Friday, October 1, 2010

The Facebooks

I finally did it. And the moment I wrote that sentence, I realized how melodramatic it sounds, given what I did. I deleted my facebook *insert your shocks and gasps here*. The decision came after months of deliberation, and no doubt, annoyance, on the end of my friends, particularly my roommate, Lizz, at the number of times I would say, in the middle of lull in conversation and I was given to moments of reflecting, "I think I'm going to delete my facebook." The dramatic tone of the first sentence I wrote was natural, I guess, because when I would mention it to friends, I was met with varied reactions, but the majority was that of shock. This astonishment at the idea of someone leaving an internet site is one of the multiple reasons I decided to leave.

Calling facebook a mere "internet site" may have seemed flip of me, because, let's be honest, we all know it's become the internet site. When I joined -- way back in the hey day of 2005 when it was a fun way to see who else was on my college campus -- it was on a smaller scale. Now, it's dominated all other sites in the world of the internet, but to me, it's had more of an impact -- dominating all other means of connection and communication, not just on the internet, but in reality. Ah yes, reality. A concept people have lost sight of in the boom of facebook. It really has become what postmodern philosopher Baudrillard coined as the fourth level of simulation, that is, the ultimate postmodern simulacra. To put this idea in simpler terms -- it should be because postmodern philosophy can be pretty damn full of itself -- facebook has replaced the real world, and by extension, someone's profile avatar on facebook has replaced him or her. I was met with a series of questions when I expressed contemplation over leaving to friends. How am I going to know when someone's birthday is? If I genuinely care about someone in my life, I'll know his or her birthday, and if I happen to forget, I will apologize because that's how life is. How am I going to see new pictures my friends took? At their house in their living room or on their camera or computer if they show me. How will I know about events? By getting invited to them, dare I say it, in person or via phone call or reading about it. What if a friend needs to send me a message? To quote a blunt blogger I read, "if you're too stupid to where you don't know how to use email, then I don't want to be your friend." I'm not that harsh, but I take a similar toned down stance. These questions illustrate my point. People have forgotten the "connections" made on facebook are easily transferable to real life. Let's face it, that type of connection is far more personal and sincere, which I prefer.

Not to be paranoid, but another reason is the state of facebook's privacy policy and how scary it has become given who can now view what information. This chart is pretty informative. The source of it claims that he likes facebook and doesn't want this collected data motivating anyone to delete their account. Well, here I am. I can't see how anyone can view this chart and not, at least, think about it. I don't want the entire internet knowing I've listed Buffy the Vampire Slayer, How I Met Your Mother, Dollhouse, and Dexter as my favorite TV shows or Romy and Michele's High School Reunion as one of my favorite movies. Embarrassment has nothing to do with my reluctance -- heck, I've provided this movie and these shows here -- which has more to do with the way I'm being defined. As someone who has to deal with superficial identity signifiers shaping my image for people on a daily basis, I'm pretty reluctant to have anyone with a computer creating some idea of me based on information I've listed. They don't know me by these litanies. Contact information on the site is, perhaps, even more frightening. Proponents of social networking and the "free information" age may claim I have control of who can access this information, but to what extent is this really true? Or will be true in the future with the trend this chart shows facebook is heading toward? Facebook stores all its users' information, even that which they delete. I've heard the only way to really delete an account is to delete all of the information on the account -- I did this -- and also all of the friends on the account -- I didn't do this, because who has time? -- to where the profile is blank, and then select the option not to "de-activate" the account so it can be re-activated at any time, but to really delete it. And even then, facebook still captures your computer's IP address. All of this gives me the distinct feeling facebook owns my information, and by extension, owns me. Call me a paranoid conspiracy theorist if you wish.

Leaving facebook has a certain connotation as a radical anti-social act, according to a few reactions I've gotten. I'm leaving for the very opposite reason. Facebook has drastically changed the way we interact with one another. Since when does a "like" of a status or "poke" connote real communication? People on facebook are being assessed by the information they list and not their personality in all of its quirks and eccentricities. There's a reason I haven't kept in touch with that guy in the back of my freshman English class in high school who I can barely recognize now, and I want to keep it that way. I want to live in the real world.

It's pure coincidence I came to this decision the same day that movie The Social Network came out. I promise. I don't know much about the movie and don't have that strong of a desire to see it, but it sounds like it's more about how facebook got started, which I don't really take issue with. I take issue with what it's become.

If you don't have my email address, please respond in a comment, and I'll get it to you.


  1. Google owns Blogger. They'll definitely get all of your information. You can't escape!

  2. I know. I knew this before I even started this blog. In fact, Google is perhaps an even worse corporation in the way of manipulating information. It captures every search you enter. My core reason for leaving though, is what I've outlined first (in the 2nd paragraph) regarding the way online communities can, at times, diminish the value we place on personal interaction. Facebook's privacy policy is a side reason. And I'm really not as paranoid about it as this blog entry may lead on. I like the internet. It can be a positive way to connect to people. There is a fine line, though, between connecting online and in real life, and facebook has blurred it in my view.

  3. Always a good reason for your actions, sir. Well said.

  4. Google is Skynet. So it's only a matter of time.

    Anyway, very good post, Mike. It perfectly articulates my issues with Facebook as well, esp. with regards to Baudrillard's conception of a simulacra. On another level, it is what McLuhan called our systematic amputation from our senses in a full-on cyber world. Creeeeppppyyy!!!


  5. I remember you mentioning McLuhan last night, Kara. I'm surprised I haven't heard very much about him. I think that puts it well: an "amputation from our senses." I'll have to look more into him. The whole idea is definitely very creepy.