# # Why I Quit Facebook(for less than a month)

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

Brother, I Can See Your Skull. - The Coreyshead Blog

Why I Quit Facebook
(for less than a month)

Facebook

I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with the internet.

When I find some part of it inspiring or useful in a constructive fashion, I love it. When I find myself just sopping up its fatty gravy, I hate it. The problem is realizing which is which while online …

My first introduction to something even remotely like Facebook was the forum at Alen Yen’s ToyboxDX, which I stumbled across in 1996 or so.

Initially using it as a guide to the fascinating and bottomless pit of vintage Japanese robot and monster toys, I soon found myself drawn into the conversation on the forum there and, before too long, it was hard to go through a day without checking the never-ending text-melee *at least* once – and often far more regularly. This lasted about ten years and, much to my shock, I made friends. Real friends. Via the internet.

For some reason, I never thought this could happen. I had no trouble believing that you could become friends with a pen-pal but, somehow, the electronic aspect of the internet, the fact that it included a screen I suppose, negated its potential for real human interaction in my and many other people’s minds. We laughed at those who spoke of dating online or claimed to have made friends via the internet. We discounted how the potential speed of internet interaction might actually facilitate conversation, unlike the snail-mail of the hypothetical pen-pal. I don’t know why we did, but we did.

Anyway, during the decade of my heating, then cooling, activity on ToyboxDX, I was talked into giving MySpace a shot. I had a friend or two on there and was assured by these good people that it really was, you know, “the shit.”

MySpace never really worked for me. I found the layout ugly and distracting, and the site facilitated little in-depth conversation, if at all. I don’t remember how long I was part of the MySpace network but I left feeling that, were I in a band or high school, it would’ve had more value for me. As it was: meh. It was an easy account to kill, even with friends on there telling me I was making a mistake. Once off, I didn’t miss it. That was that: bye, now.

When my relationship with the ToyboxDX community (and my life situation) began to change, I resisted the obvious for as long as I could but the handwriting was on the wall. While the group I interacted with on the site remains a surprisingly durable fraternity that I have come to realize I can count on in any number of unlooked for ways, I’ve said to them just about all I have to say regarding toys. And then some. Though I still appreciate vintage, Japanese toy designs, I no longer actively obsess over them. After I realized that I no longer had anything relevant to contribute and was, in fact, doing little more than being an ass on the site, I backed away – though I do still stop by to chime in on or post on occasion. Sure enough, the forum portion of the site is still there, thrumming away.

But the habit of having a site to go to, to check in at, to be a part of – that habit was, by now, well ingrained.

 

I first heard about Facebook back when an employer’s daughter was headed off to an east coast college. One aspect of settling into the culture of her new surroundings was checking out Facebook. At the time, I’d heard of it as a social network primarily for college students and thus, had no real interest in it.

Of course, it wasn’t too long thereafter that I started to hear about Facebook from people who were not in college. The idea sounded dumb – I’d had no use for MySpace so why would Facebook be any different? I joined in with the raspberries and catcalls of other naysayers around me. “Liking” and “Poking” (snicker) was all well and good in real life but online? On Facebook? I’m making guacamole …

It wasn’t until after my divorce, when I was living alone and out of work, that I finally caved. I was hearing too many things about it that appealed to me in my then incarnation as overqualified, unemployed guy. Maybe networking on this site could help me find work and showcase my projects? I signed up and, while my connections on LinkedIn were more instrumental in the long run, my Facebook network, which seemed to double every day that first month, filled in the cracks and was greatly responsible for bolstering my self-confidence.

What’s more, I found myself enjoying the site for the awesome and diverse group of people I found there: current friends, high school friends, grade school friends, old co-workers, relatives, neighbors, acquaintances, people with similar interests, strangers with fascinating names, surveillance forces of the shadow government, and more. I made new friends via old friends, was introduced to many things I otherwise would never have seen and hell, I even got laid! Wowsers: making guacamole indeed!

What I enjoyed most, though, was finding people from my past. Even people I’d barely known. I love people watching and I love history – especially mundane history. That person I used to sit next to on the bus, that girl I had a crush on, that guy who used to bully me – what had become of them? For me, seeing someone I knew in elementary school 30 years after the fact, getting to observe them – even just their online persona – is fascinating stuff.

I really liked the way Facebook could work. You post something, others see it – and not just those who choose to stop by but everyone silly enough to include you in their “feed.” If they like it and or share it, it gets further exposure, and so on. I saw almost immediately how it could be used to give exposure to current and past projects – not to mention daily humor.

I’ve long lacked creative discipline and am always looking for ways to improve this. One of the first things I decided to do with Facebook was to change out my profile picture every Friday. Oh: and have a new, clever status every day. Yeah – that’ll get the ol’ juices flowing. Of the former, I managed to stay on top for nearly five years. Of the latter, let’s just say that I’ve had a few pretty amazing streaks but that I’m simply not as serially clever as I’d like to believe.

In the meantime, Facebook kept on doing what it does best: reinventing itself to the endless consternation of its users. Your “stream” no longer gets seen by everyone on your friends list automagiacally – each individual user has to change the constraining default for themselves – so some of the exposure I was enjoying went away. Also, they introduced the “Timeline” layout and suddenly I have a cover photo as well as a profile shot to update weekly. I liked this change because, wouldn’t it be cool to make the two images interact with each other in a clever way? Every week? Yeah … sure.

