I just disconnected from Facebook. I did in a moment, at a traffic light, but it was a long time coming. For a while now, I have been thinking quite deeply about my relationship and feelings about this particular expression of social media. I have always been a little ambivalent. I first joined to communicate with friends in the UK who told me they always responded to messages there quicker than e-mail. So at first, it was simply a long-distance communication tool but then Friend Requests started to come--confirm, confirm. Then people I didn't remember or didn't know and then that moment--do I 'confirm' or 'not now,' well, they are friends of friends of mine so...why not? Then the numbers grow, 'find me on Facebook' became part of my vernacular and friends brought friends, nothing particularly serious, essentially innocuous. I have not been very active apart from messaging people occasionally and confirming people. But for some time I have been a little conflicted about confirming people I dont really know--but I dont interact much, I never 'like' anything and most of the time I pay little attention to what's in the news feed. But today for some reason I took an extended look and didn't like what I saw. My feed was full of negative comments about Obama's comments in support of the rights of same-sex couples to marry. What I found most troubling was that I didn't actually know many of these people--I had friended on the basis of other friends or on some kind of tenuous connection--church, seminary--mostly, I must admit around the issues of religion and culture.
Now, if you don't like the idea of same-sex marriage thats up to you, but I don't want to be connected to the ridiculous comments about how America is anti-Christian, how Obama is the devil, how he has rejected God's clearly defined Truth...blah blah blah. Because my opinion is different, doesn't mean I assume some moral superiority or don't want to engage in meaningful dialogue, but I am not going to sit around and see a whole bunch of mad shit in the feed of a social media tool that I have opted to use.
My initial reaction was to go through and edit out, you know 'unfriend,' but then I thought that perhaps I would just give it all a miss and liberate my self from it. In Geert Lovink's marvellous book he writes,
"By questioning the self-evidence of Facebook and its befriending algorithm, we already make a first step toward refusing corporate-controlled social media platforms."I prefer not to." The next step could be to actively shape new manifestations of collective anonymous action: "I need to become anonymous in order to be present."
I'd like to think that my decision to deactivate was a step toward refusing corporate-control, but I was just pissed off with people on my page saying stuff that I thought was offensive and naive(it wasn't the postioning so much as the justifications that upset me), and I didn't want to have it in front of my face. I don't always react to dissenting opinions in this way, I try to remain open to any and every view--I think it's important to do so in the long run--but not on a social media platform that is so intimately connected with me.
Friendships come in all shapes and sizes--it was Nietzsche I think who nurtured the idea of 'star friendships' and of course, there are 'fair-weather' friends--we have many ways of speaking about friendship and facebook has undoubtedly brought new understandings to the concept--for good and bad I think. But what it comes down to for me is that some friendships are easily left behind, others, for a host of complex reasons, we stick with, even when they are difficult. I don't pick friends based on their opinions about particular issues (well, maybe music and dress haha!), I have been fortunate to have immense diversity in my friendships, and I accept them regardless of their opinions, but what I realized is that I need a more stringent process for accepting friends on social media platforms. There are some people who I only contact via Facebook, I'll have to do a little work to make sure I re-connect via other means. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy the freedom. One of my favourite quotes about friends comes from the movie Love is the Devil, in the mouth of Derek Jacobi playing the painter Francis Bacon,
"Real pain for my sham friends and champagne for my real friends."