No más

I can’t take anymore Facebook. I’m out. I’ve been beaten.

My intention is not to pile on Facebook while it’s fashionable. Well, this post might be – but not my behavior leading up to it. I’ve poked my head in to check on a couple of folks I knew were going through a rough time. I’ve tossed in a few random thoughts I figured might amuse a few people. But all of my recent incursions have been surgical – in with a specific goal in mind, and quickly back out. I don’t linger. I don’t browse. The app no longer lives on the home screen of my iPhone.

There are two reasons for this. First, Facebook doesn’t make me happy. As in, EVER. And second, I don’t feel like I accomplish anything there. I’ll try to explain, but first…

“Who in their right mind goes to Facebook to accomplish something?”

Well, if you’re really asking, I’d ask if you’ve ever shared or reposted something from the news that was AT ALL political. If you have I’d ask you: why? Simply to express your support? Again, I ask – why? Did you expect to change someone’s mind, or even plant a seed of doubt? My hunch is one of three things happened. A bunch of friends gave you an amen chorus, friends who didn’t agree with you ignored you, or friends who didn’t agree with you didn’t ignore you… and you’re not friends anymore.

I don’t know about you but I don’t take a whole lot of pleasure from any of those possibilities. In fact, I find this self-segregating aspect of Facebook pretty depressing. So in November 2016, in a misguided attempt to deal with this depression head on (insert dramatic theme music here) – I decided to focus my commenting energies on Facebook posts I didn’t agree with or support. I figured the world didn’t need another amen in the chorus, so I went out with high minded thoughts of engaging neurons (both mine and others), and offered a voice of civil and reasonable dissent.

Ask your doctor if poking a bear is right for you!

Yeah, it went about as well as you’d expect. No wonder Facebook wasn’t making me happy – all I was doing was going around picking fights. Well, I didn’t mean to pick fights. I could try to ignoring or blocking certain posts, but does the world need another Facebook echo chamber?

A few common themes kept coming up, and beating my spirits down.

Some folks were quick to say they’re angry about the tone in politics. They polished their independent bonafides by decrying the behavior of “both sides,” then shared a string of inflammatory posts… from one side. Did they loose their sense of irony? Didn’t they see THEY WERE PART OF THE PROBLEM?

Some (of the same) folks decried a biased (and therefore corrupt) “mainstream media,” then shared stories from some of the most blatantly biased corners of the internet. I’ll be damned if I was gonna read another post linking back to Ben Shapiro, Breitbart, Right Side News, Allen West, Gateway Pundit, or… crap, I think I’m gonna throw-up (my apologies to everyone I left out).

“FOUL! John, you only named right-wing offenders! What about the left?”

If you’re really asking you’re not going to like my answer. “They were doing it too…” has got to be one of the all-time worst excuses for bad behavior. What would you say to your child if they told you this after getting caught throwing rocks into traffic?

So that’s it. I’m done. I was barely strong enough to raise my own children. I’m not strong enough for a world of them.

See you back there next week?

Beating up Facebook and being beaten

Last September I wrote a post about leaving Facebook, but I’d left a while before the post. Not long after I deactivated my account and deleted the app from my iPhone, thinking I wouldn’t be back for a while. I didn’t give anyone a reason because I didn’t want it to be interpreted as a grand statement, but I had one – a personal one.

I was depressed. Big shock, right? I’ve been depressed and writing or talking about being depressed for a couple years. But 2014 was bad. At times it was about as bad as it’s been. If you’ve never experienced clinical/major depression, I can’t make you understand it. It’s beyond my ability as a writer or speaker. It may be beyond anyone’s ability. Part of it was me – the way I’m wired. Another was a combination of events from my recent (moving) and remote past.

I was fighting this battle with my own mind when news broke about Facebook doing research on its members to study emotional response. Or rather – it had done research in the past, and the first we were hearing about it was when they decided to publish.

We could have a long discussion about reasonable (and unreasonable) expectations of privacy, informed consent, terms of service documents, and ethical research practices. We could but I won’t. I was depressed. I recalled my own experience doing psychological research on human subjects in school. Imagine yourself at your most fragile, vulnerable state. Then imagine you found out people were manipulating what you saw to see how it affected how you feel. I got very angry.

