#AntinAfrica – Why I failed to delete my Facebook

“It is as if facebook has this stranglehold on me and many of my friends, but why do I really go on it?”

–Myself, May 22nd, 2011, “The Social Stranglehold”

*Be warned, y’all, this shit is long and you may just want to skim and read the quotes, beginning, bolded sections and the end. I wrote it to explain the situation to people who had asked, and it got kind-of-a-little-just-a-tad out of hand

Aiight, so here’s the thing. I feel like I am damned if I do, and damned if I don’t and I’m stuck in the middle confused. The above quote is from an entry I wrote on this blog over 3 years ago, talking about the first time I deactivated my Facebook profile and the way it changed my outlook on my social media addiction. The feeling of deactivating it and the way I my use greatly declined afterward was surprising and delightful. But given my recent attempt to delete my Facebook profile, I wanted to write about the reasons I still want to delete it and also the sad reality that I’m not sure if I can. Lots of people have asked me why, and it is really hard to put into a few sentences because I’m dramatic, because it truly is multifaceted. The pros and cons (in no particular order) I have listed below may resonate with you, but they are all my personal, honest experience as to why Facebook makes me feel like it is eating away at my soul.

Cons:

  1. Continual Facebook use can purportedly lead to addiction because of the endorphins release. [Source]
  2. Facebook has been proven in multiple studies to make people depressed, sad or frustrated. Outside of the studies–I’m not sure of their methodology or their theoretical soundness–, I have noticed I often don’t feel good about using Facebook. I’ll break this up a bit below. [Source]
  3. Social norms and customs of Facebook have had a negative impact on me. Unfriending someone or being unfriended often transforms from a mountain into a molehill. The movie “Easy A” captures it well with this line: “Roman is having an okay day and bought a Coke Zero at the gas station. Raise the roof.” Sometimes I read statuses that I just don’t care about. On the one hand, I am entitled to not care and to scroll on past that. On the other hand, if I consistently don’t care about what you are posting or feel like we cannot engage in a health debate, why I am I still “friends” with you on Facebook? Facebook shows a side of people that I do not always need to see. It sometimes shatters the illusion you have of people or even creates a new one. Yet social norms and human behavior often make it difficult to delete someone in your social network. People take it personally, myself included, but the truth is that I can like you as a person but dislike your social media presence. So instead, I have taken to “hiding” a few people from my timeline because the I did not like having negative responses to harmless posts. But if you’re my Facebook friend, that last comment may have even had you asking ‘Am I on that list?’ My intention is not to create that paranoia, but just to state the way in which I work on this platform to maintain my sanity. These norms even apply to people’s birthdays. I often feel bad (and I might be the only one) if I write “Happy Birthday” on one person’s wall if it is also three other people’s birthdays. Instead I try to message or text them, but that is not always possible.
  4. Tied to the previous reason, Facebook breeds negativity in me by way of comparison and jealousy. I look at a friend who just booked a commercial gig, or who did something craaaazy and amazing here in Cape Town. Now, ordinarily, these are instances where I would be purely happy for the person. But seeing a flood of them on my Facebook can occasionally lead to envy and jealously, but more often lead to comparisons. Generally my congratulatory feelings for my network outweigh any negative feelings, as I am truly  happy that my friends are succeeding. In fact, I’m impressed that I have people in my network with their doctorate, on TV, published in books, empowering Black and queer youth, etc. But the comparisons are where it gets tricky. For example, I’m 25 and still finishing my undergrad. Despite the fact that I am still young, it took me some time to actually accept that this path was right for me and that the socially prescribed path is right for others. But it doesn’t help the pangs of “I should be there” when I see friends completing their Master’s degrees as I complete my Bachelor’s. I am–we are–constantly comparing ourselves to each other and a little friendly competition is good, but comparisons breed negativity that I’m just not a fan of.
