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zak of all trades: Facebreak: The end of a 'social' era

February 7, 2014

About four or five months back, I announced on my Facebook page that I had decided it was time to delete my account. It was a personal decision — not an overall judgment against Facebook — and in all honesty, I was shocked at the backlash that came from all angles.

One or two people told me they thought it was a cool idea and that they'd been thinking the same thing. But the overwhelming majority basically told me that I was crazy, went on the defensive for the social media mogul and explained why Facebook was worth keeping.

And so, I decided to "give FB another shot," so to speak, as I put it on a trial run, where I would make note of all the things I enjoyed about the site and what it's become and compare it to the things that either bothered me about it or I just flat out didn't like about it.

So, here I am months later, feeling like a teenager about to break up with a girlfriend, as I say it again: Facebook, you and I need to have a talk.

What we had was a good run, I have to admit. My longest relationship with a girl lasted just less than three years, and yet here we are after all this time.

I was a bit reluctant when things kicked off. I wasn't sure what you were or why you had to have a ".edu" email account to be a member, but I eventually gave in to the pressure from both you and those around me telling me that I needed an account to "stay connected." And here I am, seven years later, connected to only a few of those who were so passionate about staying connected and the role that you would have in it.

And while I'd like to feed you the old line, "It's not you; it's me," I'm not sure that I can do so and mean it in this case. You've done a lot to make steps toward this break, too.

But I'm not blaming you. I'm just saying that, sometimes, two people — or entities in our case — aren't as good a match as they think they are. And as hard as we fought to make it happen, we're not a good match — not anymore.

Here's the thing. You and I will go our separate ways, and in the end, we'll hardly think back on each other at all. Sure, there will be times when I'm wondering how someone from my past is doing, and I'll wish I had a database to my past at my fingertips. But those times will be far more rare than the times I found myself in a daze opening you when I had set out to open my email or check the score of the game.

It seems you're more like an addiction to me, and I've found that anything that's got an addictive pull on me needs to go. So, that's the reason for this talk.

We used to be so simple. I liked that. I miss that. I used to have about 30 "friends," though I think they were called contacts back then. And Facebook was a great place to chat with them and to stay in touch with what was going on in their lives. Back then, you were an avenue to the things that were relevant in my life — classes, get-togethers, real social interactions extended.

But now, I don't feel like you're an avenue to things that are relevant in my life — not anymore. Now, I am bombarded with status updates about dropping the ketchup bottle on the floor, "sponsored ads" and memes about cats (some of which I will admit I enjoy — shout-out to Grumpy Cat).

I don't have to look far to find the proof that you and I just aren't as close as we used to be, either. All I have to do is open up my account, where you show me the "things I might be interested in." So often, you're way off base. And in addition to that, I know that those little blocks in the top right corner are geared toward my "interests," but they're often off-base and make me feel like you're a door-to-door salesman.

Oh, and the "people you might know" tab? That's nice, but knowing someone and wanting to be "friends" with them are two completely different things, and I feel like, as long as we've been at this, you should know that about me.

It's almost as if you don't really care about me or my interests at all, like our relationship is an algorithmic one. For example, I remember the time that you suggested I "might like" the Dallas Cowboys, and your reason was because I liked the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was so mad! But I didn't show it, because I didn't want to hurt your feelings.

I know I've contributed to this problem, too. I know the foray into the Scrabble and Words with Friends gaming era was hard on you. I had spent all my time focused solely on my wall and my home site, where you told me all about things that would be of interest to me. But then, these games came along — in fact, you introduced me to them, and I even needed you to stay connected to them.

It started with you not passing on notifications to me, and then, all of a sudden, every time I tried to connect to the games, you locked up my computer. I know you felt used, but, as I said before, we have become two different entities, and it's time to call this gig off.

We do still have our good points. Your Pages function allows me to stay connected with those who follow my book writing. Your chat feature allows me to readily contact Grandma when I have a tidbit to share with her. And your Groups function helps me stay connected through the week with my Sunday School class.

But the list of things we hold in common used to be so much greater, and it just isn't anymore.

And so, with that, I must say, "Facebook, we need a break — a permanent one."

I'll be honest. I never put four or five months into pondering a break-up with a girl. You definitely had some sort of pull on me. And I know you'll move on. There are (literally) millions of people out there whose profile you fit — you're exactly what they are looking for. I'm happy for you, and I hope you'll be happy for me when I move on and plug back into the things I used to dig so much and pour so much time into — leisure reading, serving others, photography ... the list goes on
and on.

So long, Facebook. It's been real.

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit, and you can no longer find him on Facebook. But you know where to find him if you want to stay connected.

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