Monday, February 27, 2012

Defection

I've been trying hard not to post about having deactivated my Facebook account, and then I read the following in the NYTimes magazine, "When a computer chimes [...] with a new message, the brain starts anticipating the neurological “pleasure” [...]. That expectation, if unsatisfied, can build until you find yourself moved to distraction by the thought of an e-mail sitting there unread — even if you know, rationally, it’s most likely not important." (click here for entire article)

Here was depressing confirmation that I had become a bona fide, diagnosable, rat-seeking-chocolate-at-the-end-of-the-maze facebook junkie. Luckily, at least for my own anti-zeitgeist peace of mind, I'd canceled Facebook a full two weeks before that article was published. The time had simply come.

Among other cues I couldn't resist telling me to "get out" were my mind wandering off to Facebook instead of into the new novel I was writing, wondering how many "likes" a particular post had received since the last fifteen minutes I checked, and my 5 y.o. daughter presenting me with her artwork and asking me to post it on my Wall.

Also, my list of friends had grown beyond the personal acquaintances with whom I actually didn't mind sharing my children's art and antics. I'm not nutty about my children being exposed on social media--we live after all in an ihouse--but there was something unsettling about absolutely anyone seeing a rant about my husband, my daughter's depiction of me as a conquered witch, or my 3 y.o. son in full drag.
I also started to fear that I had crossed a line, posting the absolute mundane. I once shared an entire melodrama about a toothache and subsequent root canal. I'd found the experience to be an ordeal, but seriously, did I want to read about other people's root canals, probiotic relief, or failed New Year's resolution? I mean how stupendously banal. Conversely, I was uncomfortable that so many "friends" didn't share their lives on Facebook. I mean, if you know about my root canal, how come I didn't know about your dental health? Until - someone would post about their children or Jesus or pets and I'd think: Really, this you post on FB?

There were benefits. I was able to keep in touch with childhood friends and JYA buddies who would have been (had been) long lost to time. I particularly liked good news about people's accomplishments, absurd kids' anecdotes, and a thread about my Trinidadian village. I didn't have to make expensive phone calls to the Caribbean to get in touch with my family. I could tell 200 hundred people about my book.

And still, I had to get off. The feeling of being overexposed lodged under my flesh and couldn't be got rid of. I read about the brief reign of the cyberflaneur: the detached, online observer who sampled the wealth of the web with cool anonymity. I like to think that this is how I had primarily used the web pre-FB, trolling especially foreign news-sites like The Guardian and the Trinidad Express, gathering.
I'd initially resisted joining Facebook, and then finally had. Over two years, as I suppose the program algorithmithized me and brought me more of the internet through its one interface, I rarely visited other sites, going mostly Gawker and NYMag, but always clicking back to Facebook. I eventually became such convert I proselytized, exhorting holdouts to give Facebook a try.

My homepage remained the NYTimes but for a while I seriously thought, well, maybe Safari should just open up to Facebook. After so much thought, I decided to deactivate without too much thought; and once the intent became permanent, I was desperate to get off. Except, I felt that I needed to tell Facebook I was leaving. This most ridiculous part actually wasn't so crazy. I wanted to keep my Victoria Brown Author page. All the friends here were supporters of my work. Here I could post about my novel, Minding Ben, my current work, related stories, and writing inspiration without craving feedback. Sharing the mundane here would be inappropriate. I posted that I could still be reached via Minding Ben if anyone cared to "like" me. At first I thought I'd keep the notice for a few days, but as the day wore on I realized I had checked at least a dozen times to see the responses I had received to my post about leaving facebook. I had to admit the depth of the pathology--chocolate at the end of the maze; the last chocolate! I killed it. I went in, ignored the final proffered crack telling me "Jess" and "Amy" and "Jeff" would miss me, and hit "deactivate now."

I don't miss being on. I've got my author page, but my book is between hardcover and paperback, and I have to go through the trouble of logging into my husband's account or using his computer. It's just not something I do all the time anymore. No, instead I tweet @byvictoriabrown. Come follow me.

4 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your narrow escape! I've reduced my time on FB but just couldn't quit, alas. And I'll be sure to not mention my new year's resolutions while in your presence! ^_^
    -- Sig

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sig, I wish it was as complete as that. I still maintain the author page and I had 50 friends in common with my spouse! The ability to lurk is easy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I miss you on Facebook, but totally get quitting it. I log on to Twitter so infrequently that I forget my password each and every time, but I'll follow you nonetheless!
    -- Jenna

    ReplyDelete
  4. i think if I'm absolutely honest, Jenna, I do miss being on; something happens, and I think, "Oh, that'd be perfect for facebook," but then I can't post it, and that's that. (except for the spouse's acct, of course).

    ReplyDelete