brokeback mountain (72)

I Can’t Quit You, Facebook!

brokeback mountain (72)
While I’d like to think that I sound like Otis Rush when I agonize over quitting Facebook, truth is, I probably sound a lot more like Jack Twist.

I find Facebook’s well-documented privacy shenanigans completely abhorrent, and, like Nancy Baym, I admire friends and acquaintances who have up and left. I’ve been trying to better understand my own rather visceral reactions to all of this and why I’m so hesitant to quit. Many who have left are fine with Twitter being their primary mode of online social connection. I’m not, and here’s why.

On Facebook, I’m connected to people I grew up with, went to Hebrew school or college with, to family members and to friends I’ve made in adulthood. They’re teachers, lawyers, journalists, professors, writers, nurses, doctors, engineers, social workers, artists, musicians, coaches, students, business folk, congressional aides, soldiers, and retirees. They’re Jewish, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, secular humanist, and there’s a few who’ve dabbled in Santaria. Many, but not all, are to the left of center, and most are to the right of me. These are folks from every step of my life, and I feel a lot of warmth in that space. When I post anecdotes about or photos of my kids, people comment or like or share stories of their own. When I post interesting things I’ve read or watched or listened to, people thank me, or pass along what I’ve shared. It’s a validating space, not least of all because of the bonds of affection I share with these folks. At one point or another they’ve all been non-digital “friends” of mine; we all occupy a space in each others’ memories. I don’t really have the time — or even, in many cases, the inclination — to put in the effort to stay in close touch with every one of them. But each I feel warmth towards, and think they probably feel it towards me too; ultimately, it’s nice to share an interest in each others lives. While it’s possible I’d be able to recreate this without Facebook, I think it’s doubtful. It wouldn’t be a tragedy to lose, but I’d miss it.

On Twitter, I’m connected to people I know mostly through work; either through CUNY or edtech/Wordpress or scholarly connections. Though I tweet personal things quite often, this is primarily a professional network. With a few notable exceptions, the people who talk to me on Twitter (those who @ me) are people I’ve known outside of the digital realm. I’ve had no shortage of folks whom I’ve spoken to on Twitter who’ve never acknowledged my presence, and while I don’t take it personally, I do find it kind of rude in an abstract way. When someone eng@ges me, I try my best to respond.

My Twitter network, though larger, has nowhere near the ethnic, religious, or class diversity of my Facebook network. When I put out a question, generally people who are my friends outside of Twitter are the ones who respond. I know that’s not the experience of many of my Tweeps, but it’s been mine. The bonds of affection that characterize my Facebook network are rarely present for me on Twitter; when they do appear in a shared story or a knowing quip, they’re especially noteworthy. My Twitter network does inspire and challenge and inform me more than my Facebook network. But at the same time, if I disagree with something or try to engage someone on an idea, I am almost never satisfied by the exchange.

Someone (whom I’ve met and like very much) retweeted the other day something along the lines of “Facebook is for who you went to high school with; Twitter is for who you WISH you went to high school with.” Gotta say, this is one of the more obnoxious things I’ve read. I don’t like all the people I went to high school with; but I don’t hate the fact that I went to high school with them. I am what I am because of what was. I feel like there’s a lot of this kind of snobbiness and self-righteousness and posturing in my Twitter network (says a poster who’s prone to snobby self-righteousness). I know I’m free to construct the network I want to have, but since Twitter is primarily a professional space, I feel I mostly have to construct the network I need to have. There are certain people I follow because they say smart things, even if I don’t think I’d really like hanging out with them. That calculus isn’t really present for me on Facebook, which filters I think into my overall affection for the network. Twitter can be a warm place, but it’s not always: there are people in my network who’ve displayed serious anxiety about a decision or the arc of their lives, and who’ve been met mostly with silence. On Facebook when this happens, I tend to see an outpouring of support. Twitter is great, but it’s a wholly different experience from the one I have on Facebook, and couldn’t really fill the gap that would be created if I deleted my account.

I keep telling myself that the next Facebook privacy fuck up will send me packing. In reality, I just don’t know. Facebook, you suck. I’m gonna lock my info down, but I don’t know if I can quit you.

13 thoughts on “I Can’t Quit You, Facebook!”

  1. Luke,

    I think it is only right I should be the first to comment here. And I agree with you about Facebook to some degree, I have thought a lot about deleting my account recently, but given I never check it, have avery little activity happening for me there, and seldom feel compelled to deal with it, having and account and not having one seems about the same to me. I locked up my settings pretty good, and imagine I will delte mine sooner rather than later, but still feel a bit hesitant to, and I don;t have nearly the community there you do, I can understand your a bit ambivalent.

    Fact is, having your own space finally, may help take you out of Facebook a bit more, but still allow you to remain connected with folks as they go through their own Facebook cycle. i think this will be a lot more prevalent for a lot more folks in the coming year or two, and your just feeling it a bit sooner. Facebook will eat itself, and preparing for the survivalist revolution with your own blog is a very good idea.

    I can’t begin to tell you how pumped up I am you are blogging, and I am selfishly thrilled facebook, or general ennui with being a Detroit Tiger fan, drove you to finally take the plunge. Let me be the first to welcome you home!!!

  2. Thanks Jim… I agree with and appreciate your gentle nudge here that part of my connection to Facebook may be that it gives me a space to perform my knowledge, and that it’s about damn time I put my thoughts out in the open. I’ve been in a bit of an intellectual rut since Phinishing the Dissertation, trying to figure out what’s next, and I don’t think there’s a better way to do that than this. Plus, I’m kind of sick of helping other people do their work all the time. Maybe you’re right that doing this here will cut against my connection to a closed space. No better way to find out.

