Some people are early adopters, I am an early abandoner. This is the blog of my business, but what follows is a personal post. It contains information that may contradict the gal you know online. That is okay. She will continue on as ever after this post. I am writing this because I have been asked too many times: Why do you hate Facebook and why did you leave? Here is the true sordid tale:
It gave me pause to leave Facebook given that I had cultivated an audience there, but that audience was also the reason I felt that maintaining a presence there ate at my soul. I should be jaded and have a thicker skin; I have been using social media of various forms since 2003. Online, I abide by certain rules: namely, that I don’t post anything that’s too personal: no relationship references (my online persona is that of a single lady who dresses in fancy lingerie & drinks tea with her cat), no politics or religion (thought it creeps in here and there, I am human after all), nothing derogatory, and absolutely no photos of my ass on the internet. Since there isn’t really any separation between myself and my business in the world of online, the idea of what might appear with a google search rules what I write & post to my various profiles. There is no expectation of privacy when it comes to the internet. All it takes is to forward an email or a screenshot or a google search. Everything posted online is online FOREVER. It isn’t that what I post isn’t true, nor lacking personal aspects, but it is the PG-13, positive, interesting version of my life with certain details omitted. I am, after all, an actual person running a small business. This is my livelihood and so much of my “branding” (I have been doing this since before the internet, and the word “branding” existed) is wrapped up in my creative process, my aesthetic, my inspirations etc. This seems narcissistic to me, but it works; after all, I have been in business for over 13 years.
What felt different about Facebook (as opposed to other social networking sites) was a long progression that started in my second bout with social media (we can think of friendster of a first boyfriend, a sort of teenage relationship but one before adulthood here) which was tribe.net. I joined in 2003. It was pretty neat to keep up with friends of certain groups, meet interesting people (I have several in real life friends I have met first online), exchange ideas, and dip ones toes into a little voyeurism. It got me to start writing again; which has been incredibly an incredibly helpful business skill. Being the entrepreneur, and putting my business first, I joined each of the next thing with a bit of trepidation (all the time and effort of maintaining yet another online presence), but I felt it would be okay if I followed my own rules right? The more of my own content I post online, the more exposure to new audiences. But there are little bits of my soul in each of these places. I have managed for the most part to avoid embarrassing photos, have posted the occasional subversive or snarky comment, but that’s just me. Mostly, I posted about my experience as an independent designer/business person and the ins and outs as a maker of fashiony things. I have learned a lot along the way, much from reading copious amounts of information and interacting with others on various sites; enough to give advice on social media to others in a professional setting (scary, I know).
The difference here with facebook over any other site (and I belong to so many) is just how ubiquitous it is. Most other sites only encompass certain groups of people. Etsy for crafty, indie DIY business (which includes the vintage sellers), people creating their own things on a small scale, Twitter for industry & tech people, Myspace for teenagers and musicians, Tribe.net for burners and tech people etc. Everyone was on Facebook. When I finally gave in and joined, I had 85 friends within the first 4 hours that I joined the site. I was up to 400 within the month, and when I left 4 years later, i had 750+ friends even after paring down multiple times. It’s like everybody I ever knew was on Facebook, and that is pretty much true. With the exception of about 20 people, I knew everyone on my friends list in person at some point in my life ranging from preschool to the present. So overwhelming, is that anyone whom you have ever met can find you. Even if you use all of the privacy settings. I had my profile locked down and allegedly unsearchable on google, but the whole friends of friends thing would allow people to find me. I would get really tired of someone, and unfriend them, and a new friend request from said unfriended person would show up minutes later. (I found out later by accident that if you unfriend someone without blocking them, you will show up in the “suggested friends” section on their homepage, gross!) My inbox would be stuffed full of spam with people begging for money to fund their various projects & causes, invitations to parties across the world, to just screamy blather that made me hate my “friends”. Oh, the things people would post. Things I cannot imagine talking about to my best friend would go by my horrified eyes on a daily basis.
I tried to hard to make it work. I hid people whose posts I couldn’t stand, but couldn’t unfriend because it would cause problems for me (hurt feelings, backlash, rifts in business relationships; where unfriending would actually cause serious consequences. Which is really stupid. Being Facebook friends isn’t important!). I blocked the stalkery people. I unfriended my significant other/best friend, because it felt harmful to our relationship to be interacting online in lieu of in person (picture us sitting at my kitchen table looking at our matching smartphones instead of talking). I tried for positive interactions. I tried to post interesting content to give value to my readers (I found that i had a lot of them). But more and more, just logging on and looking at my newsfeed made me upset. I could feel my blood pressure rising when I would see the inane messages in my inbox, the endless invitations, the endless pleas for money and attention. Facebook didn’t make me feel connected; it made me feel alienated. I started hating my friends. I don’t hate my friends. This was unacceptable.
The end came with a couple of events. My birthday (in November) consisted of a bunch of messages from my friends in lieu of anyone bothering to call me (save for a few), which made me feel creeped out and alienated. The second was a family issue that i felt compelled and pressured to post about on my page (definitely against my rules). There was really no use to do this other than to feel like I was doing something in a situation where nothing could be done. Then I started to feel like people were watching for a train wreck. In mid-December, when my computer’s power source exploded, I never bothered to log in again. I got a whole lot of crap from people for leaving. I started to feel like “dance monkey, dance!” Oddly I finally was out of the loop, but best of all, I felt free! There were months of explaining myself every time I would run into anyone. But you know what? For the last few years, when I would see any of my Facebook “friends” in person, people would act like they knew me because of what they read on my Facebook page. Even more creepy, is that I never ever saw them post anything ever. Which means that there are many more reading silently than those actually posting. It was extra creepy, because 2010 was an especially difficult year, and I did my best not to show it. I know that it is my doing, but this was also incredibly alienating as well, to have people talking to my about how great my life must be going. When is it appropriate to replace taking the time to having a cup of tea with someone by reading the random sentences that they post online?
Social media is what you make of it. What works well for some doesn’t work for others. There are many who love Facebook. It works for them in ways that it doesn’t work for me. Was it helpful to my business, maybe. I had thousands of hits to my website and my Etsy shop from Facebook every month, but most of my ‘fans’ either knew me or my work already, and can find me many other places (my website, etsy, blog, twitter, flickr etc.). I am a much happier person. I suppose I miss some invitations to parties, and the mundane goings on of everyone on my friends list, but I have managed to live this way for 30+ years before Facebook’s existence in my life. Six months out now, I can still say that I truly hate it, and I should log on one of these days to delete my account. But I cannot bring myself to even log on. Why bother? There is no real deleting of it anyway, it will exist somewhere in the internet ethers. So I will just leave it there abandoned as a partial record of a few years of my life along with all of my other abandoned accounts. The irony here is that as I post this on my blog is that it will end up on my Facebook account. *sigh* The thing is, there will be another thing. There always is. Chances are, I will join, spend countless hours cultivating my presence, and abandon it in time too. And most likely, so will you.
UPDATE: I finally deleted my personal account, or deactivated. In doing so, the site’s bots tried to emotionally blackmail me by showing me photos of people I want nothing to do with. Regardless it is not visible anymore. My fan page is still there; i pawned it off on my sales rep and mother, so I can share in the ignoring. I can’t say that I feel free, because people still ask me about it.