Monday, September 7, 2009

Five Reasons to Quit Facebook (not that I'm going to)

5. Parasite of Time. There is a miniature Japanese girl that lives in each of our minds, and she loves tiny little cute things: like digital eggs, packrats that collect trading cards, and virtual pets who eat cupcakes. She needs to satisfy these urges daily. You deny her at your peril. But like Samara from The Ring, once you give her a little attention, she demands it all.

4. Voyeurism. This is a personal, life-long weakness. The minutia of other people’s lives are secretly fascinating to me. I can’t get enough of rummaging around in other people’s stuff, and this is the easiest most anonymous place to do it. It is a bad habit, and facebook provides for a virtually limitless amount of poking. Basically, you are my reality TV.

3. Too Much Information. And I’m not talking about the continuously updated home page, which can be strangely addictive, like your friends are stocks on a ticker-tape. I mean that I am comfortable with my memories of past relationships, for the most part. But twenty years on, you find faces have changed, as have ideals: a friend turns deeply politically conservative, or a wild ex-girlfriend is ‘reborn’ and shouting about it, and a former feminist is keeping you up-to-date on her kids’ bowel movements. Folks, stay where you are, comfortably embalmed and unchanging—in my mind.

2. Communication Substitute. If email killed letter writing, facebook drove the final nail into that coffin. If you miss somebody, you can leave a note on their wall, and feel like you have been in touch. Everybody has experienced the rush to catch up with lost friend. But that is usually where it ends. Seeing that they are there, in your little digital stratosphere, then watching them slowly age, seems to be enough.

1. Activism Inhibiter. Like MTV with teen rebellion, facebook provides a kind of faux-activism. The danger is that people often feel like they have contributed something meaningful by donating their status to a cause, or joining a facebook group. But last I checked, there was no Minister of Facebook, ready to dispatch armies on China, once a threshold people have joined the Free Tibet group. Ahmadinejad does not care if you have turned your profile picture green to support the opposition, and homophobes certainly won’t be swayed by your status update. There was a time when, in America, people demonstrated. You had to be active to feel like you contributed. These days, the Million Man March might well be relegated to a digital group. Facebook promotes passive activism – an oxymoron – and the best reason to quit facebook, and never look back.

Matt Henderson Ellis is a freelance manuscript editor and author coach working with writers who publish in print and digitally.