End of story.

Well, the end of that story.

I’ve thought a lot about social media. I’ve thought about socialization. I don’t make friends easily, and people don’t stay put, so most of my friends are not local. Depression is not something anyone should suffer in solitude, so cutting off access to my friends (in hindsight) was not a great idea.

Oh, and Lord help me. I bought Facebook stock. I had just enough in my account from Apple dividends to buy one share. So, as is my quirky, market custom – guaranteed to cost me more money than make me (due to transaction fees) – I bought the one share.

I feel dirty, but I couldn’t very well stoop to buying stock and not reactivate my account.

So here I am. You may mock me at any time.


To my friends on Facebook

I haven’t been around in a while and I won’t be. I won’t say never but it may be a long time.

You may be familiar with the Facebook scandal a few months back, regarding social research conducted on a large number of accounts (i.e. us). I’m not going to rehash the case for or against Facebook and it’s alleged right to conduct such research. I haven’t re-read the terms of service and have no desire to do so. I’m simply telling those of you who may be listening – I’ve opted out.

This isn’t a protest. I’m not asking, suggesting or hoping any of you do the same. I have my own, personal reasons why I needed to “opt out,” and I’ll leave it at that.

I know, I was barely there before, so what’s the difference? I like to think I had my moments even if they weren’t consistent.

I’m not deleting my account, so I may pop up to wish you a happy birthday, but please don’t take my absence as ambivalence. You all are reasons to stay around – big reasons. You make this decision hard, and ultimately will be the reason I’ll probably be back.

If you really want to punish yourself, you can come back and visit the blog. I hope to start updating it more regularly – if for no other reason than therapy (way to make the hard sell, eh ;-)

Where ever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope you are well.



Fickle Facebook friends

Note: I wrote this months ago, so the time references are way off (like someone’s concerned about timeliness… here of all places).

I was a social networking snob. At one time I had a blog, a web site, and all of it ran on a web server under my desk. I had Internet cred, and Facebook was beneath me.

Like everyone else, I didn’t get Twitter.

About a year ago I was talked into Facebook at an Obama event in Dunedin. “We’ll post all of our pictures there,” they said. “Facebook is cool. You’ll be hooked.” So I signed up.

A few days later I got my first friend request – someone who allegedly went to high school with me.

“Cheryl, do you remember a — —- from high school?”

“Um, yeah. I think she was a cheerleader and our class vice president.”

“Why on earth do you think she’d want to be my friend on Facebook?”

“Wait. Back up. Why would YOU want to join Facebook? When did this happen?”

Apparently I wasn’t the only snob in the house.

“I give. I’m weak. I gave in to peer pressure – and they weren’t even really peers – just a bunch of people I met at the Obama thing. Well, I suppose they were dictionary peers, but not my idea of peers. You know what I mean?”

“No John, I really don’t.”

Long story not too long, my prospective Facebook friend was helping plan our 20th high school reunion. I was new to the Facebook scene, and a little vulnerable, so I accepted. (Alright, I was vulnerable long before Facebook. Sue me.) I didn’t think we’d ever spoken to each other, and I knew we weren’t pen palls. I didn’t remeber her from any of my classes, though I’ve repressed most of those memories. Yet, through the miracle of social networking, we were Facebook friends.

Time passed. I voted for Obama. She almost certainly didn’t (more on that later). I had no intention of reliving my adolecent nightmares at a reunion. She posted lots of pictures with spirited captions. She’d been a popular kid. I was something, but it wasn’t popular. Dear Lord, who was this person? Shortly afterwards I ignored Facebook altogether (for a time). The hook hadn’t set.

Two people. Never met (I think). Never exchanged words (spoken or typed). Seemingly nothing in common but a brief bout of geography.

Facebook friends.

A few weeks ago depression eased off a bit and I caught up on the news. I left the house for something other than work. I checked Facebook to see what my friends were up to.

With a little curiosity, plus a pinch of boredom, I looked up that first Facebook friend. What I found was a wall full of political cartoons, jokes, and a pinch of right-wingnut hysteria; all railing against one of my passions: universal health care.

