So I am finally doing it - deleting my Facebook account. Not even Kate DiCamillo can stop me this time.
I just have to stay clean by not logging in ever again for 30 days, as the last of their slimy hoops left for me to jump through.
I drafted a long, awkward letter to my Facebook friends that I intended to post on the platform a few days before going through with the actual deletion. I rarely contact much of anyone, but I realized that Facebook was the only way I have to contact a lot of my relatives or old friends, and so I was a little bit nervous about letting go of that. And more than that, I think I just wanted some theatrics, a last grab for the attention of all those people I randomly “friended” over the years, or less commonly, that “friended” me. I figured, why not go out from social media with a note of rambling self-indulgence? I wondered how many likes it would get. Would anyone respond to it? Will I even have any friends anymore after I delete Facebook?
As I obsessively edited this supposed goodbye letter over a week or so, thinking more on these questions as I did, it only confirmed to me the absolute necessity that I delete my Facebook account, and soon. And when I told Virginia (my wife) of my intent to make this goodbye post, she questioned me as to why exactly I wanted to do that. I didn’t have a good answer, and recognized the performative attention-grabbing nature of what I intended. I went through the final account deletion procedures fifteen minutes after that conversation.
But still, I can make a big pretend scene here, on this obscure website with no liking or commenting functionality, that currently goes nowhere except a syndication to an obscure micro.blog account and from there to an obscure twitter account I repurposed from the past, both of which I might also delete soon, or at least disconnect.
So here is what would have been my “goodbye letter” to my Facebook friends:
I’m going to be permanently removing myself from Facebook soon. I may be leaving Instagram and some other social networks as well, but I’ll see how this goes and then proceed on others.
If you know me at all, you might have noticed that I’m often not very good with or inclined toward social gatherings, in-person meetups, etc. I’ve learned that most things I’m interested in I actually like to do on my own, or just with my immediate family. I long viewed social media as a way I could attempt to compensate for that and still connect with people in a way that would supposedly bypass my anxiety or awkwardness and would still be positive and genuine, maybe even more positive and genuine than an in-person interaction. I’m no longer sure that this is an achievable or even desirable end, and even if it is, I don’t think Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so forth are necessarily the best tools for it. And even if they may still potentially provide positive connections in some cases if used responsibly, for my part I just don’t trust myself with these platforms. I no longer want to have my limited social interactions and family/friend connections be mediated through and manipulated by the tools of these corporations. I am going to choose to believe that any connection worth making or maintaining can occur independent of these platforms, which I have for too long relied on as a poor substitute for the hard work of actually being a friend to anyone.
So I’ll be leaving this up for a few days before I delete my account, to give the algorithm a greater chance to possibly dispense it to your feed, or include it in your email notifications if you have had the fortitude to avoid logging into Facebook for some time. (Sorry if this of all things brought you back into the fray - log back out if you can.) If by chance you’d ever like to contact me in the future, my email address is email@example.com and my number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Feel free to email me from your address or text me if you’d like me to have your info and keep in touch somehow. Other things: I do have a weird little website at jdwhiting.com that I may or may not do something more with in the future. (Maybe I’ll make a newsletter sometime? It’s the old-new cool thing to do…) If you have some kind of newsletter, website, or other place outside of a corporate social media silo where I can learn more about you or interact with you I definitely want to know about it - please share.
Good luck to all of you, and thanks for being friends with me here. I fully recognize that many of you were simply being gracious when I, as someone you barely knew from church or work or wherever, asked to be your friend in one of my rare bursts of wanting to be friendly. I’m sorry if I ever filled your feed with anything problematic. Actually, I’ll admit to that being a somewhat disingenuous apology, because in some cases I’d be quite satisfied if you were bothered or perplexed by an opinion or status I shared during my time on Facebook. The thanks and best wishes are completely sincere, though.
