For some reason, a huge weight has been lifted. I feel free! But let me tell you why, and why not.
Discussions around facebook’s privacy issues and the use of your personal information for marketing and statistical purposes are legion. I don’t care that much about it. I realise that the information goes into some database, gets processed into pink pit sludge and spewed out in data sausages that ends up being devoured by other digital omnivores.
The chances of an actual unauthorised human being laying eyes on my personal information, and that information being used to my personal detriment are utterly remote… and let’s face it, if someone wanted to target me personally, facebook profile or not, they’d get my info.
I am not a pack of gum!
I’m a designer. As such I come into contact with (yes, like a virus) a LOT of marketing jargon. One particular subset of terminologies I have developed a mild to severe reaction to is the concept of “personal branding”. Dearest Wikipedia, the sacred well of all truth and knowledge, defines personal branding as follows at the time of writing this article:
Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging. Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group or organization.
Maybe I’ve been spending too much time around this kind of talk. Maybe I’m too private an individual. Nonetheless, that kind of thinking scares the shit out of me. It’s the kind of thinking that used to be reserved for public personalities and celebrities, but is not-so-slowly but surely trickling down to the individuals that are just trying to make an honest living.
You have to “sell yourself”. You have to present yourself as the perfect, well-adjusted package of value, productivity, presentability, skills, strengths, weaknesses, experience, talent… urgh… the list goes on… Add to the mix: facebook, twitter, instagram and every other public or semi-public exposure you might have had… but don’t forget to just be yourself… queue the anxiety attack.
I won’t live like that. I can’t. I won’t filter my thoughts, my posts, my status updates, my pictures and my shared feelings in such a way as to best reflect the brand I want to portray. And yes, I definitely have the option not to do that while still staying on facebook, but I have found that I just can’t post anything without the thought of who might be looking at it…
Ok, this thought hasn’t been brought to fruition yet – I’ll probably re-visit this section and update it at some point… because I can.
The purity of the moment.
That perfect sunset. That amazing view. That special family weekend. Whip out the camera, @tag and #tag the shit out of it! I haven’t been able to enjoy a single, genuine moment for the past few years without the thought of sharing it with my group of facebook contacts. How about enjoying the moment for the 5 minutes longer that it took to post to facebook… or not having to decide which version of it you’d like to portray to your friends that aren’t there in person to share the moment… and then not measuring, at least to some extent, the value of the moment by the amount of likes and comments.
Reality vs my facebook feed.
What a lovely idea… telling everyone about my best times. But what about the times where I questioned my very existence? What about the times I was so depressed that I could hardly get out of bed? When a childhood friend died. Do I make the choice to not bring my facebook friends down and not share that; not tell them about my conflict, my pain, my turmoil. It’s a choice I made often, and would again. Before you knew it, my facebook feed was so filtered that it really wasn’t a representation of who I am…
How are you?
It’s a simple question we ask. Quite often it’s purely out of courtesy. It’s a valid question nonetheless, and not one that should be asked without the knowledge that you might just get an honest answer you didn’t expect. And how often do you think to ask that question to your friend that is very active on facebook? The friend that only posts the filtered version of their reality online? “James must be so happy, look at all these great memories” you think.
Facebook posts aren’t conversations. Even the comments on those posts are relative to the post, and open to the same lists of friends the post was made to in the first place.
Every now and then, when posting something positive/happy on facebook, a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while would comment “How are you my friend?”. The best I could come up with was “Doing great!” while thinking “That happy memory made me question my priorities, left me depressed for three days while I’m struggling to find the epiphany that would give meaning to it all”. But no, the answer was “Doing great!”, and that was the end of it.
Scroll scroll scroll
So how many pages, personalities, brands and bunny slippers have you liked in the span of your tenure at facebook? Even after unfollowing most of them because of junk posts, how far do you have to scroll before you actually find a post that a friend wanted you to see? I’m not talking about an item about what fragrance Monique liked, or what post Bertus commented on. I’m talking about that honest to goodness post that doesn’t contain flashy images or graphics… the one that just reads “I miss having real conversations with my friends”. There’s a chance you’d scroll right past it because you only had a few minutes to see what’s what and there was a “sponsored” post right above it and a sale on the shoes you wanted right underneath it.
You buy a new car. A month later at a braai a friend asks you how that green piece of junk is doing that you drive around in. You’re actually more pissed off that he scrolled past your new-car post than you are about the fact that he called Bugsy a piece of junk! Are our friends obliged to keep tabs on our lives and be up to date on our news feed by the time we see each other in person at the next social gathering again? What would you talk about?
I’ve kept tabs on exes. I’ve been jealous. I’ve compared and fell short. I’ve been angry at posts and kept my mouth shut. I’ve unfriended good people. I’ve accepted strange friend requests just because he looked cute. I’ve sent friend requests for the “wrong” reasons. I’ve been that cliché.
Thanks to facebook I have also shared amazing memories. I’ve laughed my ass off. I’ve reminisced. I’ve reconnected. I’ve been enriched.
I know people that easily, by their very nature, have experienced none of the negativity I’ve mentioned. I’m even prepared to lay all of the negativity I’ve experienced at the feet of my own shortcomings. For me at least, the negative outweighed the positive, and I believe that we have a choice in what we allow in our lives.
I can now spend my “facebook” time writing posts like this, getting to know myself in the process. I have more time for introspection, more energy for improvement.
Next time I talk to a friend or acquaintance or someone that I don’t have to categorise because facebook said so, I’ll ask them how they are while looking into their eyes, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a real conversation about our lives, and enjoy the moment for what it is…
[UPDATE: 01.02.2016] If you’d like to delete your profile, the link is below.
Allow for 14 days for the action to be permanent. Then you might want to create a very limited “unattended” profile so friends can tag you, and allow you to see facebook links people want to show you.