Stalemate, or Rather Just Stale
I left facebook behind. It became too much of a mental tick. I would check in, and nothing would be new, so I would find something new. But I wasn’t really. I was involving myself in lives and narratives that were not mine, and only through appropriation could I make them part of my evolving timeline. Which is to say, I was looking at others lives and over laying their experiences with my own.
I’ve done it before, many of us have, as in watching reality shows on television. In the nineties, I was a fervent fan of “The Real World” a reality show on MTV. The people on the show seemed relatable and I began to overlay what had happened to them with my own interpretations of life around me.
Last night at our house, David Killpatrick stated how influential he felt Seinfeld’s sitcom had been on his family’s mannerisms and speech patterns. He realized this after not watching it for years and then seeing the entire first season in a binge session. The distance from the source material allowed him to compare it to the patterns in his family. Which is what I find myself doing with popular media. I overlay the experiences I watch on the computer with my own feelings on any given day.
We as a society have done this for generations, fretting as a pack about the news of the day, or the weather predicted for the upcoming week. We as a people are notorious for thinking about situations and events which do not concern us, or directly effect or could be directly affected by us. We are compelled toward empathy and compassion for the woes of others in the path of storm, but when that empathy crosses over into atrophy on the part of my own emotions than it is time to leave facebook behind.
Two years ago I felt there was nothing left to do on the site but send friend requests to my friends parents, so I did. Just before Halloween this year, I felt there was nothing left to do but add friends that were recommended to me by the site, so I did. Some time ago Zuckerberg, the co-founder of the site, expressed his hope that facebook could turn into the daily newspaper for people, a personal paper published by your friends. You could track news that was important to your specific circle. He has also identified his hope for facebook to achieve the status of a utility in our lives. Like the electric company, we would count on the stability and need of the site in our lives.
Google is close to attaining this status. Tragically in recent months Google has made missteps with their mail and web-browsing services, which have alienated many heavy users. So too has facebook. Three years ago I addressed my frustrations with the site in my master’s thesis, identifying it as an aesthetically crippled site. But I continued to use it, as a source of elastic connection with family and friends and business contacts. But then I ran out of interest, so I began adding the friends they were recommending to me. Many of those users I had dozens, even hundreds, of mutual friends in common. When someone new begins an account on facebook and adds you as a friend, the algorithm often asks you to recommend other friends to the new person. On your home page you will see in one of the most prominent corners of your page the window for “people you may know”.
So I began adding. Within two weeks I had gone from 1400 friends to 2400 and I was blocked. My friend request privileges were suspended. I was not allowed to ask anyone to be my friend for seven days because the site felt I was using the feature wrong. Wrong was the word used. So I waited and began again at the end of the cycle. I added another couple hundred friends and it blocked me again for fourteen days. I waited and then added another thousand. The algorithm then told me I was harassing people by sending friend requests. Harassing was the word. I had been sending requests to people who I had over 100 mutual friends with. The site has over a billion users, so I understand my place in that, which is completely unimportant.
I had anticipated going up to 5000 the standard friend limit. I wanted to know what was on the other side of 5000. Is there a special status you receive at the ceiling? I will never know and I am fine with that feeling. I just gave up, I didn’t care anymore. I took the app off my phone, I pulled the auto-login off of my computer. I just stopped caring what was on the page. I stopped being interested in the experience. Many news stories have echoed this lack of interest by emerging teens and twenty-somethings. The likelihood of their presence on facebook is diminishing. They are uninterested in the brand. Facebook as a company has begun aggressive purchasing of other networks to help shore up or perhaps diversify their offerings. Instagram is on board, and they would love to add Snapchat among others. They must build a new brand which will appeal to the younger emerging users, the trouble is they have too much faith in the current brand. Like GM they believe their flagship will be forever strong. But that can’t sustain, because facebook is not a utility, it is a luxury and a curiosity.
We do not need it to maintain connection with the people of importance. I am not sour about my facebook time. I am excited about the time I am spending away from the network. I feel somehow better equipped to think about myself. I have asked many people, mostly my students what they imagine will come after social media, and they often admit to not considering the idea. Which is to say most people aren’t as neurotic about the future as I am, but I am desperately curious about what we will have next. Maybe I am just terribly anxious to get there because I feel what we have sucks so much. It does, social media sucks. For every good meal Yelp has recommended, I have been disappointed ten fold by the naive crowd-think of movie reviews, and recommendations for adventure. The idea that we would need every experience vetted by each other or affirmed after the completion of our task is oppressive.
I went to the beach, because I love the part of the earth where the water starts and the sand stops. I don’t need anyone to like that, because I am confident that I like it enough. Affirmation is a crutch, which I hope to leave behind me. I will publish this for you to read on a blog site, but I will also mail it to few of you, who I love and cherish. Please feel free to tell me your thoughts as I have felt free to tell you mine. I already know we like each other, and I don’t mind you telling me that, but let’s have some food soon and sit and talk for way too late. I would like that better than every single time I have ever hit login on this computer.