  5. I had over 1,100 friends, up from the 500 I had in 2011. Now, why is this an issue? Believe it or not, I’m a private person. I’m also an open person, so I like sharing some of my opinions and thoughts with people, particularly in person. But Facebook can feel so impersonal and nosey sometimes. I just want to say “get out my business,” because even if I don’t post something, sometimes someone else will tag you in something.  Sometimes I want to share a funny photo with everyone, but other times I want information to only be for a select few. I’m glad that people get to live vicariously through me and my study abroad experience via Facebook. But at the same time I don’t like my experience being trivialized to the photos of cool events without people also realizing the work it took to get here, the work it is taking to continue to be here, and the emotional labour of being here in South Africa only 20 years after apartheid. Yet I don’t plan on posting “shit’s hard out here”  because I don’t want a pat on the back or sympathy, I just want people to know it isn’t all sunshine and dandelions.  And since my decision not to delete my FB, I have slowly started to go through my friends and unfriend people who I do not actively engage with or have not actively engaged with for years. I’ve always been someone who knows a lot of people, and I enjoy that. But just because I know someone casually or because we went to high school together (but haven’t spoken since high school) does not mean we have to be friends on Facebook. And just because I am friends with you but not your best friend is not any indication that I dislike your friend, it just indicates that I am closer with your friend or do not mind sharing tons of personal information with them.
  6. I don’t like to shit where I eat. One of the reasons I have over 1,000 friends is the mixing of circles. Between my jobs, family, theatre, school(s), studying abroad, and everything in between, Facebook is often much easier than email or phone call.  But even if I never post anything, there is so much information about me available on Facebook that is shared between my various circles of friends, coworkers, and potential employers. In this way, my personal business is mixed with my work business. Actors, directors,  casting directors, tech, etc–who are also sometimes my friends, so the lines are blurred–are all mixed in with my regular friends. So then I post about my life and they get that. I post about acting and my friends get that. It is not so bad a thing, except when I am posting personal things that a casting director or a casual playwright friend may not need to know. Facebook does allow you to create lists that limit the posts available, but I do not want to always switch between those lists. Additionally, it feels weird to section and essentially alienate someone who is on my “friend’s list.” How do I discern what may be important to them, what may make an impact on them?
  7. Facebook is the norm, and if you are not on it you are weird or missing out, but Facebook allows for passive friendship. How often do you actually email a friend? In discussions with friends, many were saying how much a pain in the ass it can be to get in contact with friends who are not on Facebook. It is inconvenient because Facebook is the norm. Multiple people got mad at me because I was trying to delete my Facebook. One of the key reasons is that it passively allows us to participate in people’s lives. We do not have to make an effort to stay friends with others “because we are friends on Facebook.” In many ways, I would lose contact with a lot of people (is that necessarily a bad thing?) if I permanently deleted my Facebook because neither party would make the effort to actively keep in contact. I’d be that guy without Facebook who does not get invited to things because the invitation is only on Facebook and people forgot I didn’t have a Facebook. The fear of missing out is real, y’all.
  8. I don’t like being snooped on or snooping. As someone said yesterday in our discussion about the social network, “I like to know who is pregnant.” Facebook ‘stalking’ is normal, meaning that you become friends with someone and go through much of their information. But why is this normal? Often I have known something about someone because I saw them tagged in a picture, read a status, or something similar. But I’d much rather hear it from the person and it is weird that I know personal details about people from their Facebooks.
  9. Facebook is a show. It is so superficial in many cases. I’d much rather be messaged, emailed, called, or texted than have something written on my wall in many cases. If it is something for you and I to share, why not share it with me directly? There are definitely times that I want other people to see it, so the wall posts can be great. But if you’re writing “call me!” on my Facebook wall when both of our phones are working perfectly fine…why? This is only one aspect of FB being a show that I dislike, but I’m sure if you are reading this you are familiar with the other ways it is a show, like…
  10. Facebook changed my thinking, the way I share news. Recently I got a high mark on an assignment and thought ‘let me go post this on Facebook!’ What the fuck? When I didn’t have Facebook I didn’t go around telling everyone in a mass email or one-by-one that I got a high mark. Yet Facebook is where I sometimes want to share my news, while at the same time not wanting to share it with over 1000 people, many of whom do not care. And why do I want to do it? Partially because of that endorphin rush of likes, but also because I want to be publically recognized patted on the back. I want the attention, deep down inside, even if I do not on the surface. I want the approval and recognition (of a job well-done) that I should be fine in getting from myself and those in my inner circle.
