Facebook Leave

I was on Facebook until a few days ago, when I finally closed my account after two years. In shutting it down, I made the terrible mistake of making a declaration to all of my Friends explaining to them why I was leaving the forum. The temptation to declaim, despite my better judgment, was irresistible. I never had a chance to comply with my first thought, which was to go away quietly, into what Aldous Huxley termed a “decent obscurity”. The Friends with whom I had friendships did not need to hear my reasons, they knew them already, and the Friends that remained did not care what my reasons were – or I had no cause to think they did – and I had no right to harass them. But I still wanted at least some of the people in the second group to hear my opinions, and perhaps also to stay in touch, although I knew that that outcome was unlikely. They weren’t close friends, but on the whole they are people I respect and who I would like to take some interest in my mind.

Sure enough, I flubbed. The message, depending on how well you knew me, was sanctimonious, insulting, simplistic, off the mark. I realized this almost immediately. I wanted to take it back but just as quickly knew that I could not. It was there to stay, forever, to taste like old water, and for the national security agency to pluck for safekeeping.

Therefore, this is not what I wrote:

Friends . . . Groups . . . Newsfeed! I’m leaving Facebook in a few days. I wanted you to know. I’d close my account now but I want to make sure you get the message. The thing has been on my mind for a while. I suppose I’m doing it for several reasons. The precipitating cause, however, was not the latest ballyhoo over Facebook’s newly revised privacy policy, which I’ve never understood, and I don’t think I’m meant to understand, but reading Frank Rich’s recent piece in New York magazine about the decline and fall of privacy generally. His analysis was incisive, but annoying and wrong, in that he took up the popular media line, embraced unfortunately by “cruise missile” liberals everywhere (e.g. Bill Maher), that the general public is basically responsible for its own predicament of being too transparent – a case of blaming the victim that found me grinding my teeth and growling bitterly at my lowest octave, not least because it tended to undermine Edward Snowden.

But not all of my reasons are political. I follow the news. I am not so naïve as to think that if I stop using Facebook but continue using Gmail the National Securitors will not be just as far past my sphincter as they were before I left the FB. One problem at a time, I suppose. In other respects, I view this act as one of striving toward greater simplicity, revisiting a certain condition of my mind that I once knew better by keeping at bay at least some of the incessant deluge of media washing over us all, among other things, and an experiment with freedom: can I live without this very peculiar and not completely satisfactory communication medium? Piece of cake right? To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “And so on.”

There are two impressions I do not want anyone to be left with after reading this post. The first is that I am somehow taking a position of moral superiority in relation to any of you who might, and I expect probably will, choose to stay here. That is not what I mean to say. I recognize that there are valid reasons, personal and professional, for sticking with Facebook, and I would not presume to judge anyone for seeing the matter differently than me. Believe it or not, despite what I just said, I am not so sure, objectively speaking (assuming objectivity exists), that the reasons for dropping off necessarily outweigh the reasons for staying on. Admittedly, I find the issue complex.

The other impression I do not want to create is that, in deciding to drop off, I have engaged in some kind of balancing analysis with respect to the value of the connection I have here with all of you, and concluded that continuing to maintain the connection was not worth it. I know that it could appear that way at first glance, but I believe that this dichotomy is a false one, one of the meddlesome artefacts that Facebook has introduced. The reason I am posting this, after all, is to leave open the possibility of our maintaining a connection like the one we have had here, albeit through different means.

I’ve said enough. My email is wortmanberg@wort.com. I’m also requesting yours, if I do not have it yet. If you’re on this list, it’s something I would like you to pass along, but I’ll leave that up to you. Take care for now, from here. Visualize my profile picture jumping off the blue crossbar down the newsfeed scroll, and disappearing.

P.S. Please forgive the awfulness of this as a mass message. There was simply no way I could write individual variations of it upwards of 75 times, even with cutting and pasting.

The things we wish we’d said.


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