An email pops into my inbox. A stale alert informs me a particularly active friend has, yet again, posted to a group we both belong to. I quickly jump windows on the screen, sighing and eye rolling, to perform the ritualistic set of clicks simply to get that annoying little blue-boxed 1 to go away from the left column of my Facebook homepage.
I realized, then: I hate Facebook. Any residual questioning, any attempt to salvage the positives – I can maintain the illusion I’m “in touch” with high school friends! I can easily invite people to come drink heavily at my apartment! I look so cool in those disposable camera photos!- had all together evaporated. I hate Facebook. Recently viewing the admittedly good, if over-hyped, The Social Network and reading through some of Mark Zuckerberg’s nasty college day IM messages sealed the deal. Facebook has moved into my bedroom, uninvited, rearranged my furniture, and decided who else is allowed to come and go, without any conversation with me.
I hate the way an aesthetically stagnant interface demands so much of my visual energy. The notifications seem to be constantly alerting me of the most mundane things. Events I won’t go to, notes I won’t read, spam-y wall posts promising impossible deals: much of the activity that clogs up my daily digital dawdling comes from people who have very little influence IRL. Beyond the now gratingly boring task of staring at that virtual world of just-so blue, there’s a whole world of still confusing ways Facebook has restructured the way I think about myself, the way others think about me, they way I think about them, and thus, the way we can all connect in the real world.
Did Zuckerberg think about how his jerk-off of a new media project would radically change the way we understand ourselves a human beings? We now know his asshole tendencies definitely anticipated some kind of world takeover, but did he really get it? Did he anticipate that unquenchable awkwardness when you walk past a “friend” from a coked up night at a sticky loft party and neither of you have the guts to say hey? What would he say about trying to find the right way to tell your Dad, wading waywardly through the bog of post-divorce bewilderment, that he’s got to change his status from “married to” your mother? What about the babies around us, growing up with their entire life the digital property of a questionable international media corporation by the proud if disconcerting attempts of well meaning parents trying to share and remember the joy of childhood in a way less time consuming than scrap booking? What does it mean when people can comment on your image, like it or not, before you can even speak? How are you supposed to handle your nostalgic family insisting that past relics of your now deceased grandfather, your overweight childhood years, the intimate pajama’ed play of siblings be relived, rehashed in the most public of ways?
I worry about these things, as I do many things. Granted, there is always the obvious option: opt out, shut it down, quit Facebook and rid myself of its unrelentingly influence. But its harder than it sounds. I can’t just say no. I’m too deep in the game. Facebook has literally remapped the makeup of my life, marked me and the people I love, if in less a dramatic way than a full color sleeve tattoo. But its pretty damn close. And I just don’t think I can forgive Zuckerberg for it, ever, even with his trendy newfound responsible food politics.
I’ve taken steps. I’ve deleted every friend from my news feed, denying the little blurbs that shout from my homepage, tempting my fragile attention span like a snake devil and an apple. I check once a day, max, take care of messages, posts, untagging and tagging, all in one sitting and then that’s it. Usually. I rarely use the media to share interesting articles, new music, or images, preferring instead the good old fashioned email or the somehow less threatening tweet. I find myself less and less interested in posting anything. Although, I’ll admit the skip-of-a-beat thrill of finding myself tagged is hard to kill. And who can resist the sweet self-affirming glow of a person who wants to publicly declare me as one of chosen, inducted into the elite group of their 900+ friends?
In the end, though, I’m left with what feels like a chore of up keeping my digital identity, navigating a whole additional, complicated sphere of interpersonal connection, while Mark laughs in the face of lawsuits that toss around one or two of his inconsequential millions. What’s the real cost? I don’t have the algorithms to figure it out.