Last night I had a conversation with a friend who disclosed that she disabled her Facebook account. Not that I'd noticed my friend-count decline by one; I don't even know how many I've got (it's somewhere around 100) and I don't check Facebook every day--much less send out narcissistic announcements about my fleeting feelings and momentary interests. In fact, I'm finding it more and more irritating, a time-soaker that leaves me feeling slightly soiled, in need of a shower.
At the same time that my Facebook fascination has plummeted, another real-life friend decided she had to overcome her better instincts and join, lest she miss all the family photos of grandchildren and friends' little ones only available there. Her husband had joined awhile earlier, for business reasons--to increase visibility and ultimately sales of their products.
Was it a coincidence that today's New York Times business section blared the headline, "Is Facebook Growing Up Too Fast?" Having just earned its 200 millionth member, doubling in the last 8 months, the now international "social network" is having "issues."
I could have told them that.
My son and daughter rejected me as "friends." The new format leaves me cold. And soon, real-time blasts from "friends" will make the networking site little more than a Twitter-clone. With photos. Oh yes, and some "conditions of use" that scare me. I'm considering joining my flesh-and-blood friend and de-activating.
Am I the only one who's realizing that stalking people online is not only a colossal waste of time, but actually lowers me morally? That perhaps a preoccupation with others' soap operas and fascinations and, often--breakfast foods, mishaps, momentary blues and gripes, sucks me into the world of "lushon ha ra" (gossip, unnecessary talk about others' lives) that we Jews are cautioned against?
Actually, it's worse than that--immersion in wants and irks on Facebook isn't just about voyeurism, it's about training your own soul away from the transcendent and the long-term, and toward physical here-and-now selfishness. At the top of your own page, next to your own profile picture is a box plaintively asking, "What's on your mind?" (It used to say, so-and-so is... with a blank space). That's the first thing--what's with you? The next thing is to hit "enter" so the rest of your friends all know about it. As many times a day as you feel like inserting yourself in their worlds.
If, as my husband often points out, the two opposites pulling our actions are "do your duty" versus "follow your heart," Facebook indoctrinates toward the latter. No one on FB broadcasts what he, she or others "ought" or "should" do. It's all about want. It's all about feelings. Not much about responsibility, or postponing gratification for greater good or later reward. Either it's about me, now, or you, now. Or about target ads that wiggle on the side of the screen, which, the Times article notes, aim increasingly to "engage" Facebookers, hooking them deviously into products and services via "games" and quizzes. "What's your favorite color m-and-m?" Guess who paid for that on your screen?
I joined FB because I had to. I was doing research on a book and wanted to find out the results of a study conducted at a college. The results were only available on Facebook. Under protest, I created a page. For my mental health, I try to avoid it, but messages that people post, comments and "notifications" get sent through to my email. Most people seem to have a love-hate with Facebook; in fact the Times piece ends with an anecdote by a young woman who quit but rejoined six months later due to peer pressure, confessing, "They wanted me to be wasting my time on it just like they were wasting their time on it."
Exactly. Should I retire my account? (BTW, the photo is Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder.)