The End of Facebook

by maxmosher

Max Mosher is no longer a fan of facebook.

Max Mosher ‘dislikes’ facebook.

Max Mosher has removed facebook from his interests.

The facebook era is over.

My last post was going to be about the clever profile of facebook-creator Mark Zuckerberg in The New Yorker. Jose Antonio Vargas begins his article on the elusive billionaire with what he extrapolates about him from his profile page. He likes Andy Samburg, Green Day and ‘The West Wing’, listed ‘Minimalism’ and ‘Eliminating Desire’ as interests, and has his parents as friends (it’s hard enough for the rest of us to dissuade our parents from joining; imagine the difficulty in keeping your profile secret from your mom if you invented the damn thing!).

While witty, it also serves to underline a paradox: that the man who enabled us to upload every aspect of our lives onto the internet, and who philosophically believes that we having less secrets and being more open would make a better world, is himself a reclusive figure who doesn’t much like giving talks, granting interviews and dreaded being the subject of the film ‘The Social Network’, which opened this weekend.  

Getting the tragic news about my friend two days ago (incidentally, on facebook) only served to crystallize how I was already feeling about the online world.

Simply put, I’m tired.

I’m tired of having around a hundred people regularly read this blog, and four times that amount as ‘friends’ on facebook, but feeling lonely a lot of the time. I’m tired of getting so many mass invites, to events in cities in which I no longer live, that I miss invitations to my friend’s house down the block. I’m tired of unanswered messages, of plans broken at the last minute, of our generation’s perpetual RSVP of ‘maybe attending’. I’m tired.

In Adam Gopnik’s book Through the Children’s Gate he has a story about his toddler daughter and her imaginary friend, who is too busy to play with her. Using a wooden block as a cell phone, his daughter gets exasperated as he tells her he doesn’t have time to meet up this week, maybe later. Gopnik and his wife were very concerned, wondering what kind of child invents an imaginary friend who is too busy to play. Then Gopnik realizes that she, like all children, is mimicking her parents, especially her mother on the telephone, where she is constantly telling  her friends that she is too busy to do lunch, maybe next week. Gopnik theorizes that, because so many forms of technology intrude into our lives all the time, that we have to say we’re perpetually busy so as to feel in control of our own lives.

I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy, it’s true. But I refuse to believe we’re too busy for friends if we make them a priority. We all have that person who we know is on facebook all the time, commenting on pictures and posting funny videos from epicfail.com, but who never gets their act together enough to respond to emails or attend parties with real people.

The dream of facebook, that it would bring us closer together and make the World Wide Web feel like a village, has not come true. It may have done this in its undergraduate heyday, when it was primarily for posting embarrassing drunken pictures from the weekend. When you lived across the hall from your friends you were in no danger of replacing human interaction with emails and ‘pokes’. I owe some really good friendships to the fact that we found each other online soon after meeting, and it’s still the best way to keep in touch with people in other cities and overseas.

But now everybody’s on it, and I do mean everyone. It’s not so much individual users who are the problem (it’s estimated that at least 1 in 14 people in the world have a facebook profile) but groups and corporations who are killing it. When every cause, from a small-scale environmentalist group to Starbucks, Farmville and the White House, are bombarding users with ads and requests for information, it makes you want to express yourself less, not more. I have a friend who removed his ‘interest in men’ because he was sick to death of getting ads for gay cruises (did they really think enough facebook users could afford cruises, gay or not?).  Whereas facebook once felt like a secret club, now it’s a sensory-overloading mall.  

To be clear, I’m not going to delete my account or stop using my profile to share my blog. I am going to go see ‘The Social Network’ and will probably write a review of it.

But something needs to be done. I want real friends, not facebook ‘friends’. I admit, I’m no better than anyone else: I have flaked off from going to events or seeing people, all the while whining about the old friends who did the same to me.

It stops now. I’m going to change.

Here’s my Declaration of Co-Dependence

  • I promise to reply to emails. If someone took the time to write me, I respect them enough to answer.
  • I promise to make time to actually see people. Three-sentence emails, which only summarize a friend’s current life in the briefest of all ways, cannot compare with hearing their voice and seeing their face over a cup of coffee.
  • I promise to try my best to attend events, especially if they are important to a friend and especially if they’ve asked me directly. (Mass emails receive lazy responses, or none at all.)
  • I promise to not flake out on friends and to not cancel at the last minute, unless having a very good reason.  The universal owning of cell phones is not an excuse to be late.
  • Most importantly, I promise to remind myself daily that there is a whole big world out there, things I have yet to do and people I have yet to meet, and that the best way to experience this is to turn off the computer, call up a friend and walk out of the house, into the sunshine.

That’s where I’ll be. Hope to see you there.

Signed Max Mosher, October 1st 2010

Feel free to co-sign this Declaration and join the crusade.

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