Disconnecting

Unfriending people on Facebook and other unhealthy things

In the last year and a half I’ve experimented with being more and more offline (as I mentioned, for example, here), and one of the best parts of this experiment has been:

NO FACEBOOK BULLSHIT.

It’s difficult to express concisely because of the many aspects involved, but having deactivated my main account (and reactivated it after a few months, only to realize pretty quickly that was a mistake), and having only been on Facebook using a “false” account to update public pages or chat with three or four people, I’ve been able to appreciate the extent of the bullshit that happens on Facebook.

I am thinking about this now because of the quite typical situation described in a recent HTMLGIANT post. I’ll quote the relevant bit:

TWO WEEKS AGO I saw on Facebook a comment Kate Zambreno made regarding a review of James Franco’s new book that mentioned Kathy Acker, presumedly in reference to Franco’s ventriloquizing River Pheonix, possibly others. […] In the comments thread, I posted: “Altars are altars.” I was immediately unfriended by Zambreno and thus occluded from the conversation and any subsequent threads, a chess move that — tho clever — strikes me as a bit ridiculous, considering the neutrality of my statement.

[…] I re-requested her friendship and sent the following message…

Never mind the whole thing about Kathy Acker and James Franco, which is the kind of debate I refuse to have even in person. The lines I’ve quoted help sum up everything I’m glad to have less of in my life: the bullshit that counts as human interaction on Facebook.

I mean the politics of friending and unfriending, the arguments about (all too often) feminism, racism, politics, the ego-crushing, the passive-aggressive (liking) of a particularly salient comment in a discussion you have otherwise no commitment to.

And there are the messages you have to respond to because they are marked as “read” (which makes Facebook all the more addictive), the feeling that if you don’t post something funny then you might come across as too serious about whatever you’re discussing, the tactical use of photos to show someone something about your life, the snark that comes with having an internet connection in the first place.

Every kind of Facebook behavior acquires more meaning than it seems (to me, and I hope to others) to warrant objectively. The above example of unfriending is relevant. With extremely few exceptions, I have not unfriended people. I see it as an essentially aggressive move. Others might disagree, and I don’t care; that’s the point. I don’t want to have these discussions. Having a personal account on Facebook seems to make everything personal. That’s your name up there, your picture, your “bio” section. While you’d assume that personal accountability would be a logical result of this kind of environment, what you get, instead, is an unhelpful confusion of emotions that are often best kept separate: you’re sharing pictures of yourself and friends one minute, reading people self-destruct while arguing bitterly over politics the next, and you can’t fucking get away from it.

When personal accountability and narcissism are forced to coexist at every point, it’s time to change something. Facebook has, since 2006, been one of the biggest wastes of my time, though very often an enjoyable waste of time. I’m glad to have learned to keep a cautious distance.

4 Comments

  1. Made a similar decision nine months ago. It wasn’t easy, and various friendships have fallen to the wayside because of it. But I’m much happier and my life is simpler for it. In some respects it truly is a shame what our culture has become. Good post, and good luck to you.

    1. About the relationships that fall by the wayside this way — it might sound cynical to say “it’s worth it!!!” but in many cases that’s been true. I’ve stayed in touch with people in different ways, and, not unexpectedly, have enjoyed getting to know others just because they were physically nearby.

  2. Facebook is the digital equivalent of going to the bar or club too often. It’s fun, you meet girls, it gets addicting, you have some (or many) bad experiences and then you wake up one day and realize you’ve wasted your life on cheap vanities and have no real friends.

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