My Facebook Problem

September 13, 2013 at 7:37 am (By Amba)

I’ve pretty much decided — no, I’ve decided to bail out of Facebook.

In brief, I find it (have always found it) aesthetically ugly — to quote myself, “It’s like meeting your friends in an airport concourse: I can smell the synthetic carpet, spun of formaldehyde.” It’s also emptily addictive. Others have written knowledgeably about the little hit of dopamine — which is not about reward but craving, anticipation — that our brains get from each little instance of human connection or admiring attention for our wit or whatever: the promise without the delivery. I’ve linked to those articles on Facebook (!), I’m not going to hunt them up again now. I’m not going to research this. But the point is that Facebook substitutes for more substantial kinds of expression and connection, and can stealthily begin to replace them. It becomes like living on potato chips: you lose your appetite for anything else, but you don’t feel nourished.

What’s seductive about it is that it is quick and easy in a time when none of us seems to have any time. Brevity is seductive for good reasons (thus the success of Twitter, where many people do their hanging out): there are many things that, if you can’t say them in 140 characters or less, you really shouldn’t bother saying. (That’s not true of everything, though. “Give me the wisdom to know the difference.”) Brief updates are fun. The illusion of communality is another big draw. We are tribal animals leading far-flung lives, and Facebook makes you feel like you can find many of your friends in one “place,” and pick up the essential news and gossip that you need to know, like people used to at the well, or the country store. It’s genius, really, to lure us in with these simulacra of deep old goods, and then “farm” our “likes” and sell us stuff. We are cattle being raised for cash in a feedlot with virtual-reality goggles of green pastures. But every once in a while you feel the standardized narrowness of your stall.

Facebook makes us lazy, or I should say, it makes me lazy. (Some people will relate and some will not.) It becomes too much hassle to make a date to see someone, even in the same city, when you feel you’re sufficiently in touch because you meet on Facebook. It becomes too much hassle to write a blog post (how ironic to think of that as a feature of the “good old days”), and certainly too much hassle to go read one. More ominously, it becomes an annoying distraction to deal with a relationship (even with one’s cat) that is crying out for attention, or to wash the dishes, or to look for work. (Such reversed priorities are symptoms of addiction.) But these are worthwhile things we used to do, and maybe we felt we had more time, back then. Was that cause or was it effect? We certainly had more three-dimensional challenge and more substantial satisfaction.

There’s a lot I won’t like missing: pictures of my friends’ and cousins’ babies (I’m talking about you, Alisanne Korologos, Jonathan Geis, Nicole Constandis Twohig, Patrick Martin, Andrea Flynn); pictures of my friends’ pictures (that’s you, Albert Mitchell); flurries of fun and funny responses to something I’ve posted, making me feel I’m not in an isolation chamber on the moon; good articles I’m glad someone pointed out to me. Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s feed (but I know how to find his notebook, which he links to). Comically, I’ll miss pressing a button to “like” something (though I often missed pressing a button to “hate” something). It will be more work to write a private e-mail or (gasp) an actual letter, make a date or a phone call, follow the media and blogs where those good articles and posts crop up. But I used to do all those things! How has Facebook made them seem too much of a bother?! I was having a better time when I was doing all that “work.” Some of my most valued friends aren’t on Facebook at all, and I manage to stay in touch with them.

I feel better already, and I’m not even all the way off Facebook yet.

And I’m not going to link this on Facebook. I’m not asking you to or not to. I just feel better (if lonelier) for not going there myself.

I’ll be here. If anyone wants to come over and not just comment but post, let me know and I’ll make you a set of keys. Some of you already have them.


  1. serahf said,

    I have saved the link to this page, I’m not blogging like I used to and worried I might lose track because of it. I’m not about to let go of 20 years of communication, my friend. I still have every letter…and I still love your wonderful mind.

  2. amba12 said,

    I’m SO glad to have your e-mail. It is so mutual, dear friend.

  3. "Salvation Rose" aka 'Chris Diamant' said,

    You are entirely correct, but I do blogs, write, and do facebook all at the same time….but it is a false sense of “cyber-community”, no doubt, and self-control is one of those issues I have to check myself , and continually….good to hear from you, see you when my book gets published: right now it looks like “Do You Believe in Magic “, as “the second coming of the 60’s Generation ” has you in a reprint?? I dearly hope…

  4. amba12 said,

    has you in a reprint?? If so, it’s news to me . . .

