Goodbye Facebook

Botón_Me_gusta.svgThe causalities are piling up: Facebook exits by several friends, some just as the New Year began (resolutions?), others over the past several months.

One was driven away on his significant other’s insistence, another out of some unexplained need to take a break for the year. Yet another left, claiming she was being stalked and her departure was at the insistence of legal authorities for her own protection.

Another friend comes and goes all the time, claiming the need to purge from the negativity showing up in her stream.

I joined Facebook as a writing career move, prodded by an agent to establish my social platform. Naturally, many of my online friends are other writers, doing the same. Now I’m having doubts too, and I know that others have long had the same. What I have to say here is nothing new, but I’ll say it anyway.

I do what all my writer friends are doing – posting links to my blog, reading updates, publishing updates, – you know – marketing myself. This is the dark side of being creative. The very antithesis of it. But part of being artist is performing your work (i.e., getting published, presenting readings), and marketing yourself is an entree to both of those ends.

Yet the creative urge is fed by lots of time alone with the work. And not all the time you spend talking about your work.

The flipside is that I am on the receiving end of all of my writer friends’ marketing efforts, and along with my happiness for them when they succeed there always comes a stab in my belly that I’m not keeping up, that I should be doing more, that I’m not getting published enough, that I’m not winning enough awards, getting the important reviews, etc, etc, etc.

And that’s just the thing.

Affirmation (in the form of a Facebook like or number of views) creates the need for more – it’s a vicious cycle –there is not enough affirmation (Facebook liking) in the world, for anyone to ever feel validated. Loved.

You can’t get true affirmation from an impersonal system masquerading as a community that is really trying to pitch ads at you and make money for a Faceless corporation.

I wish I could be one of those people who just posts and moves on, invested with a power ego that doesn’t care if people like or hate what they say. To be honest, that was my goal when I naively joined up. That I could be the real person that I am, express my real opinions, and be better for it.

But I’m neither being real, honest, or feeling better for it.

Writer Sherry Turkle says, Facebook is the place “where you show your best self. It’s a place for good news, not the place where you talk about your most vulnerable self.”

And it’s true: Susan – the public persona as seen on Facebook is nowhere close to the real person that I am. The Facebook Susan is a curated façade, intended to help market me as a writer and, I admit, to share my other personal successes for your stamp of approval.

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Again, this is not a new thought, just a realization of how artificial this community can be.

 

As much as I love to see my friends and family’s adorable baby and pet photos, as much as I do cherish new friends I’ve made only because of striking up a Facebook friendship, as much as I love to keep in touch with friends, old and new, I’m finding it harder and harder to give a thumbs up to the Facebook experience these days.

And I know I’m not alone. So there’s community in that, right?

What They Never Taught in High School

Strange how nearly four decades have gone by, yet last night I recognized friends I hadn’t seen since high school and chatted with them as if it was only yesterday when we last spoke. As if nothing had changed.

We, a group of high school thespians from the 70’s, had a gathering to visit with our high school theater director, JB, and his wife, the high school art teacher, who were passing through town.

It looked for all the world like JB had stepped right off the stage of that last performance in the late 70’s, just the day before. His shirt, some commented, seemed straight out of the 70’s. (Or the bottom of our friend and favorite actor’s steamer trunk, lovingly preserved in the pages of his scrapbook.) His face had a few more wrinkles, for sure, but his eyes were still sparkling, his wit sharp.

35 or 40 years come and gone as if just one day passed.

Yet, far more has happened. Life has happened. We’ve married, split, remarried, (or never married), had children, some of us grandchildren. Some of us childless, by choice or not.

For others, it took those four decades to be legally allowed to marry the person they loved. Everyone knows how brutal high school can be to people who are “different” and theater kids are more different than most.

We’ve each had a share of happiness & heartbreak over the past, almost four, decades since high school. It seems to take about four decades to heal from that tumult of high school — to stop having the nightmares about forgetting locker combinations, the boys or girls we loved who didn’t love us back, or loved us for awhile and moved on to others, the dances we didn’t get invited to… all of that teenage stuff that – to be honest – doesn’t really end when we enter our 20’s.

Or our 30’s.

Last night was a graduation of sorts. We compared the wounds life gave us and the accolades we’d worked hard to achieve. We passed another test, and got rewarded for good results. It was a simple lesson that takes, ridiculously, three to four decades to learn: the greatest joy comes from the community of friends, the shared bottles of wine, the shared experience of art. As simple as that. You’d think you’d learn that in school, but you don’t.