Dear Facebook: We're through
I feel bad admitting this, but Facebook is giving me the creeps.
I signed up about three years ago, just to see what everyone was talking about. It was a bit of a kick for a while.
Some old friends from grade school found me and we got the lowdown on how everyone turned out. My closest friends joined my network, and that led to an expanding series of friend requests until I had a couple hundred friends and friends of friends and acquaintances of friends scrolling through my news feed.
I shared my column on the site, kept up with former colleagues, checked out family pictures, swapped cell phone numbers with people I wanted to stay in closer touch with.
But sometime in the first year, I got a bit disillusioned. I found that I had filtered dozens of people out of my news feed -- sick of the endless political opinions and shameless shilling of sell-from-home junk, the detailed descriptions of every meal, every cold symptom, every cute thing their dogs and children had done.
"Why am I Facebook friends with these people if I filter them out?" I asked my husband. He shrugged and went back to reading his own, exponentially expanding news feed. (He has always been a significantly more social creature than I -- he and Facebook are still having fun.)
Eventually, I was blocking applications every time I signed on, wading through endless gifts and pokes and hearts to get to real information about my actual friends. And then I started noticing how carefully I was choosing the photos and posts I put out there. Facebook was becoming a best-case-scenario version of my life -- only the flattering pictures, only the fun family trips, only the most amusing observations.
I get it: no one wants to read on Facebook about my crappy Monday morning commute, my two-digit bank balance, my demanding kids or my imperfect marriage. But, honestly, is building an online version of my life where none of that stuff exists worth my time?
The people who know me best know better. I would bet none of them take my Facebook profile very seriously. Actually, the people who know me best probably don't look at that profile because they're talking to me on the phone, meeting me at the airport or catching me for drinks after work as we practice the quaint, old-school version of friendship. (Which, come to think of it, involves a fair amount of discussion of the dark stuff that doesn't make it onto my Facebook profile.)
A lot of what I've written in this column over the years has been about life's struggles and joys and the growth that comes from them. That's what makes me human, and that's what connects me to other people. But that's not what life looks like for me -- or for most of my friends -- on Facebook.
All of our lives look like Eddie Bauer catalogs on Facebook. Lately, I'm having trouble finding the value in it.
There's some interesting science to suggest I'm not the only one feeling uneasy. A study from Stanford details how isolating many people find the endless happy pictures and chirpy posts. Another one from the American Academy of Pediatrics finds teenagers' already fragile self-esteem takes a beating every time they log on and check out all the fun everyone else is apparently having.
I'm not suggesting that Facebook is bumming me out. Not at all. It can be amusing. But at its worst, it feels to me like an unsettling combination of narcissism and voyeurism. And at its best it forces me to wade through a lot of clutter to catch up with the people I care about in a completely impersonal, disconnected way.
I've decided it doesn't add any real depth to my life, my relationships or to my understanding of myself and the people around me.
So I'm taking down my profile. Most of the people who really want to reach me already know how to find me. But if you're looking for me, Google can probably give you plenty of leads, and I always post my email address at the end of this column.
Case in point:
Email Mary Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org