    Looking forward to continued dialog, but mostly to another Verlanding at Yankee Stadium in August. You may have 27 championships, but you’ll never have Motown soul.

  3. First things first: I’m extremely happy to be adding this feed to my reader.

    Second things second: What’s interesting to me is that you use ‘Twitter’ and ‘Facebook’ here as shorthand for things that don’t really have all that much to do with Twitter and Facebook at all. For most of what you talk about above, ‘Twitter’ = ‘Luke’s Twitter network’, mutatis mutandis for FB. It’s likely that your networks in these two spaces are different at least in part because of the geometry of the spaces themselves – a platform like Twitter might tend to foster networks of a different shape than FB. But at the heart of the matter, this isn’t really an issue about Facebook at all, aside from the fact that FB is being particularly craptastic these days and they happen to house one of your valued networks.

    You make a pretty airtight argument for why the network in FB is valuable. So the question isn’t ‘Does FB suck’, because understood one way the answer is obviously ‘yes’ and understood another the answer is obviously ‘no’. Instead the question is how do you weigh the immediate, emotional value that you get out of a social network (by which I mean a network of social connections, NOT a piece of software) vs the abstract, intellectual value that you get out of rebelling against tonedeaf corporations. I don’t even really know how to start answering that question, but I have a sense that it’s at the locus of a lot more than just the Facebook debacle.

  4. @Boone Glad to have this discussion with you in more than 140 characters, which isn’t up to the task of capturing what your giant brain has to offer. You’re absolutely right: all of this is about more than Facebook’s suckage, it’s about how we assign and assess value that allows us to navigate meaningfully through the web. I think that’s part of what appealed to me about the piece I linked to re: EPIC this morning… they were making an argument that the FTC needs to get involved with these things because they’re much bigger than Facebook.

    I wonder about the demographic relationship between _active_ Twitter users and Facebookers, and its impact on the geography of the space. Obviously I feel my Twitter network is less diverse than my Fb network… to what extent is that a function of my life and choices and what has to do with the applications themselves?

    What’s been troubling to me about the trend in my Twitter network (much of which overlaps with yours, I’m sure) to bash Facebook is a tendency to flatten the way we make decisions in a way that’s ungenerous and sometimes even spiteful towards the type of connections I describe in my post. No, those connections are not dependent upon Facebook… but it wasn’t possible before Facebook and it’s hard to see it emerging again if Fb goes away. It depends on Fb’s “massness.” This is a deeply personal decision, and my spending time on Twitter has made me feel I have to defend my staying on Fb. A lot of that is me and my own shit; but that doesn’t mean that what’s above didn’t need to be said. Ultimately, what’s most important is that folks are aware of the implications of their decisions and make peace with them. (Well, that and that Fb doesn’t let people make peace with decisions then pull the rug out from under them…)

  5. I quit faceb00k today, but I only did it because all the cool kids were doing it.


    The decision was a lot easier for me, since I really only had a handful of friends over there. So I’ll miss out on some photos, and some jokes, but I thought the point of quitting was more important. I’m hoping it snowballs into a real statement.

    What’s interesting to me is that, over the last year or so, I’ve seen my friends’ use of FB dramatically decrease in general. People who used to post many times a day now do a few times a week, if that. It’s obviously anecdotal, but from what I’ve seen, FB was losing some of it’s draw anyway.

    And with some luck, there will be open alternatives to FB’s social networking model in the future that won’t require the proprietary lock-in that put you in the position you’re in right now. (sub to Gnu Social if you haven’t already…)

    PS — added you to my reader as well…

  6. @Carlo Thanks for the comment and the subscription. I haven’t really seen the same trend my my Fb network, which remains active. Many more posts about privacy concerns though… people are tuned in, it seems, but also balance the value as I do. I don’t know of anyone who’s left my Fb network who isn’t on Twitter, though. Fwiw, you’re one of the people in my Twitter network who I do feel that “bond of affection” with even though we’ve never met. I think that’s probably because we’ve engaged around a range of things: food, NYC/NJ, media, politics, and silliness, and you’re always generous with an @. Perhaps that is what drew you into comment here as well.

    But all theories at this point are provisional…

  7. <>

    Yeah, I always enjoying reading blog posts from folks I “know” from twitter. And I wish more people did it!

    While I don’t believe the “blogs are over” stories that are written annually in the various tech and news sites, I do think some of the life has definitely been sucked out of the blogosphere because of twitter (it has replaced so much of my bloggage…), so it’s always nice to read what people think in something longer than 140 chars.

  8. Love the song, love the photos, love the new blog in my reader.

    I don’t think you have to apologize or downplay a decision to stay in Facebook; obviously it gives you something worthy. I have to agree with the Senator from Fredericksburg, a latched down, barely tended FB account is a statement too; and I hardly want to be part of a “I quit Facebook cause everyone else is” brigade.

    OTOH, I have to say that for me FB is a steaming pile of dog poop and the more they try to “improve” it, the worse they make it. I anticipate implosion under its own sheer weight of Farmville manure.

    I’m in a process of neutralizing my account to the barest minimum.

  9. Hmm. It appears that users confuse their friends and friendships with the conduit Facebook provides for communication with those friends. This is exactly what Facebook counts on and why it shows that manipulative message about who will miss you and how many people you’ll lose touch with if you so much as even think about deactivating your account… much less delete it altogether.

    I’ve quit Facebook, but I have not quit my friendships.

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