  11. Facebook guilt-tripped me not to leave by saying “So-and-So will miss you.” This message was repeated with pictures of five of my Facebook friends when I scheduled deletion of my Facebook. It’s bullshit like this manipulation that makes me very wary of Facebook. They want to keep you because they want your information. They want your information because they can sell it to advertisers.
  12. Facebook is creepy. It once told me that a friend of mine had hiked a mountain, but when I asked her she had not “checked in” to said mountain. Additionally, the user owns their content, but Facebook has certain use rights over it. You can change the security and sharing settings on your Facebook, but it still retains your information on servers even if you delete your Facebook. So in many ways, Facebook owns your information forever [Source].
  13. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Thanks, senior year economics! In the age where few people will pay for an app on their phone, you have to be wary. We scroll to the bottom and click ‘I agree,’ all the while obliviously using the service without acting knowing the terms of the service. Facebook isn’t free, we pay with our information. We are constantly datamined and the more information your put on Facebook, the more they like you. Facebook is worth so much money because it has figured out how to monetize offer a ‘free’ service and convince people that if they aren’t on it, they’re missing out.
  14. Eversilly policies and shady politics. You’re going to make drag queens change their drag name to their original name? Really Facebook? And then Zuckerburg is going to spout some bullshit about how having two identities indicates a lack of integrity? I’m pretty sure Facebook and all society media revolves around the idea of multiple identities, but correct me if I’m wrong. Additionally, messaging is a huge issue. If you want your message to be seen and it happens to someone you aren’t friends with, you can actually pay to have it seen. Or just know that it may never be seen. That’s great for spammers, but what if you don’t have someone’s email and you aren’t their friend? I’m not here for it [Source] [Source].
  15. Facebook is socially engineered. Facebook literally constructs who and what you see based on algorithms. Currently I see friends who share a lot of articles that I repost. Currently I see a lot of study abroad students because I’m here with them. Currently I see x, y, and z. But Facebook eliminated the option to chronologically see everything (do you even remember that?). (EDIT: They didn’t delete it, I was incorrect. It just defaults to the “Top Stories” option). Now I see something from 9 hours ago at the top of my feed, then yesterday, then 11 hours ago, and then 3 seconds ago. All to ensure that I am seeing “what I am interested in,” which is decided by Facebook. So then I purposely have to go to certain people’s pages to see what they are up to, as my feed won’t tell me. A good majority of people may not have even seen my status update about deleting my Facebook because we do not interact enough to warrant me showing up on their feed (or they hid my updates).
  16. ‘Necessary Evil.’ The idea that Facebook is necessary is gross. At a party I had a discussion with someone who I casually know who essentially say that I will eventually need Facebook, so it is kind of dumb to delete it. It rubbed me the wrong way, because do you really need Facebook? No you don’t, we are made to believe we do. At at the same time though, in many ways [the weight of the] cons of deleting your Facebook–which is different than if you have never been on Facebook, as it is not expected–outweigh the pros, for most people. Facebook is poisonous to me in some ways and I severely dislike the notion that without it I am committing social and career suicide.
  17. Habitual. I have been on Facebook for seven years, and much of the anxiety I felt leading up to the deletion of it was the result of losing something I am so used to. It feels weird and wrong to feel so attached to a fucking internet profile, you know? The idea that it is this thing that I cannot get rid of because for so long I’ve typed in google as one of the first websites on my browser? I really don’t like it.
  18. Facebook Messenger/Facebook Mobile bullshit. Who knows if they will really use the access to your camera and your microphone to spy on you? I don’t. What I do know, though, is that it is too close to being an invasion of privacy and I don’t like it. Sure we give many apps this access, but they have limited information about us. Facebook has a wealth of information, and more access is not what I want to give it.
  19. Procrastination destination #1. We all procrastinate a little bit, but we do it in different ways. I could be using my time in much better ways, yet sometimes–as I wrote in my 2011 blog entry–I waste time on Facebook without learning anything new, getting my work done, or generally being productive at all.
  20. I just spent over an hour writing a 3700 word essay about why I didn’t delete my Facebook. Girl, really? This issue is important to me, but sometimes I wish I didn’t care. Many of my issues on FB stem from the fact that I care too much about other people’s feelings, truthfully. Some of the issues stem from the fact that I care too much about what other people think of me. And finally, I think Facebook is going down a strange path and I’m not sure I want to be onboard when it arrives at its destination.