I’ll be honest that it is kind of scary to me let go of these networks, as they do in fact encompass most of the connections and social interactions I have with people beyond my immediate family and current co-workers - and trying to overcome that disconnection was one of the motivations for posting the goodbye letter. But it would be too little, too late, and just another awkward cop-out for not contacting people directly if I wanted to contact them. This isolation is very much by my design and inclination, I guess. I just don’t like interacting with people “synchronously.” It makes me anxious. I’m lazy and fearful about it. If I’m conscious and deliberate about it I often feel fake and sales-ish, like a missionary (as in “Building Relationships of Trust”). I feel awkward and judged, or guess ulterior motives if someone is friendly with me (as in “Building Relationships of Trust”). I like to be able to think through what I’m saying. I like to be able to explore things and think through how to articulate my thoughts, as I am doing right now in writing and revising these words. When I do open my mouth I usually immediately regret it, and when I don’t say anything, for days and years I stew over what I should have said or the perfect thing it occured to me to say later. I’m often not a good listener when I’m involved in a conversation in real time (but I am a good listener when I’m eavesdropping, or when other people are having a conversation in my presence that I don’t even necessarily want to be listening to.) I’m at the mercy of everyone else’s conversational agenda unless I really push for things, and then if I push or interject I feel like a jerk, and the cycle repeats.
So I seek out the asynchronous lifestyle. I’d rather just post on Goodreads about what book I’m reading than strike up a conversation and tell someone about it on the spot. If I share a picture from a hike I’ve taken, I really just wanted to share the picture because I thought it was beautiful or interesting; it doesn’t mean I wish someone else had been there with me and hope they’ll want to plan and share an actual hike with me the next weekend. I deliberately went hiking alone, or to the movie alone, or the concert alone, or the professional development alone. I used to just not do those kinds of things when they came with the pressure to do them socially; there are a number of things I didn’t even know I actually liked to do until I had the asocial courage to just try them by myself.
I don’t know if this is good or bad, but I’m testing out the idea that it just is what it is.
The church and god I used to believe in guilted and dutified me into all sorts of social interactions all the time, and I went along with it as best I could because I had faith that my being social was somehow helping people and making the world a better place. I no longer have that faith. Since I’ve let go of that Mormon missionary “God needs me to be friendly and outgoing” feeling, I’ve given myself permission to just be my asocial self and not pretend, and not feel guilty about it. Since trying this I’m actually more at peace with myself than I ever have been before - not to say I’m now entirely at peace with myself, it is just a lot better.
But it also means that pretty much my only friends now are my “friends” on Facebook. And in the last few years even those social media interactions have become few and far between, both on my part, on the part of most of my “friends,” and on the part of the mystical algorithm that mediates between us when we do opt to share anything. It has been so easy to pretend that I am still connected with people, without having to truly put myself out there by making a phone call or sending a specific email or message to someone. And even asynchronous communication is problematic on Facebook, because so much of what one person wants to communicate is not what another person wants to hear, so people can’t be themselves and are even more shy, or else they are even more curatorial and performative with their communications. I’ve leaned on Facebook and yet I resent it and no longer want to be a part of it. And because my connections with nearly everyone I’m friends with on Facebook are in reality tenuous at best, I actually don’t have a lot to lose beyond that false sense of connection.
At work I am starting to recognize there are indeed some disconnection problems due to this nexus of my personal asocial transition, combined with the general social disruption of the pandemic, combined with an acute mid-pandemic-remote-work turnover in my department from several people I’d worked with for years and considered true friends to people I just don’t know all that well, and that don’t know me all that well. I think my work life and the work in general is suffering a bit because of my failure to be more social. So there are maybe valid professional collaboration/networking/“relationship-building” reasons to be more social, both online and in person. But I don’t want to be pushy and I don’t want to be fake, and I honestly don’t know that anyone wants to know what I’m about or receive my input or hear from me any more than they already do. In other words, though I do bear part of it, I don’t think it is entirely my fault or responsibility.
So, I’m going to unashamedly embrace the asynchronous lifestyle, but on my own terms now, not some corporation’s terms. I’m going to post random stuff here, just for myself and whoever may be curious enough to look: in good faith, at times confessional, but hopefully never performative. I’m going to see if I can get the courage to talk to and connect with people more directly and genuinely outside of these bogus platforms. I’m going to seek out where people are sharing their genuine selves. Maybe I’ll try to get some kind of email lists or message groups going with my extended family members, though I’m probably not the right person to advocate for such things, and there’s part of me that wouldn’t be surprised if they already exist and I’m just not part of them because I was deemed an asshole at some point for getting mad about some pyramid scheme or political thing my uncle sent me 15 years ago. I know people who lead full lives and never signed up for Facebook, or never log on to Facebook - my aim is to become such a person.
In recent months I’ve been inspired by the work of @afffirmations (Global Self Hypgnosis) on Instagram (though I’ll likely have to let that go if I follow through on deleting Instagram) and under that inspiration I made some of my own self affirmation images. I’ve been sharing them day by day in the notes section of this site, but I’ll re-share them below.