Monday, March 30, 2009

Sick of Facebook


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.)

19 comments:

  1. This conversation happened on Shabbos:

    Person 1: Twitter claims that there are lots of things that happen in the daily life of someone close to you that you don't even know about.

    Person 2: But that's healthy!

    Also, it is possible to have facebook and not get sucked in. But every so often I toy with the idea of backing out.

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  2. Have I not been saying this all along?

    I've never had an account, and I am determined to withstand the continuous pressure to get one.

    Facebook rejecters unite!

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  3. Moshe: :)
    Ruth Anne--trouble is, I'm conflicted. And, the PROBLEM is that FB is all about "feelings." BAAAAD!
    Erachet: so, why DON'T you back out?
    SJ: See? There's "continuous PRESSURE." And, if you're not on FB, there's no"where" to unite!

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  4. I see your point. I do have an account, but update it only once every couple of days. I use it only to see what some of my friends, to whom I don't talk often in person, are up to. I can see that it could be a time-waster, but I just don't let it. I don't post photos, I don't try to be witty, and I don't do the quizzes and games. I just don't feel it's a good use of whatever free time I have. I think some of it is in how you use Facebook. I've never felt any pressure to be on it.

    The Twitter thing is something I don't understand at all. I don't need details ad nauseum from people. Please.

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  5. Erachet: so, why DON'T you back out?

    So I can look at my friends' pictures, mostly.

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  6. Northern Light, do you have a nickname? I feel like I'm talking to a feathery-headdressed Indian chief! Thank you for the validation. What's weird is, I had become quite addicted, but when it occurred to me to quit, I did it immediately, and it's not even been a struggle. sj, you are a prophetess. Moshe--you make me feel extra-validated. Erachet, I used to tout the friends' photo's reason too. It was nice to see some photos, and now I have seen them. All right, back to real life (and fun blogs!) XOXO!

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  7. Duh. I mean "photos." Don't you hate it when people are so proud they have to correct their tiny errors like this?

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  8. Weird, thought I'd commented... I'm not a FB fan. I have an account, but as I told Moshe, it's mostly like a rolodex for people I'm not commonly in contact with and to stalk people's pictures like Erachet said. Overall, I think FB is used more as a waste of time than anything else. Twitter I'll never understand (and you can see that video my friend posted on my blog mocking it).

    On the flip side, I just got this e-mail from a friend which made me think of this post, which is a nice argument for some of the positives of Facebook:

    "...I figured that since you posted the The Facebook Haggadah on your blog, you'd get a kick out of the fact that I've gotten over a dozen "Facebook Messages" from non-observant Jews that I grew up with in Wichita, KS. While I do message them before each Yom Tov, wishing them a happy holiday, it is not only impressive, but touching, that Pesach resonates with these Jews. The person who came up w/ this was a genius.

    I'm hoping that the The Facebook Haggadah will start a dialogue with many of them, and a renewed friendship, as I am the only Torah observant person they know. ..."

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  9. Hehe. Apparently someone wants (me? you?) to stay on FB: Facebook reunites family split during Holocaust.

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  10. You want to talk about a colossal waste of time...how about writing a book of a blog about why facebook is such a waste of time. And you talk about how stalking people on facebook is messed up, I don't know about you but I'm not going on there to try to find a window to peep in later that night. I'll bet you read a bunch of other people's blogs (if you're like any other blogger I know)...you want to know what stalking is...it's reading other peoples blogs which are basically public diaries. It's weird that you try to make other people feel bad for being on facebook because you don't know how to use it the right way...for connecting with old friends that you might never be able to talk to otherwise. If you were so dead set on not wasting anymore time, close your blog and save people the time they might take to read it.

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  11. One other thing...do you realize that you have "followers" of your blog...that sounds like a religion to me. The only person I know who had true "followers" was the greatest Jew of all time...Jesus Christ, the savior of all humanity...the giver of life...the alpha and omega...beginning and the end...and most of all the guy who doesn't waste time blogging (and yes I agree, he wouldn't waste time commenting on someone's blog either).

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  12. Facebook is boring. I've always said as long as my buddies are alive I could care less what their up to. The only post I made concerning what I was doing was. Will is wondering what the point of facebook is. The response from a well informed friend was... TO WASTE TIME!!!

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  13. I am glad you wrote this article. It made me feel better. I will not even join Facebook. It looks kind of stupid, and unnecessary. I mean, what's wrong with just calling people occasionally like I did in the past? I like hearing and seeing people. Facebook makes a person socially lazy, I think.

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  14. I am 100% simpatico with your take. Facebook is a self promoting, voyeuristic waste of time. I love the part about taking a shower after being sucked into it. It is not living or cultivating. It feels like a dim hole. Thank you for making me feel not alone on this!

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  15. i think youll find as someone else said on the internet. the hardcore facebookers are the only ones left on facebook. everyone else has gone. most of the time only 10 of the 300 contacts i have talk at any one time. others are there but dont bother talking apart from once in a blue moon.
    mostlyt all that are left are single parents and unemployed people wasting time chatting about what they have for tea or dinner.
    i suppose like a parents house or parents phone number its somewhere you can rely on where you know everyone you know is there as opposed to being who knows where on the internet at any given time.
    apart from that its a pointless complete waste of space time and your life to spend more than 5 minutes twice a day on.

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  16. I deleted my facebook too. Feels good. No more drained time wasting in seeing people cry out for attention, people writing junk. Good post. See you round.

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  17. It's all fake interaction and people are starting to realise that. The only online media I use is an activity scheduler, like lendogo.com . I prefer to really connect with my friends instead of posting useless comments on fb.

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