It’s with some regret that I must tell you that it’s time to go our separate ways.
It’s not me. It’s you.
Ok, maybe it’s us, but that’s not important.
There comes a time in every relationship when it’s important to take a close, heartfelt look at where we’re at. I can honestly say that the number of times I’ve found myself happier after being with you for a hour can be counted on one hand. I have to ask myself why I would continue to hang out with you when almost every time I do I end up feeling disappointed, frustrated, and even angry. Why would I keep coming back to that? It doesn’t serve me well.
I still remember our first date. You tempted me with the promise of keeping in touch with my family and friends. I would get to share in all the great moments in their lives: birth announcements, wedding pictures, graduations and birthdays. I would be informed when my friends were on their vacation of a lifetime or performing a great role in an award winning play. Heck, even seeing them out for an occasional nice meal at a fancy restaurant seemed cool. At first it seemed that’s what it would be. I was hooked on you.
But things have changed.
No longer do I see what my friends are doing. Pictures of people at the beach have been replaced by memes. Somewhere in a factory in Bangalore, or maybe it’s a think tank outside D.C., a team of creators is producing angry, one-sided, inflammatory memes that discourage conversation, that divide us into “us and them”, that get us choosing sides on topics we would never discuss in polite conversation: religion and politics.
Remember when that meant something? Remember when we’d gather – in person – with our friends, and we could love and respect one another without needing to know every one of their beliefs? We accepted they may be different than ours because what really mattered was how they lived their lives. How they treated us and the people around them. Our opinions on how people 4,000 or 8,000 miles away should live their lives didn’t really matter. It certainly doesn’t matter to those people. But you, dear Facebook, seem to delight in bringing me everyone’s deepest, darkest thoughts.
I almost missed the announcement of the birth of a friend’s child because of a red cup.
A great deal at my favorite restaurant nearly slipped past me thanks to an admonition to arm every teacher in middle school.
Facebook, you need to take a look at your priorities. I’ve taken a look at mine and, well, you’re no longer on the list.
Oh, granted, I can’t actually delete my account. I’m tied to some business pages that I can’t take down. But the app on my phone? Gone. The link on my favorite’s bar? Deleted. I’m sure I’ll still see you around town from time to time. You’re a celebrity and there’s no getting away from you completely, but you’re going to have to get your attention from someone else.
I hear your protests. I just give people an outlet! What they do with it is completely up to them! I get that. As a technology platform you’re pretty neutral. I don’t speak to the software, I speak to the entity the software has produced. To me, that’s Facebook.
Let’s face it, mankind has ever had a destructive nature. For every creator there are a hundred destroyers trying to bring her down. For every Michelangelo there is a pack of children with hammers waiting to smash David to bits. Destroying is easy. Creating is hard. We’ve been doing it all our lives and your software isn’t capable of preventing it. Despite your clever algorithms and terms of service, we’ve been able to devolve every one of your promises into a battleground of black and white, with the creators losing out to the destroyers more often than the Boston Bruins fall to the Montreal Canadiens.
So keep your memes. Keep your ads. I will miss your event invites, I admit. My awareness of social happenings will be limited, but the most important events, the ones where my presence is genuinely desired (rather than those in which my name is just included in a scatter-shot “Invite All”), will still get to me through more old fashioned means. I can still get calls and emails and text messages. I’m not dropping off the planet. I’m actually returning to the real world, rather than this virtual simulation of a world in which we hate the most charitable people because of their stance on gun control. In which we stand with a parent who beats her children purely because she shares our thoughts on off-shore drilling.
Enemy of my enemy is my friend, and all that.
Please take care of yourself, Facebook. I know you’re not bad. You’re just drawn that way.
Steve is the founder of Straight Talk Entertainment and currently produces and writes for the audio drama Aural Traditions, recently voted Charleston City Paper’s Best Local Podcast. He’s also an Information Security professional and avid shark tooth hunter.