bad thing if you’re trying to market a product or even yourself. In fact, I’m keeping a ninja Facebook account just so I can continue to moderate Reboot Hockey’s Facebook page. But Facebook is not Living, and it never will be.
There’s a great quote from the movie Any Given Sunday in which Al Pacino’s character, in the midst of a Football pregame speech, refers to Living as “the six inches in front of your face“. He’s not wrong. You can look at as many pictures of the most gorgeous beach in the world as you like, but if you can’t taste the salt in the air or feel the warm sand beneath your feet, what’s the point?
Facebook is unnatural. It’s Sweet-and-Low, Equal, and Splenda, all rolled into one innocuous-looking packet. It does such a good job imitating Life that many of its users stop actively pursuing real experiences.
Real Life requires effort. Facebook offers a cop-out, because it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re interacting with other people and thus Living. But the best Facebook Messaging conversation in the history of the written word can’t compare to the kind of a fulfillment you can get from a good in-person conversation.
I am fortunate enough to know what social interaction was like before Facebook. Thinking back, my pre-Facebook life involved more time at the gym, more talking with women face-to-face, more worthwhile writing, and more actual time spent with real people. Facebook and similar Social Media services are easy and free, and what ends up at happening is that people – myself included – repeatedly forgo real experiences in lieu of electronic ones.
It has gotten to the point where Facebook is detracting from my Life, rather than enriching it. I am Quitting Facebook in the interest of focusing more on Real Living.
Facebook = SkyNet
Nerds with Calculators will know what I mean by the term “Data Mining“, but for people like me who get laid regularly and play sports, Data Mining is, “an analytic process designed to explore data (usually large amounts of data – typically business or market related – also known as “big data“) in search of consistent patterns and/or systematic relationships between variables, and then to validate the findings by applying the detected patterns..“
What this means in lay terms is that an electronic entity – let’s call it Facebook – keeps a record of the websites you view, what type of music you listen to, where you buy those fetish sex toys that you adore so much, etc. Right now, this is used primarily as a Predicative Sales tool, but I personally don’t like having something record every keyboard click I make. I’m pretty sure this is how the Machines take over in the Terminator movies.
To further my point, I would have just deactivated Facebook and been done with it, but a Facebook account is necessary for a number of other Media applications that I enjoy – notably Spotify. If I were a tech geek, I can’t imagine how many other ways I would be inconvenienced by deactivating my Facebook account.
I realize I am not going to take down this infestation by Social Media that some of the tech conglomerates are pursuing. All I am saying is that I don’t want Facebook and their associates to have my personal information via Data Mining.
While we’re talking about personal information:
Facebook Is Not Vague
People who know me know that I am a pretty reserved person. I have plenty of reasons for this, but let’s focus on the professional reasons why I am Quitting Facebook:
In every place that I have worked or done business as an adult or a near-adult, there has been some troublemaker who wants to take a Facebook picture from 2005 or an out-of-context Status Update related to my hatred of the Philadelphia Flyers and try to make my life more difficult.
My favorite example was the time I made fun of the local adult hockey league manager’s inability to conjugate a verb properly on my Facebook page. I didn’t use any coarse language and I didn’t call him any mean names, but I did point out that I’ve seen more professional-looking writing in Valentine’s Day cards from my seven-year old cousin.
My little cousin at least knows how to use “Your” and “You’re” properly, as evidenced by the “you’re my favorite cousin” she wrote in magic marker on a red construction paper Valentine card, but I digress.
At the time, my Facebook profile wasn’t set to ultra-private. Someone I probably knew but wasn’t necessarily friends with noticed my remarks, alerted the manager, and it became this huge deal where the adult league manager tried to have me banned from the local hockey rink. Again, the manager of an adult hockey league attempted to ban me from the local rink because I made fun of his misuse of “grammer” on Facebook.
Similarly, as you may or may not know, I worked for a number of years as a personal trainer. I was actually very good at this job, but one thing I couldn’t reconcile with the profession was that I did not live the Globo Gym lifestyle. I would be a complete pro at work, but after work I wanted to go out, have some drinks, and talk to some girls. Nothing out of the ordinary for a 24-year old guy.
Most of my fellow trainers despised me because I was both in better shape than them and not a money-grubbing scumbag like they were, so they dug around the internet to find anything they could use to assail my character. They never managed to find anything that could stick, but they did like to use the Facebook Tags placed by our mutual Facebook friends – Jack’s at Cabana Bar with Missy and Rachel again! – to depict me as an alcoholic.
The issue here isn’t how a fitness trainer should spend her or his free time. The issue is that in a competitive professional setting, many people are more than eager to use information they find on the internet, and Facebook in particular, against you.
