“No, actually, I don’t want to be ‘friends’ on Facebook. I just want to keep talking like people used to talk in the olden times, back in 2004.”

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I feel like there has been a very serious dumbing down of this society. It’s hard to tell exactly where that thread started to unravel, but I think Facebook is perpetuating this trend. People tend to regurgitate the same banal posts over and over. For example, I went back a series of weeks to see how similar some of my cousin’s posts were and found them to be almost identical from one week to the next. I tracked about five weeks—that was as far back as I was willing to go—and they were all essentially the same thing: Have a Happy Hump Day, Humpty Hump Day, Get your Hump on folks. Hope your Hump Day is good. All of these posts people recycle about believing in yourself, where I’m wondering, “Are you trying to convince me of this or are you just trying to convince yourself?” These people discussing—not even discussing—just sticking their ignorant opinions out there about things that I don’t care about—or at least I don’t care to hear from them—about gun violence, or the electoral process or any other political discussion. I wouldn’t seek out their opinions in the first place and I certainly don’t care to see them. Or their pictures of their cats. Or what food they’re eating for dinner, you know? Or what they are watching on television right now. I don’t care. I don’t care. I couldn’t care. I try to care, I still can’t. It’s a bombardment.

I also was having more and more people that I barely knew start pinging me, from the gym or from on vacation. They’d be like, “Hey, it’s me!” And I don’t even know your last name, why would I want to ‘friend’ you?  You’re not my friend. People have forgotten what that word means. Friend, by my definition, is someone who you can rely on, who relies on you, who you talk to, who you interact with, who you hang out with and spend time with. Who doesn’t judge you for being you. It’s not just some random person that you met on Facebook who wants to be, I don’t know, a nuisance. And I don’t like when you meet somebody for the first time—man or woman—and they are sort of interesting and you’re discussing things, and the conversation comes to an end for whatever reason, and when you want to continue that, their immediate response is, “Are you on Facebook? Oh, okay, I’ll ‘friend’ you on Facebook.” Well, no, could I have your phone number? I’d like to, uh, never mind. No, actually, I don’t want to be ‘friends’ on Facebook. I just want to keep talking like people used to talk in the olden times, back in 2004. 

Eric Powell 1

And people don’t recognize that this is a public place that they’re posting this on. It’s a big huge message board! There were times when I would say, “I don’t want to be at work anymore,” but I’d think, “Oh, wait a minute, that guy down the hall that I work for? He’s ‘friends’ with me. So if I post that, he could read it!” But these people they don’t think about this stuff. They don’t think, period. They don’t think, they just react, they just respond. And it’s just another thing I’m trying to break away from. That herd mentality. It’s just too much. I can’t deal with it. People don’t realize that there are repercussions to this. There are consequences. You can’t behave in this manner. Like if you go out for a job, and they look you up and you’re taking bong hits on your Facebook page, they are going to see that! I think this generation—they may be surprised, or maybe they’re in for a rude awakening, because that is all they know, this open and public forum. And maybe they don’t realize that their parents or their bosses or their girlfriends or their boyfriends can read that! Everything is there. There is now a public record now of your actions, of your dialogue. I think these sites, they sort of put a little thumbtack on you on a map, in a chronological space, and they allow people—some businesses and other ‘friends’—to know everything about you all the time. And keep track of you. It’s that notion from Fight Club of Planet Starbucks and a homogenous world run by conglomerates—it kind of makes me a little uncomfortable to know that somebody in some room somewhere knows exactly how often I buy deodorant.

So once I decided to get off of Facebook I wanted to inform some my virtual ‘friends’ that I was leaving. I wasn’t intending to cut them off—I wanted to give them an avenue to contact me if they so chose. So I sent out between 120 to 125 emails of the 400 friends I had on there. These were people I specifically hand-picked to stay in contact with because I genuinely wanted to maintain a relationship on some level with them—personal, professional, what have you. The rest of the people, well, I feel like over time I have just accrued these ‘friends.’ I didn’t feel like they were going to miss me, or even notice. Of the 120 to 125 emails that I sent out, I heard back from about 20 to 25 percent of those. So roughly 20 people out of 125 out of 400 got back to me. Only one person had something sort of negative to say. And I don’t actually know that it was negative because I don’t know his level of humor well enough! Seeing that it was in text form, I couldn’t tell. He basically said, “Enjoy your hermit life.” At first it seemed humorous, but now I don’t know. It was very succinct. It was brief and concise, so that made me almost question it. I thought, “I’m sorry, what, did this decision anger you? Because you didn’t expand on this. You certainly didn’t pick up the ball and run with it and say, ‘Yeah, we need to hang out and have a beer!’” It was just that one sentence and that was that.

But it has been positive in the sense that there are people I haven’t talked to in a long time—and once I sent out that email I’ve actually run into and hung out with a couple of them. One individual I hadn’t seen or spoken to in almost two years—I went and had dinner with him a week ago. So it did sort of prompt that to happen. I’m not saying we should go back to the Stone Age and live in caves and decry all social media. But Facebook has run its course with me. I’m through. I’m over it. Not in a violent way or an aggressive way or an angry way, I’m just exhausted. What else is on? What’s happening on another channel? I’m sure I’ll find another bright shiny light to fixate on, but I’m done with this one.