I was feeling frisky. My dander was tingling. The social courage I felt during the election returned. I was ready for a debate, even if I stood little chance of changing anyone’s mind. I had to comment, my fragile ego be damned. I picked the entry with the biggest choir and made my move.

I don’t know if I succeeded, but I tried to be civil. I thought I was arguing with reason and logic, facts and statistics. I made innocent/benign analogies. I made what I thought were reasonable points. They rallied – but not around me. Honestly, I don’t know if I drew first blood, but someone made it personal. One person called poor form. Another questioned my integrity, extolled the virtues of individualism, self-reliance and the boot-strap, implied collectivism in any form was the work of Satan, and suggested if I thought universal health care was so great, I should just move and leave everyone else alone.

I took exception to the moving bit, and said so. Still, I thought I was calm – reasonable. But maybe I wasn’t. Everyone got mad. I was told the move/leave comment was an honest suggestion, not an attack, I was essentially an idiot for thinking it was… and I took exception with THAT too.

Go figure. I’m odd that way.

Am I the only one who finds this kind of “suggestion” offensive? Am I the only one who finds an implicit “love it or leave it” message between the lines, implying I don’t love it? Am I the only one who finds it dismissive? Am I imagining an undertone of “we don’t want your kind here?”

And poor form? Can a guy get a collective: huh? Is it poor form to suggest social change conceived honestly, charitably, without malice, and dog gone it – just the right thing to do? I may not be right, and I gladly debate that point – but poor form?

Some of what follows is very similar to a post one of my favorite bloggers put up recently, only his was much better.

I felt like I wasn’t in it deep enough, so I set out to set mouths a foaming. I told them they were all collectivists. I don’t recall if I used these exact words, but I said something like this: “If not, then I expect you’d never drive on public roads, use public utilities, eat anything made out of corn, fly on planes that rely on the FAA to direct them, call 911 when you’re in trouble, engage in risk sharing via private insurance, support any intervention, under any circumstances, by a publicly funded military, use public libraries, beaches, or parks, or rely on others to monitor your water/air supply to make sure no one’s poluting it or poisoning you.”

I’ll say it again (because it makes me feel smart to use big words): everyone living in this country is a collectivist, to some degree.

At one point I had been accused of unfairly assuming one of the commenters was a Republican – though I don’t recall even using the word, let alone resorting to name calling. I got a little mushy and continued: “If I’ve made inaccurate assumptions, I appologize. I meant no offense. But when you’re trading short messages, with people you don’t know, it’s hard not to make certain assumptions based on what you say. I haven’t come out and said I’m a Democrat, but I’ll wager you’ve assumed I am one based on my stated beliefs.”

I might as well have set myself on fire and saved everyone the trouble. The next morning I was notified by email that another person had commented, once again acusing me unfounded/unfair/insulting assumptions, and self-evident deficiencies in logic conveniently wrapped in a single word rebuttal: socialist. I went online to read it again, to see where I’d gone so wrong, only to find I couldn’t. I’d been de-friended. I was in fact no longer welcome.

In an odd way, I hope I was an insufferable ass. Not because it gives me some sense of retaliation after the fact, but because I don’t want to believe the alternative: people are so closed to opposing viewpoints they huddle in little shelters, protected by a cocoon of agreement. I don’t want to believe we’re a society addicted to ideological insulation.

As for myself, I’m a little too comfortable in the cozy confines of my cocoon of naiveté. So make my day. Tell me I’m a stupid prick.

Oh, I know. There are other, less cynical possibilities. Maybe I broke a generally understood rule of social networking (by everyone but socially awkward me): thou shalt not argue on Facebook. Or I might not be right on this one, let alone persuasive. And then there’s the obvious: people don’t agree on everything. It’d be pretty dull if we did.

Then again, she did put all that political stuff up. You gotta expect a little dust-up when you talk political smack, right?

I know it’s not true for everyone, but I sense a pattern: folks get more cynical with age. I worry there’s good reason for it. Reading the news the last few months – about angry healthcare town hall mobs highjacking civil discourse, roving bands of bloodthirsty liberals hell bent on lowering the median age in this country, and the creeping influence of Satan in government (a place where I work) – hasn’t helped.

I don’t think I’m a pawn of Satan. Maybe I should re-read my position description and contract.