I am finally leaving Facebook. I've been wrapped up in this world for nearly my entire adult life. I signed up in high school, back when you still had to be invited. When I left home to discover the bigger world, Facebook remained my autobiographer, my loyal friend who would listen and let me present myself as I wanted to. It served the benign purpose of letting me stay in touch with the people I've met on this journey. But what is staying in touch?
With the majority of my "friends" I've never taken the time to even say hi after adding them. Still, I've clicked through their pictures, read their status and believed I understood who they are. And with the ones that really do matter, the ones I can reach via other means, I've used a "like" to replace a phone call.
Facebook's really been more about me than my friends. And my ego craves it. Even now I wonder why I'm writing this. Who am I trying to talk to? I can't help but feel like I'm just looking to be noticed. Maybe us humans have a deeply ingrained disposition to be concerned with recognition from the world around us. After all, even my website is just another platform for me to seek that validation.
Still, something about Facebook feels over-saturated. When I'm alone I don't feel alone, but I feel alone. When I check my smartphone or laptop I feel like I'm in a train packed with loud beautiful people; yet none of them said a word to me. And I'm the same. We're talking past each other. I don't mean to say there aren't earnest and authentic things expressed, but the venue sometimes feels off.
In a way, Facebook has allowed us all to be celebrities. We've joined the politicians, and the movie stars in selling ourselves for recognition. Facebook didn't teach us to arrange, groom, and Photoshop ourselves for the market, but it has made that market open 24 hours a day and given us the tools to curate our "merchandise" like never before. So we fight the same old war with new weapons, comparing with others to prove that we are worth more, worth as much, or just worthy at all.
Facebook Versus a Personal Website
I put effort into what I write and I'd rather not have that content be used in a website that is in the business of keeping you sucked in. Facebook's selling every click you make, every second you look at a page, every computer you access it from, and even things you've deleted. They know you better than yourself. With this data they find ways to get you more absorbed, more engaged, more addicted. It is often said that the user is not a customer, but a product. The real customer is the advertisers. Your data is the currency and this is the financial arrangement you've made with Facebook. Do you think it's a good deal?
The beautiful thing about the internet is each domain is treated equally. To contrast it with TV channels it's not like Facebook is on basic cable, while my website is on a channel that you can only get with some expensive cable package although there is a proposal to make it that way. As of now, toomanynames.com is just as available as facebook.com to the average internet browser. The internet has democratized media by keeping a low barrier to entry and a leveled playing field so that even a college kid could afford to make a networking website that would garner a billion users.
Internet has given individuals the power to become their own publisher. Benjamin Bayart once explained that, "the printing press taught the people how to read; the internet taught the people how to write." I think Facebook has been a huge contributor in getting people to become writers on the internet, but not become writers of the internet. By making it's platform so readily accessible, it may discourage people from making their own platforms. I encourage those of you who avidly express yourselves online to become your own publisher, build your own blog or website. Own your content. If you want money to be made on your work put some ads on it and earn the money for yourself.
But you're on Twitter!
I'm not against technology or anything. I code for a living and it is an incredibly satisfying craft. I believe software can be useful. There are applications that can help you manage your finances, learn a language (computer or human), and help you with Math homework. Facebook is not one of them.
I think a big part of the reason I'm still on Twitter is I have simply not developed an addiction for it. I look at it's 140 character posts as headlines for sources outside of it offering an alternative to mainstream news. As a web developer, I do enjoy playing with the Twitter API and seeing cool data visualizations other folk have built with it. However, this is only possible because it is in the business of logging my data. Any skepticism I have for Facebook as far as internet privacy I should keep for Twitter. As of now the costs don't outweigh the benefits for me, but I do reserve the right to change my opinion.
Though I've been cynical about Facebook for some time now, I've held onto it because it had somehow inserted itself in my mind as the logical conclusion of communication, right after yelling, telephone, and email. But does it have to be? Can we not reap the liberties modern communication affords us without becoming servants to our digital identity? Or is it inevitable that as we find more ways to speak, we only become more enamored with the sound of our voice? More personally I wonder does having a website fundamentally undermine some big statement I'm trying to make or does it offer a better, more balanced alternative to engage with the modern world?
Those are some big, scary questions that I don't know the answers too. But I do know that there are a lot of things that I'd like to fix about myself, if not for myself for the people I love and who take the trouble to love me. I need to step away from the computer, slow my thoughts and clear the storms from my mind. And in my experience, Facebook provokes more storms than it quells. As far as my website goes, I will try my best to make each post as meaningful as possible.