Thursday, January 10, 2013

I unfriended Facebook

The Sandy Hook shootings were the last straw.

Sitting in my easy chair the next Saturday morning fooling around on Facebook, I could hear the repetitive coverage of the massacre on TV. On Facebook, friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends were commenting. Most were thoughtful, but some were stupid and a handful were outrageous. I flipped out.

First, I burst into tears. Yes, I know, that's helpful. Then, I turned off the TV. Finally, I looked into discontinuing my Facebook account. I realized that I had created the account for the Post Register and, besides, Facebook makes it damn near impossible to just cancel your account. So, I did the next best thing.

I unfriended everyone -- everyone -- except for my and Kathleen's kids. My personal experiment with the full menu that Facebook has to offer was over.

I had started before the election by reducing my Facebook friends to just my extended family, which included distant cousins in Brazil. The insanity and stupidity of political commentary on Facebook became too much to bear. Reducing it to a place where I can get updates on the grandkids was the next logical step.

My Facebook experience peaked -- or hit bottom, depending on how you look at it -- about a year and a half ago just before my 35th high school reunion, when I added a bunch of Facebook friends from my high school days. Many of these very nice people I knew little or not at all, but I got caught up in the spirit of the moment. At that point I had around 200 Facebook friends, which is still a pretty modest number in comparison to some

Suddenly, however, I was spending two hours or more a day on Facebook and engaging in conversations and debates with people I either had scarcely known once in the mid-70s or, through the Facebook friends of friends process, people I knew not at all. Some people find this exhilarating. I began to find it annoying, frustrating, occasionally entertaining, rarely enlightening, but nearly always a bad use of my time. There are 10 or so -- you all probably know who you are -- that I actually miss, and maybe I'll see if they'll take me back some day. And I did enjoy the antics of the Brazilian Plothows.

However, I spend my professional life at the center of the public discourse, which often means engaging with people who say ignorant or silly things. The last thing I need to do is continue engaging people like that at home, and the wider the Facebook circle the more likely it gets infiltrated with uninvited guests.

Yes, I could have more carefully managed my privacy settings and list of friends, but I decided to go all in, or, more correctly, all out. It was the right call.

I'm still on LinkedIn and my email address is known to thousands. It's not hard to get hold of me. Plus, I maintain Facebook pages for my first novel and its upcoming sequel, plus one on Yellowstone National Park. That keeps me in the game.

Most important is that I have now freed significant time for Angry Birds, and I'm nearly through the Star Wars version, three star complete destruction.

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