Facebook Status: Over
On December 17, 2012, with tortured resignation, I joined Facebook. Essentially, my hand was forced, as I needed direct access to information locked away on Facebook pages for my e-book on Green Mountain College (due out in March). I took what I needed and left my account to idle. Until a week ago.
It was then, after a meeting with my web wizard Steve, that I decided to start posting my Eating Plants columns on Facebook in order to spread the word a bit further. I started, in other words, to get involved. This endeavor required that I make “friends” with hundreds of people I didn’t know. Then I realized something: not only would my posts appear on their pages, but their posts would appear on mine. This only seemed fair. However, as ungenerous as this sounds, things went downhill from that moment on. Yesterday, fed up, I cancelled my account with FB. Done. Over. I will happily fade into the wilderness of nothingdome before I ever again disseminate my ideas into the halls of the world’s largest high school.
Trust me, I get it. I’m well aware of the power of social media to spread the good word. I’m also aware that I could have managed my account a lot better to provide a virtual gatekeeper for the torrents of absolute swill (and worse) that poured into my account. I should also add that I had several productive exchanges with people I genuinely like and whose work I very much admire. I don’t mean for this post to in anyway be of offense to them. In the end, though, I decided that, for me at least, the Facebook experience just wasn’t worth it. It is, all things considered, a venue that too easily brings out the worst in people whose flaws would otherwise have been left in the dungeons of their private lives.
Not surprisingly, I wound up becoming “friends” with an amorphous activist community espousing a wide range of noble causes, most of them related to animal rights. This was fine. What wasn’t so fine was opening my account one morning over breakfast and, with my young daughter in viewing range, looking at a picture of an Indian woman hanging from a tree. Nor was I thrilled to read commentary suggesting that certain producers of animal products should be murdered for their participation in animal agriculture. This was too much raw emotional id leakage for me. Again, I could have managed these messages a lot better, I suppose, but I did a back of the napkin sketch (not really) and decided my time was better spent reading and writing and improving my ideas without the cacophony of the world showing up in perverse microcosm three times a day (which was, sadly, how often I was checking in).
There’s something else that adulterated my FB experience. Something worse. I’m going to tread with tact over this one. But basically I encountered a number of postings from vegan advocates that bordered on rank self-promotion rather than focussed animal activism. I’m not sure why this bothered me so much, but it did. For several of these people, I felt as if I walked into some living room of their imagination. Look, we’re all human, we all have egos, and we all want others to view us the way we want to be viewed. We’re navel gazers by nature, all. I’m as guilty as anyone on this point.
But what I too often saw was the substance of activism for animals being subsumed in strained attempts to present advertisements of versions of activist personae. Yes, I realize that the medium of personality is the message. We want to know about our heroes’ personal lives, however sanitized and packaged those representations may be. But, frankly, I don’t give two tofu balls what movie so-and-so watched last night, or what his mood may be. Is this too cranky of me? Probably. But I’m being honest. Maybe I simply wish that our cause was compelling enough to minimize the role of the “personalities” behind it. And maybe that’s magical thinking.
There’s a great scene in the movie “Bull Durham” where “Crash” (Kevin Costner) instructs “Meat” (Tim Robbins), a talented but dimwitted baseball pitcher bound for Major League stardom, how to interact with the media (find it here.) The gist of the advice from Crash, a seasoned vet who’d been to “the show,” is to recede into the team, don’t be that attention-seeking nail that sticks up, and allow your actions to speak for themselves. It’s damn good advice. And while we’re all inveterate narcissists at heart, Facebook makes it too easy for that heart to bleed all over the place, promiscuously and profusely. So, perhaps to save me from myself, I’m off Facebook.
But, of course, if you feel so inclined to promote ME and MY writing on FB, I’ll be the last to object.
UPDATE: This piece of mine (a recent blog post) ran in today’s hard and on-line addition of The Gainesville Sun. Tip of the hat to Karen Orr for providing contacts, motivation, etc.