To further strain things, I’ve also been babysitting a blog since 2006 or so: now it’s regularly updated, now it’s not. If I wanted to be serious, it was time to keep a regular schedule of updates. How about twice a week. Sure, why not?

Outside the internet, life is chugging along: In 2009 I end up getting the job I am presently employed at, a job which takes a bit more of my brain than any other job I’ve ever had. I meet a wonderful woman. I fall in love. I get married (all with the same gal, too; I felt it wise to consolidate these things). Now I have two, young boys in my life, along with my (presently) teenaged daughter. My week is now revolving around family-life, work, and what I’m going to put on my blog and Facebook that week. In my free time …ha, ha, ha! … I look at Facebook and pour through other’s posts in order to “like” or comment on the ones that catch my attention. Hey, I want them to do the same with my posts, so I have an obligation to be actively there for them, don’t I?

The stress of trying to keep up with all my commitments – both real and fabricated – starts to eat me up. On the side, to my poor wife, I bitch that I don’t have enough time to work on real projects. Real writing, real art. How the hell am I going to get anything done with this horrible schedule?

Plus, I’ve started expecting some kind of bizarre thing from Facebook: professional satisfaction. That’s right, I was so busy working to put creative crap up on Facebook, to stay fresh there, as well as making sure my “duty” to support others on the site was fulfilled, that I didn’t have time to work on the bigger projects I had in mind. Further, I expected what I posted on Facebook to satisfy my creativity’s constant need for attention!

I’d repost one of my blog posts on Facebook and get a few comments, get a few likes. Somehow this didn’t match up to the effort I felt I was putting in. Where’s the applause? Where are the publishing houses? Where are the employers? Where the hell’s that lingering sense of satisfaction from a job well done? It was, in short, insane – and it only took me a few short years to totally lose perspective. How had I gotten my creative priorities so bloody upside-down?

Oh, wait. I can answer that: The need for instant gratification fueled by years of getting said via the internet.

You have to understand that I spent the first 30 or so years of my life feeling I had something to share with others, yet having the sense I would never get the chance to do so on any real scale. For one thing, I was (and remain) uncertain that what I have to offer is of a caliber or taste for an audience outside myself. For another, I knew that, even if what you have to offer is amazing, it’s still a crapshoot to get it out there for others to see.

All that changed when I realized I could build my own website, get my own content out there for people to see. Sure, the questions remain – is there value and who’s looking? – but, since 2001 or so, my work has been on public display and has, in many instances, gotten me kudos from both friends and strangers – pretty heady stuff after 30 years of dreaming but never believing that this could ever happen.

But it’s the equivalent of show and tell. Just one step – and an early one – of my goal to get things “out there.” Facebook, my blog, Flickr, what have you – they’re all great tools but you have to know when and how to use them and what to expect from them. I lost sight of that and it was very regularly causing me grief.

So, one evening, on an impulse, I decided to disable my Facebook account. I just pulled the plug, even going so far as to remove the app from my phone so it wouldn’t be there to remind me.

Then I realized something.

I’d dumped out of Facebook without telling anyone but my wife. I thought of friends and relatives with whom my only mode of contact was Facebook. Would they be worried? Think I was being rude? Worse, an old friend had recently held a contest for a piece of bronze sculpture via his Facebook page. I’d unknowingly entered into the contest by liking the page – and I’d won! This on the same day I decided to step *off* of Facebook. I contacted the friend and told him the situation, which he understood. Thinking things over, I decided to wait a month and see: see how I felt about Facebook, see what effect, if any, not being on it had on my blog traffic, and on my life.

Within 48 hours I was surprised, not by missing Facebook but by how I *wasn’t.* Suddenly, I had time to read, to think, to write, to edit. No longer was any computer experience punctuated by checking Facebook in between tasks. My iPhone battery lasted much longer as I’d stopped using its Facebook app as a way to fill every empty second of my life – and the empty seconds in my life diminished.

By the time I’d been off Facebook for three weeks, I began to question going back at all. My blog following, never strong in the first place, hadn’t fallen off any. My personal productivity had increased, and my sense of purpose and direction had been renewed. I told my wife I *wasn’t* going to go back. That I’d log back in to collect contact information from people, then shut it back down. My plan was to keep the account around for event announcements and the like but, otherwise, I’d just forget the whole thing. I was done with it. I didn’t need it. Kaput.

Two nights later, I reactivated my account and posted a blog link.

Why had I finally caved? Had my resolve crumbled? Did I need attention that badly?

I signed back on because I missed the interaction – and I was (warning: understatement) a little tipsy. But I don’t regret doing so. The issue I was really having was one of control, balance. After my little break, I no longer find myself using Facebook as a fallback position for anything. In short, I’ve reassessed what I want to get out of the site and adjusted my habits accordingly.

It’s not the tool, it’s how you use it.

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “Why I Quit Facebook
(for less than a month)”

  1. Ren says:

    I think I speak for many when I say, “We missed you!”

    Glad you’re back, even though you signed on in a drunken haze. 😉

Leave a Reply