If you quit Facebook one year and start a blog the next, are you actually concerned about privacy?
Let’s be clear, I’ve been in the process of quitting Facebook for just over a year now. I stopped posting at the end of 2015, and didn’t make a single public post in 2016. After the 2016 presidential election, I did join a private group discussing local politics, but I still haven’t made a post to my “wall” in over a year.
I work through the Facebook feature “On this Day” to delete or make invisible most of my old posts. Why do I want it to be over and done with? On one hand, it’s a record of who I was as a 15-24 year old and part of me wants to remember that, and part of me wants to forget. On the other hand, I recognise so little of myself in my old posts. I don’t have any emotional attachment to whatever was going on in 2009 – it’s not who I am anymore and I don’t need to memorialise it on the internet.
When it comes to posting from Paris (2014 and onward), I want all of my secrets back. Facebook makes it really easy to feel like you’re caught up with someone’s life, without having to actually try to maintain a relationship, and I don’t want to participate in that or let people feel that way about me. When it became clear that people felt ‘caught up’ on my life without actually knowing anything about it, I knew I had to change something about how I communicated online.
Now, when I want to contact someone based on a Facebook post, I send them a direct message, or an email/text if I have their contact information. I send anything from Happy Birthdays to condolences that way, and I think that my friendships are different and better for it.
When you avoid publicly posting on Facebook, it has a filtering effect on who wants to be in your life, and who doesn’t. There are a dozen or so people with whom I was very close, but once I stopped posting on Facebook it felt like our communication fell off a cliff and never climbed back up.
Then, there are another dozen or so friendships that have flourished, in phone calls, post-cards, and even literally coming to visit Paris. I want to remove Facebook as the intermediary to my relationships and see what remains, if only so that I know what I can do to nurture the people in my life without a crutch.
So why can’t I just delete this thing and move on completely? There are still several people who I love dearly, with whom my primary means of communication is Facebook. These people are most often living outside of the US, and it’s just easier to be accessible by Facebook messenger than anything else. I learned recently that I can deactivate my account while still using messenger, but I’m not convinced that the people I want to stay in touch with will realise that my messenger is still active even if my Facebook is not.
There are former coworkers, travel buddies, and chance acquaintances, all of whom I want to stay in touch with, and Facebook seems like the only virtual mailbox that makes me accessible in this way. So for now, I’m keeping the account, but one of my 2017 goals is to delete it by the end of the year. This blog might be where I move my correspondence, and it might not be. Perhaps I’ll want to go through all of those people, though, and either let them know I’m moving on or not, and it’s just a matter of getting around to it.
This blog has a very different function than my Facebook. I’m trying to relish in the ordinary, after such a wild, disorienting year. I’m trying to prepare for the changes and challenges coming down the pipe as I leave grad school and continue my immigration process. It doesn’t strike me as a social media platform, per se, but rather as a small window into part of my personal reflection process. Much like Facebook, I’m avoiding discussing something that I wouldn’t also read to my granny or a future employer, but the nature of these mini-essays are still very personal.
The fundamental difference between this and a Facebook account seems to be that someone would have to search for this blog, and then read through the posts in order to have a genuine idea of what I’ve been up to these days. Maybe that will be a barrier to this faux sense of closeness, or maybe I’ll be closing this blog in a few years because the same issues I had with Facebook have carried over!