Why I Flushed Facebook
The Fourteenth Day has come and gone.
If you decide to quit Facebook — kill your darling — they give you a fortnight to reconsider. Smart move, really, because they know most people are fanning out in a heat. They’re likely walking because they pulled a mal paso and got a three-day account suspension — “Facebook Jail.”
The general idea is that you’ll recant, once you miss your daily injection. That dropped chance to hobknob with your high-school oafs and to appear Smart as often and wherever possible. So you’ll be back, the way kids come back after a good whacking.
I’ve been on Facebook since 2008. I came up there because a popular sci-fi novelist I know sent me an invite to join his Friends list. Once I got up there, he told me he didn’t really mean me, he’d accidentally invited everyone on his mailing list. But I could stay if I wanted to.
That should have clued me in right there to the nature of Facebook.
I have to say, at first I liked what I saw. I’d been futzing around on My Space prior, and what a nightmare of human trafficking. My Space had a fundamental design flaw: they allowed a heady amount of self-determination for its users. You’d come up to a My Space page with purple velvet walls and lime green text, and disco music loops. A page so klugey with patched customizing codes that it took about twenty minutes to load.
My Space was a study in Helter Skelter, everybody online creating their complete private hell.
By contrast, Facebook was sane. Even serene. Open white space with a stripe of Baltic Avenue blue. Baseball-card sized photographs. Encouraged brevity in the commentary. And no crazy-legs loading issues. There was immediacy to it, with all your Friends — like the high school cool kids lunch table.
I confess, like everybody else I thought Facebook, or the Internet itself, had wonderful opportunities for self-promotion. What a way to casually promote my writing, art, personality. A way of creating an idealized, press kit version of myself, to wow everybody. Huh.
I say “like everybody else” because that’s what everybody else has been furiously trying to do. Precious little of Facebook is “people keeping in touch” in the quotidian sense. It’s mostly people pimping their product. Aren’t I interesting?
Well, maybe. But what about me?
I have a friend who must have completely friended his entire graduating class. Even the kids he used to pick on. Why? Because, numbers! And besides, he uses it as a meat market. A former baseball honcho, he closed the gap on all the girls he missed the first time around. Wham, Bam, Click Like or Share.
Numbers are even more important than libido — which comes back around to numbers anyhow. Numbers are the dick size of Facebook. How many “friends” do you got, man? Those who’ve flirted with newspaper circulation already grab the principle. Facebook, which sets the private figure friend base at maximum 4000, understands too.
I know a guy on there who doesn’t have a single friend in real life. He is completely obnoxious in daily circulation. Yet his Facebook page is crowded to the limit of “friends”, he’s got nearly a hundred Followers, and his pithy little comments are all over celebrated in comments by girls half his age — who wouldn’t speak to him on the street (he’s tried).
He’s a considerably different sort of fellow up on Facebook. There, he is an animal activist, a bleeding heart, a world traveler. Even though he has a weakness for posting exercise-class creep-shots of girls in yoga pants (Aha! You begin to see!), he keeps those numbers up. He spends most of his time recruiting Likes and Friends. He consults his phone continually for SMS-bleed updates.
Of course, some of those friends are Tire Barns and hair salons. Some are faded TV celebrities who have their own numbers to keep pumped. Yoga Pants, by the way, has buttered his way into becoming an admin for one of these fades, doing all the posting for the out-of-work actor. Which might illuminate further what’s going on with some of your celebrity Facebook “friends”, if any.
I never managed more than 165 “friends”. It was just too much work, and not many of them remained “friends” in even the dinner-party sense. Many of them were completely ultimately disinterested in me or my truck. They were co-dependents; they wanted to keep their own numbers up.
I was constantly bombarded with ads for virtual books and self-published farragoes. Some of the folks on FB turned literally to tin-cupping, blanket requesting financial help with their projects and even bills. People I admired as cartoonists posted their work, but never liked mine. Come to think of it, the magnificence of their work usually overshadowed my best efforts. Those bastards. Facebook is the passport to self-doubt.
Facebook’s number one downside is that everybody on there seems to be having a better time than you. Even the beggars were doing interesting things. They were always at get-togethers and rock concerts, hugging cute people of both sexes and having large meals at some Eat Barn. Somebody I finally cut used to post her restaurant receipts, to prove that she really had spent $117 on sandwiches, slaw, and Stella Artois. So chic.