I’m a grown man, albeit one who occasionally likes to make fun of people on the internet. I just don’t have a place for this brand of high-school nonsense in my life any longer. For whatever reason, I can say whatever I want on Twitter or Tinder and no one aside from Brandon Sutter cares, but if I call someone a clown on Facebook it becomes newsworthy. By Quitting Facebook, I’m cutting off the problem at the source.
Speaking personally…here, I’ll be as Vague as possible ….
All I’m suggesting is that Christian Grey, James Bond, Batman, Prince Charming, and pretty much every desirable man in the history of the human race doesn’t have a Facebook account. If women want to get in touch with me, the traditional ways still work well.
And lastly …
Facebook sends the Wrong Message
I am Quitting Facebook because it is communicating all of the wrong things about me to my family and friends, which is exactly the opposite of what I intended for it to do. Aside from the falling-out with my friend described above, here are two other recent examples:
My sister and I are far apart enough in age that we have not spent a lot of time together since I was 18 or so. When I went to college, she was starting high school, and when she was in college, I was out in the world, etc. She loves me and we have a familial closeness, but there are a lot of things about my Character that she misunderstands because of the age difference. I’m almost more like an uncle than a brother to her.
We also live far apart, so she has kept tabs on me mostly through Facebook. This has become a problem for me because again, pictures and updates posted on Social Media come without much context. What has happened is that she and other people who don’t see me every day have taken some of the least-relevant aspects of my Character and made them my defining characteristics.
Here are the facets of my Character that I consider most-relevant: I am a Hockey Player, through and through. I am intelligent and thoughtful. It’s not always obvious, but I am a good person who cares deeply about his friends. I am not a coward and I am not a quitter. I usually Do the Right Thing. I am not always easy to get along with, but I am reasonable and usually open to discussion. Once I lower my guard around people, I have a great sense of humor.
Here are the facets of my Character that my sister takes from Facebook: I am a drunk and an obnoxious prick. Also, for some reason she seems to think I really like GNC. Those aren’t really the impressions I want her to have of me.
Like many people, I occasionally go out and drink too much. At this point, this happens no more than two or three times per year, usually after my hockey team wins another championship. I like to have a few drinks in a low-key setting, and maybe chat up a lady or two. I’m the definition of a social drinker.
But thanks to some indiscriminate Facebook Tagging, there were a number of pics of me looking like Lindsey Lohan clogging up my profile. Sure enough, for every flattering photo of me helping an old lady cross the street or laughing with my friends, there are five pics of me flipping someone off after having a few tequilas.
Both personally and professionally, this just isn’t the image I want to project. In recent years I’ve gone ultra-private on all things Facebook-related, but I’ve finally reached the point where the hassle outweighs the reward.
I have another close friend, a girl I grew up with, who has also developed a misunderstanding of the kind of person I am due to Facebook. She rarely logs into Facebook, but of course the one time per year that she logs in my Status is something like, “Going to Rue21 to hit on high-school girls” or something.
An out-of-context Facebook picture or Status Update becomes like a punchline without a joke. Acquaintances, or family and friends who aren’t around you on a regular basis, can get this warped impression of who you are based on this lack of context.
I write articles like this because I can give some context and depth to my actions. If you read my writing with any regularity, it becomes apparent that I have my head screwed on straight and that most of the ridiculous things I’ve said or written on Social Media are complete jokes.
In person and in real writing, I choose my words quite carefully, but I consider Social Media such a joke that I will get mad watching the Penguins play, post something like “Brandon Sutter is a no-good cocksucker” and think nothing of it. Without fail, it always becomes a major ordeal.
To wit, Sutter himself keeps an eye on my Twitter to make sure that I don’t write 10,000 words pointing out how he’s bad at his job. Social Media is a much smaller playground than we realize, and people are so hyper-sensitive that one can’t write something in-jest without potential real repercussions.
Most people don’t know me very well, because I don’t say a lot about myself. I try to offset that by writing articles like this, but most people don’t have the patience to read something longer than 160 characters. What has happened is that many of the people in my life have taken my Facebook profile – which I have not been careful with – and used it to entirely shape their impression of me.
Maybe Facebook is an insight into a person’s Id, or maybe Facebook is the greatest impediment to true understanding working today. Regardless, it has sent the wrong message on my behalf, so I’m done using it on a personal level.
I’m sure I’ll be back on at some point – after all, Facebook has it’s dirty little hooks into many aspects of my day-to-day life – but I’m looking forward to starting 2015 without it. Maybe you should consider a similar approach.