And finally, Hamm Sammich and Toni Morrison in the same breath:

“But if our existence is to be this tightly bound up in social networks, we should at least give ourselves the chance to agitate and improve them in our favor, since, at the end of the day, an arbitrarily enforced real-names policy is a scary prospect for everybody, not just those of us named after dildos and sandwiches. ”

Hamm Sammich, September 18th, 2014.

“Can’t nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

–Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon, 1977.

Facebook does weigh me down, but here is the positive that I saw before I deleted my Facebook and even more so after my failed attempt. By attempting to delete it, and failing utterly, the conversations that spawned were like going to my digital funeral without actually having to stay dead. I got to know what a select few people thought of it and it shed some light on the way Facebook can connect people and how differently everyone uses it.

Pros – Many are self-explanatory and so the descriptors are much shorter.

  1. Ease of use and communication . 9/10 people I meet have a Facebook. While everyone I meet has an email, Facebook is often the default and makes people feel comfortable.
  2. Platform to voice my opinions/views.
  3. A tool to network, get jobs, scholarships, and strengthen friendships. I have actually been approached for acting jobs through Facebook about as much as I have through email. In fact, I first saw the posting about BrickaBrack needing an Assistant Director on Facebook, followed up on Facebook, and eventually got the job and became a company member.
  4. Friendly competition by way of those pesky comparisons.
  5. ‘Free’ service that asks as an image/video host, blog, and soapbox.
  6. Amazing well of articles/thoughts from likeminded and contrary friends that can spur intellectual debates. Kyle, Nicolette, JC, Mandisa, Mlondi, Micah, and many more of my friends share great articles. In a lot of ways, Facebook is a filtered news source. It can be a little bubble, but it is nice to have.
  7. Ability to reach a wide audience with spamming them through mass emails.
  8. Casting tool. I used Facebook to see what actors really looked like–outside of their headshots–when casting for never fall so heavily again.
  9. Keeping in contact with people from around the world. One of the reasons I wanted to delete it here in South Africa was to get used to it. I knew it would be harder to delete when I got back home because of all of the friends I’d meet here. The positive side to keeping it is staying in contact with all of these people.
  10. Publicity for this very blog to get feedback on my writing and ideas. I want to get my PhD, which involves a lot of writing. I want to write a book. I want to do lots of thangs, and FB is a platform from which to share my creative endeavours.
  11. Online resume. I have LinkedIn, but it is also nice to have my
  12. Digital archive. My friend Clare recently pointed out how it is great to look back on my seven years of Facebook use and reflect on where I am, where I’ve been, and where I might be going next.
  13. Repository of pictures that friends take. I grew up hating pictures, but as I grew older I learned to really love their use. While I might not want to take a picture in the moment, it is great to look back and say ‘oh, that’s what I did, that’s what I looked like.’ Especially since my stubborn memory plays tricks on me.
  14. Community. As opposed to feeling like you are missing out, Facebook is an online ‘community’ of sorts. Especially with my Black community all over the world. I was raised in a primarily white area and I go to a PWI, so having the feeling of solidarity that Facebook and it’s various ‘groups’ provide is stellar.
  15. Mindlessness. Sometimes you just need a picture of a cat or a meme of Black people who are not amused by White people.
  16. The ability to deactivate my Facebook and take a much needed break.

Going through the process of deciding to delete it, scheduling it for deletion (they give you 14 days of deactivation to cave in make up your mind), ultimately coming back and feeling like a dumbass, and finally writing this? Definitely useful in seeing the perceived necessity of the evil known as Facebook. Facebook can be toxic (for me, as opposed to some friends who login once a day and use it as a tool) because it is easy for me accidentally spend too much time on it. But as I mentioned, I’m altering the information I write on Facebook, my friendcount, and the way in which I actually use Facebook. While Facebook has a lot of issues itself, the largest issue is my personal use; I was aware of that and still am. And by deleting Facebook I was taking responsibility in my actions by completely ridding myself of the addiction. I may still eventually do this, but giiiiiirl, I gotta wean myself off of it first. So I’ll start by using it on my terms instead of allowing it to use me and by deactivating it when I feel like I’ve gotten out of hand.

tl;dr (too long;didn’t read): I’m back on Facebook and I love/hate it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts/criticisms/praise/burritos. Please comment below, email me, message me, or hit me up on Twitter @anthoknees

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3 thoughts on “#AntinAfrica – Why I failed to delete my Facebook

  1. Maaaaan, I admire the amount of internal and external processing you’ve done to come to the decision to keep your FB account active (at least for now). And really appreciated the transparency of how hard it is to get where you are in life. Let’s not forget how hard real life is even though with a a few simple clicks on the phone, it may look like my life is faaaaabulous. Also, after reading this, I know I’m not alone in my social media “angst.” Hey – I’ve missed more than one event I had hoped to go to just because I wasn’t checking my FB daily. C’est la vie. I feel like we all have orbits around each other that for some reason or another, come closer at certain times, and pull farther away. FB makes it easier to keep those orbiting far away still visible. I’ll just have to find a way to move through all of it.

    1. Hey Karla! Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I still have more thoughts that I didn’t even write, but this was the bulk of it definitely. And you’re right, FB makes it easier to keep your circles in check, but the angst is real. It’s all about balance, I guess? Thanks for reading, I truly appreciate it!

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