The Reverb 10 prompt for December 5 asks, What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley) Since I’m skipping around and doubling up on the Reverb 10 prompts until I get caught up, I thought the December 5 question dovetailed nicely with the question posed by author Cali Harris on December 7: Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?
Well, I let go of my Facebook community this year.* (Not that I really consider Facebook a community, although as I type those words I feel fortunate that tomatoes can’t be thrown via the internet. I’m sure more than a few of you would like to lob some my direction for such heresy.) Truthfully, I had a little trepidation about leaving Facebook. After all, those were almost one thousand friends with whom I was severing all communication, right?
Um, no. Not really.
In actuality, I’d been spending an inordinate amount of time online with hundreds of virtual strangers, finding out more than I needed–or wanted–to know about toilet training, obnoxious co-workers, and imaginary farms/mafia wars/pretend cafés. Meanwhile, I craved in-person interaction with the small but much-loved cadre of bon vivants who comprise my circle of flesh-and-blood friends.
My frustrations with Facebook (and with myself on Facebook) came to a head when, fueled by giddy excitement and a few too many glasses of champagne, I changed my relationship status to “Engaged” before my fiancé had had a chance to call his friends and tell them our happy news himself. A handful of people near and dear to the person whom I hold nearest and dearest found out about our engagement via…Facebook. He was (rightfully) pissed, I was rueful, and with a steady hand and firm resolve, I pressed “delete” and haven’t looked back.
It seems I’m far from the only person dubious about the merits of social networking. I attended a cocktail party this fall, where I met someone who told me with a smile that he, too, had recently removed himself from the world of Facebook. When I recently stopped by a photographer friend’s always-thoughtful blog, I found that she, too, had recently abandoned Facebook in favor of increased productivity and more face time with friends. Perhaps the brilliant Aaron Sorkin, writer of The Social Network, said it best when he told Stephen Colbert, “Socializing on the Internet is to socializing what reality TV is to reality.”
I’m not unaware of the inherent stickiness of castigating Facebook via that other ubiquitous online medium, the blog. After giving it some thought, though, I believe that reading a blog is akin to turning on your TV for the purpose of watching a specific program. Cruising aimlessly around Facebook, on the other hand, is more analogous to having the television blaring in the background while you go about your business around the house: it’s loud, distracting, and often utterly meaningless.
Lest I come off here like a curmudgeonly Luddite, let me just say that I know there are some of you who can check your Facebook profile once or twice a day, tops, and you swear by the site’s usefulness in keeping in touch with faraway loved ones. To the three people on earth who fit that description, I say, POWER TO YOU! Happy Facebooking!
All kidding aside, I’m not really telling anyone to quit Facebook cold-turkey. I’m just saying that checking in on Foursquare when sitting down to dinner with friends isn’t as important as…checking in with our friends. An online community can be great, but as 2011 looms ever-nearer, I delight in knowing that one’s off-line community of friends, family, and even obnoxious co-workers is much, much more valuable.
*Full disclosure: I didn’t quit Facebook cold-turkey, really. I just deleted my personal Facebook profile, as well as my MySpace account. I kept my music page on Facebook, which I use exclusively for music (and blog!) related business.