  5. realpc920 said,

    Why not just use Facebook for the things it’s good for? I don’t see why you have to leave it completely.

    When the telephone was invented I’m sure a lot of people felt it was an impersonal and unsatisfying way to communicate. And maybe it is, but sometimes you can’t just go knock on someone’s door, so you have to phone them.

    Email is better than a phone call sometimes, but even more impersonal. But very convenient for certain things, so we use it.

    You’re right, we are tribal and our modern society is very isolating. I think Facebook helps a little, because at least we can see our remote friends and relatives there.

    It’s better than nothing I guess. We should always make the effort to see friends and relatives, because Facebook, skype, email, blogs, phone calls, all the technological substitutes for relationships, just are not good enough.

  6. amba12 said,

    What I already miss about Facebook is having a place to put offhand remarks which I then immediately forget. You know, all those fun little observations and wisecracks that pass through your head like mayflies, too insubstantial and ephemeral to post on a blog. Facebook is like flypaper!

  7. A said,

    I’ve really missed your blogging, and I loathe FB—its name, its language (I’m not a fan of turning nouns into verbs—friending and unfriending are right up there with toileting, from the world of disability) and its ugly look and intrusiveness. So I’m utterly delighted!

  8. amba12 said,

    That’s delightful to hear! I will try not to become verbose and pompous just because there’s all this space to fill. But it’s a danger.

  9. realpc920 said,

    I hope you won’t desert facebook completely. As you said, it’s a good place to post little jokes and sayings. I try hard not to post anything serious, because I don’t know who reads what I post.

    It is not a place for real serious communication, but it can be nice. I actually re-connected with a friend I had not seen since we were 12 years old. Just by a series of friend-of-friend co-incidences. She lives far away but comes here to visit sometimes, so we get together.

    Facebook can be treacherous and weird, of course. That’s why I try to use it only for casual comments.

    I have close friends who moved away, but we’re still linked on facebook. Not at all the same, of course, but it is nice to see what they are doing.

    I only have about 50 facebook friends — most of them are people I actually know. Except you amba, I have never met you, but I have known you in a way for a decade or so, from this blog. I hope you will not disappear from facebook.

  10. chickelit said,

    Facebook? I don’t have a fight in that dog.

  11. "Salvation Rose" aka 'Chris Diamant' said,

    I saw the book on Amazon, “Do You Believe In Magic”, and then “The Second Coming of the 60’s Generation” it said: on the cover…..

  12. mockturtle said,

    I thought I was possibly the only last holdout.

  13. LouiseM said,

    Closing in on 10 days since this was posted, half of the 20 supposedly needed to change or break a habit. What’s the transition been like and how’s it going? What have you noticed yourself doing instead of FB? Are you all the way off, or using it with a different intent?

  14. amba12 said,

    I gave myself till October 1 to quit, and then, having expressed my negativity, I somewhat relented — not yet decided, but in any case I look at it much less (not that I was such a heavy user before, but I used to sometimes kick back between editing jobs by scrolling down the feed and spacing out. Now I glance at it maybe once a day).

  15. karen said,

    I’ve never been bold enough to have a Fbk. Heh- that looks like a swear. I don’t know why it feels more personal than a blog–ok– someone else s blog:0)(yours). I’ve aired a lot of who i am here.

    A couple of weeks ago an Uncle of my husband’s showed up about something or other and wished him a happy birthday– and it wasn’t,so he said… anniversary(wow- a month ago-time flies)? How the hell did he know? It was all over Fbk due to a brother’s blathering sentiments we would never read. So, everyone’s business is everyone else s? Not that it matters, much- because…we would never know.

    Whenever i want to share, i come here- because it may or may not be read, but it’s said. I tend to monopolize conversations(nono, really)- in that- i run off w/tangent remarks and the points that were in the making disappear and one needs the nose of a remarkable tracking dog to get back to the original thread…
    which was…?
    lol. Now, i’m laughing all by myself– but, you can all hear me, right?

    oh no!!! More Tuna, please.

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