EDIT 22 March 2011 at 8:47 PM PDT: My sister claims she asked me about my facebook fast and probably counts herself among the people who objected, but I think I told her about it, not the other way around. Also, she mentioned last night that my aunt (my father’s sister) had inquired to her, “Where’d your sister go?” but I’m not counting that, either, since my aunt could have just as easily asked me about it and chose not to. Hearsay is still hearsay, after all. Either way, both my sister and aunt are blood relatives, so it’s difficult to imagine they’d have no other way of contacting me besides facebook.
So, today is the last day of my 30-day facebook fast.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but only four people commented upon my exit from facebook, and they were all people with whom I have other/further contact anyway. The first three: Zekor, of course, was distraught immediately upon learning of my fast, but decided to wait it out as patiently as ever; my father asked why I wasn’t tagged in a photo of myself; a family friend wrote me an email thanking me for my holiday card and then mentioned she couldn’t find me on facebook. The fourth: one of my closest friends, Wolfman, took it the hardest, I think (which I’ll explain in a moment).
As for everyone else who even found out about the fast: I had to tell them (as opposed to their finding out for themselves). I received no commentary from anyone—positive or negative—excepting the aforementioned four people. Mostly what I got was surprise: “You deleted your facebook?” (After which I’d invariably have to explain that, no, I actually hadn’t deleted my facebook page. I’d only deacitivated it as a test.) I actually have friends who’ve never had “a facebook” to begin with, and I thought at first that they were living in the last century, but now I’m starting to see the wisdom in their choice.
One of my coworkers did mention, however, that she had deleted over 400 of her facebook friends after becoming disenchanted with the whole thing after one of her friends from high school was publicly (on facebook) smeared when it was revealed that she’d performed in some porn. My coworker was so angry about her friend’s treatment that she basically exorcised her entire “friend” list. Her story hit a little close to home for me, so I was glad she was angry for her high school friend rather than at her.
Aside from the reaction my friend, Wolfman, gave (which I’m still getting to, I promise), I noticed a couple of things. First, about Steve Pavlina, the man who originally suggested the facebook fast (though I’d been thinking about it before he posted his suggestion). In his post, he compared the use of facebook to addiction and his catering to said as just enabling an addiction. He also wrote that he didn’t like being virtually surrounded by (what amounted to) tons of people half his age. Two things struck me about Pavlina’s words after I was about halfway through my fast. (A) I don’t believe facebook use is nearly close to serious addiction, and comparing it to such is kind of insulting to people who’ve had to deal with actual addiction (and yes, I realize the incongruity of my using an icon of Snow White snorting cocaine); and, (B) I am about half his age, so while he dealt with people half his age, I deal with people in my age group. That by itself makes for leaps and bounds of difference. I still agree, however, with Pavlina’s assertion that using facebook lends itself to assume you’re doing something worthwhile when you’re actually not.
The second thing I noticed (see beginning of previous paragraph) was that I’ve logged into some websites using my facebook alias, and when I deactivated my facebook page, I essentially cut myself off from using those other pages as well. This was, obviously, an irritating discovery, but nothing I couldn’t handle for a month. The three most notable of these were/are Echo Bazaar (Fallen London), formspring, and LivingSocial. Echo Bazaar is just an online game that I should probably stop playing because it’s such a timesuck anyway, so no real loss there. I still got notifications from formspring informing me that I’d been “asked a question” multiple times, but since I couldn’t log in, there was no way to answer said questions. Luckily, I guess, questions are saved until I either answer them or manually delete them, so I’ll just go answer them when I have access to the site and have time. The last website, LivingSocial, was the most cumbersome. I basically created a new account not linked to my facebook account, which is all fine, but it means that now I essentially have two LivingSocial accounts, not one. So even if I decided to completely and irreversibly delete my facebook account, I would have to log in at least one last time just so disentangle my account from other websites that I periodically use. I can’t yet comment upon combining the two LivingSocial accounts because I haven’t yet attempted it.
Now, as for Wolfman’s reaction. (I told you I’d get to it!) I was kind of surprised by his concern, actually, but when I thought about it, I realized that the last time we had any in-person contact, he was talking me down from a panic attack. If I were him, and in light of that information about me (the other person), I would be concerned, too. Haha, so: my friends care about me. Who knew, right? Anyway, as far as I know, even Wolfman didn’t notice the absence of my facebook page until March 12—possibly the evening of March 11, when he texted me to see how I was doing—but either of those dates is still more than halfway through my fast. When we finally had a decent conversation about it, he expressed concern that I was/am cutting off all contact with the outside world, even more than I have been so far already. (I don’t party, I don’t hang out with my friends much, and I don’t even drive except to necessary school or work functions, for example.) Here’s excerpts of our conversation:
Wolfman: And when I see that you have squelched one avenue of remaining communicative with and connected to people, even remotely, I am also bothered. It’s not just that you are receding from view, but you are also restricting the means by which people might connect with you.
V.E.: the people I’d actually want to talk to anyway have other ways of contacting me. historically, facebook has been a colossal timesuck for me.
(A little later: )
Wolfman: Besides, what fortunate few are you condescending to allow to communicate with you? And why not anyone else? While it’s not the same as real-world interaction, it bothers me that you’re closing off an avenue of communication. What next?
V.E.: look, if people want to talk to me, fine. but they have to actually talk to ME, not just everyone. I’m not closing down my website. I have a twitter page. I have a cell phone and an email address. I just don’t want to be inundated by random crap all the time. I get that enough at work.
I could’ve said I get that enough everywhere, but I didn’t want to engage in too much hyperbole. And, as I told him, this is only a test.
Anyway, after an entire month of not using facebook, I have to say I don’t really miss it. Except for the website entanglements, there’s not much I feel like I’m missing. And it’s not like many of my facebook “friends” even noticed the difference. I think I had maybe 300 or so friends, and only a grand total of four noticed enough to mention it to me, and one of them was my own father. Meh. No loss. I’m not in a hurry to reactivate my page, that’s for sure, except to disentangle from it the other websites I use. I may just do that in a couple of days and then dump the whole facebook page entirely (or at least keep it permanently deactivated).
For now, I kind of like the quiet.