This week I posted on Facebook that I will be disabling my personal and professional accounts. There was no specific incident that led to this decision. Facebook’s business model has always bothered me. I resisted as long as I could. But in 2013 I published a book, and thought I had to have a Facebook page for it. So I plunged in and found I did enjoy the likes and shares, as well as keeping in touch with family near and far.
In the beginning, I did not fill in much profile info. For fear of identity theft, I purposely entered an erroneous birthday. I did not disclose any kind of personal relationships, romantic or familial. I didn’t like or share many posts. Yet I did fill in a few favorite books and movies. For some reason these seemed less intrusive, although I knew full well this would probably be enough for the Big Brother algorithms to figure out that I was a 50-something, coffee-addicted divorced white female with a graduate school education who liked to snack on peanut butter out of the jar.
Initially I didn’t think anyone would care about birthdays, mine or others. But then people started wishing me “Happy Birthday!” on the wrong day and that felt awkward. So I changed it to the right birthday. I began dating someone seriously (now my husband) who is a photographer and happened to post on Facebook a lot. I didn’t allow him to post anything about us for about 6 months. But finally I caved because I was happy and wanted to show it. Cousins and family started connecting more, and their kids and posts were so heartwarming and cute. I wanted them to see I “liked” them. I also hit the like button because I knew if I didn’t, Facebook might stop showing their posts to me. After a couple of years, I caught myself spending an hour at a time in a Facebook feed fog. Then, I confess, I would intentionally open it up for the sole purpose of distracting myself from whatever it was I didn’t want to do or think about.
My Facebook boundaries eroded slowly over time. It’s not Facebook’s fault. It’s entirely my own. My ego is a powerful force running in the background of my otherwise rational life decisions. If I could have kept my initial boundaries, perhaps I’d feel that I was doing enough to protect my data and that of my friends, fans, and family. But I couldn’t, and I don’t. Putting the boundaries back this way will come with a cost of missed posts and maybe increased distance, but right now it feels like the right thing for me. All I can do for now is close it down, the same way I quit buying peanut butter.