I pretty much don’t come outside if the temperature ranges extremes greater than 58–81 F, and eat a good deal of tuna on the cheap.
But enough about me, right?
No! Not by far! I had these 165 people, but good luck getting as many as 7 of them liking anything I posted. I was usually pushing tin at 2–3. Often I’d get a snark comment, but no like attached. I used to like anything and everything of anybody else’s that I commented on, as a friendly gesture — perhaps an encouragement, a subtle quid pro quo. I made the deposit, but got scant return.
The most liked posted thing I ever had was a picture of The Creature of the Black Lagoon, drawn by legend Bernie Wrightson. He had just died, so the posting may have been hit that hard as a referendum on Wrightson. I think that was a 12er. Oh, and I made some snarky comment about an assassin shot down waiting on his fries at McDonald’s, and that got 500-odd likes, on some political analyst’s page. It wasn’t that sharp of a comment, and I never replicated such felicitations — it’s a mystery to me.
Let’s say I began to conclude that Facebook was failing me.
See, Facebook has sophisticated algorithms which decide who gets seen and where and how often. I don’t begrudge them that. The size of the material they move needs some kind of trim, a signal-to-noise ratio clarifier. But it meanwhile strikes me I wasn’t much of a beneficiary of that algorithm.
You may have noticed that if you like or comment on somebody’s post, you get a lot more of that person. You begin to get people or specialties like them. Neglect somebody else a little bit and they fall off your page into deep outer space. You may come to forget that you ever even friended them.
Essentially, this person is ghettoized by the popularity wave of Facebook.
Facebook is high school institutionalized into cyberspace.
I didn’t do well in high school. Not surprisingly, the approximation of the lunchroom that is Facebook doesn’t serve me well either.
Maybe you see Facebook as a kind of marketplace of self-pimpery, and respect that you stand there or fall on your own. I’m not so sure. A few years ago, Facebook was caught performing Human Experimentation on unknowing customer-cum-lab-subjects. FB was adjusting some people’s feeds so that the person selected only received negative comments and memes from their “Friends.” The object was to see what emotional changes the subject manifested.
This sounds a bit to me like “gangstalking,” the paranoid theory that They are harassing you at top places for sinister reasons. Except it is not so paranoid, is it? Facebook was actually doing it. Thank you, Dr. Mengle — or should I just like your page?
How do I know that they aren’t still doing it? Maybe the allover cold shoulder is a facture of me being a Test Subject. Maybe the trouble is not in my set …
I think it is fair to say that the trust has been broken.
If Facebook’s algorithms were doing their job, they should have been bringing me like-minded recruits for “Friends.” They should have been finding me people who wanted to hear my plaintive little bombasts. They should have gatewayed my self-promotion. I mean, I’m looking at all their stupid ads so that I can pedal harder?
Facebook failed to find me an audience, which I consider a condition of use, fully within their technological capacity. Add to that failure the fact that I was probably ghettoized by the same hostile algo in action. Bah.
So we are left with the simple fact that I stopped wasting my time on Facebook.
The fourteenth day has passed, which means (they say) all those years of comment and curio, of pictures and voluntary data, are stripped from my recovery, although I am sure FB will retain a copy for their own use. I have put a spike through the boot Facebook had in my face forever. I bailed.
My takeaway is that I already now have more free time. Facebook had become a kind of weight. Sure, it was a neat way to kill time waiting on the bus, but it was also a way to let turds into my life who’d wish blindness and cancer and death on me because I made some passing observation about a paperback book cover illustration. Everybody is some kind of whacko on something.
Facebook reminded me how much I don’t like people, often, and how was that serving me?
From day one, when I was dismissed as an error on a white list, Facebook has really shellacked me with the indifference of Others. Facebook has all the rudeness of a city bus ride, and was nibbling healthily on my mobile data. It never boosted me, and it never led to any lasting satisfaction in my life. Facebook is digital junk food.
There is no Revolution here. I’m not the first of the coming many whose scales will have eye-fallen. Nobody who didn’t follow me on Facebook is now going to follow me out the door. My absence shall not unseat the gorgon operation which is Facebook. And Facebook doesn’t miss me: its indifference is cool bone-through.
Which is cool, because the indifference is mutual. I never missed My Space, and Facebook isn’t my heroin either.
Facebook ain’t never caught a rabbit and it ain’t no friend of mine.