I'm in a relationship with Facebook and it is complicated.
The way I feel about Facebook and how I use it changes from day to day. In the beginning, it was actually a social tool; I used it to find out where I could get underage drunk on any given weekend. This was back in the days where you had to have a .edu email to join, before certain recently retired moms trolled the Internet looking for things to yell at you about. (Hi, mom! I swear I won't trash my stepbrother in this article. That promise actually may not hold up, since his Facebook is PURE GOLD.)
After college, I stopped using it for a bit, or at least became passive in my use. I'd comment on stuff, but didn't have much of a presence. But in 2009, when I ended a long relationship, I devolved into Jackie The Oversharer.
I curated my Internet presence into a shining masterpiece of eternal youth and happiness, to reassure everyone that I was having the time of my goddamned life so they wouldn't know just how sad and freaked out I was. (Pro Tip: De-friend your ex and then set your profile to public, so he can still watch you having fun and be jealous! That's what a nice, compassionate person would do!)
In fact, I did such a great job at faking it that when I had an epic breakdown and ran away to live in a tent on a farm, everyone but my best friends were shocked.
“But you looked so happy!"
"You posted all the time! You sounded fine!"
“What about all of those great pictures of you skinning a deer at 3 am in the back room of your office? Who was that dude with the mustache?” (Yes, real. Though I'm not sure why that wasn't a red flag.)
After I stopped being day-drunk all of the time and got my shit together, I was pretty embarrassed.
No worries, though, because it's not like the Internet can ever come back to haunt you, right?! Seriously, if you want to feel awesome about yourself, try and find my old Twitter. It's not hard.
These days I try to be a pleasant presence on the Internet: Sometimes I post my Ukulele cover song videos, funny pictures of friends and the occasional relevant link. I use Facebook to share stuff -- not air grievances.
I don't talk a whole lot about my actual life any more. It's weird to use the same method of information delivery to share something important about my life to my best friends and that kid who threw up into my backpack in 3rd grade.
Facebook destroys the hierarchy of closeness, and also of the relevance of information. Weddings, births and deaths are all announced with the same weight as lunches and naps.
Truthfully, I don't really read my feed very often. It's had the suprising effect of making me feel like a narcissist, but if I have to look at one more disgustingly colored Instagram picture of your brunch, I will never be able to eat brunch again. And I love brunch. There are mimosas there.
A turning point came for me a month ago, when this guy I went on a date with a few years ago passed away.
I had no idea he was ill, since we hadn't been in touch since I left Virginia, although he did occasionally "poke" me (whatever that's supposed to mean). He was a nice guy, and it was strange and disconcerting to hear about it on Facebook.
I was without a computer and so I hadn't logged on to the full site in a while, but when I did, I was astonished to see that I had a "poke" from him. I had no idea what to do. Clearly it was from before he passed (although I admit that "Ghost Writer" did, briefly, spring to mind). But should I leave it there forever?
The only way to get rid of a poke is to remove it or "poke back." Should I poke a dead person back?
I was at a loss. Someone later told me to just remove it, but I haven't yet because it feels really morbid. I think that when you die, you should have someone in place to wipe your presence from the Internet, like the close friend who would come to your house and clear out your porno stache before your family came to collect your effects.
Then there's the issue of using Facebook walls as a makeshift memorial. I certainly don't want people doing this any more than I want them looking through old pictures of me smoking in a bikini while listening to sad music.
Be warned, Facebook friends: If you post comments on my wall after I die, I will make every effort to come back from the dead and haunt you.
I would love to get off of Facebook all together, but I live far from many of my friends. I'm terrified that I would never talk to anyone I like ever again, because the only people who use email to get in touch with me are Zappos and MoveOn.org.
For now I accept it as a necessary evil and just try to apply the rules of live social interaction to the Internet: i.e., if I wouldn't stand up in the middle of a bar in my pajamas and scream “There are f***ing hippies EVERYWHERE tonight!!!” then I shouldn't shout it on Facebook. (I don't drink whiskey anymore, so that's unlikely to happen.)
While quitting Facebook might work as a culling method (let's see who REALLY stays in touch with you after the easiest utility is taken away) there's also the option of scaling back. I de-friended about 150 people the other day, using a specific criteria that you might find helpful in whittling your own list down a bit. People were de-friended if they posted the following:
- Pictures of food they were about to eat (I wish I could double de-friend for using the caption “NOM.”)
- Pictures of their pets sitting on their couch. Zzzz...
- Passive aggressive, baiting statements such as: “WON'T NAME NAMES BUT I'M SO ANGRY. WHAT IS WITH SOME PEOPLE?”
- Any responders who take Facebook fight bait.
- Posts with acronyms that I have to look up and then feel annoyed for having looked up (ex: SMH. Really?)
- Lame occupy jokes, such as “Occupy Middle Earth!” or “Occupy Bea Arthur's Vagina!” (No one has ever said that, but hi, Eliot!)
- Posts that show up in my feed as “Person A who is dating Person B Posted on Person B's wall and said: You made my day today, baby! I'm the luckiest girl in the world! xxx @-->--” Get a room, or send a sext.
- People who post really angry things about sports. (It's okay to like sports if you want, I guess, but don't subject me to your weird, aggressive negativity about strangers you watch on television.)
- Bathroom mirror pictures -- it's 2011, haven't we all already laughed at how weird this is at least once? (Exceptions: particularly special outfits that deserves documentation, like Halloween or a hospital gown.)
- People who talk like this: YoU MaY ThInK YoU KnOw Me [bAby], BuT YoU HaVe No IdEa WhO I [ReAlLy] aM. (I used to have a lot of 20 year old cousins who were my Facebook friends. Past tense.)
- Inspirational quotes. Where do these quotes even come from? Is there a “Now That's What I Call Music 2011” CD I should be referring to? It's been a while since I went to Costco.
These cuts weren't made out of malice. What sounds like a litany of griping is actually an attempt to take back an original, useful Facebook experience. As you can tell from the photos contained herein, I've been guilty of more than one inviolable breach of Facebook photo ettiquette. But I'm committed to improving the experience for every body.
If we have to be on it in order to not become hermits and learn who is dead and who is drunk, I'd like to be in control of what level of less relevant information I am forced to look at.
Let's set some standards for ourselves. While I'm definitely opposed to censorship, I'm not opposed to a little self-editing.