Thanks for asking! Even though our mighty Facebook overlords deactivated my personal profile a little over a week ago, I’m still getting asked this question so I figured I’d use my own website to talk about it. This is an oddly novel concept now, considering you can almost pinpoint the month that I joined FB by observing the decline in posts to this site.
You could say I got lazy, busy, or a combination of the two, but you’d only be half-right. The real heart of the situation, a topic of many social media-related articles, is the huge increase in instant feedback I got from every FB post versus my blog posts. No one wants to visit a site, read the equivalent of a printed page, and write a comment. Many people want to scroll through a feed of photos and one-liners, hit the “Like” button, and move on to the next thing. Thus, the lengthy descriptions of my adventures in hearse land were replaced by pictures, short quips, and #hearstworldproblems.
But who cares, right? The reason I joined FB and other social media was to get people talking about the BDH. How I do that shouldn’t matter, since the ends justify the means.
Well… yes and no. Now that you know I’m still alive and kicking, what follows is a story of my tumultuous relationship with social media and why I’m on the fence about reinstating the prevailing medium that I display my online self.
Looking back to the technological dark ages of the early ’00s, I joined Fark and Friendster, mostly to give me a way to look busy at a computer at my heinously under-challenging tech job. Fark is a news aggregation site that still runs itself like a simple BBS. (I’d say that’s part of its charm.) Although the Fark community is comprised of some awesomely weird people, its structure was nothing new.
Friendster, however, set the format for many of its social media descendants. Its purpose was to put real people in touch with other real people. The platform was straightforward and intuitive, so naturally I wanted to break it. In addition to my real name, I registered an account for Buddha, a dining room set, bored hipsters, Homestarrunner’s The Sneak, and more. The fake friends and their funnies came rolling in. Among my friends were the color green, a cigarette, and Kelly Osbourne’s ass. Now I’m having fun!
Fun was my only goal, so when Friendster banned my ISP no one cared, including me. My real account had been wiped out with all my fake ones, but I had strong roots where I was living at the time (Austin, TX). People were much less reliant on social media 10 years ago.
If Friendster was the tyrannical grandfather of social media, MySpace was its free-wheeling son. “You don’t have to use your real name!” people told me excitedly in order to persuade me to join. (I don’t think this is the case anymore.) I was still a late adopter, and for all the good it did me, I wish I was a non-adopter.
The Friendster hijinx were a fun experiment, but I was tired of it. I had also found a new job in California that was more interesting to me. I had no reason to join MySpace, but I did so anyway under the guise of keeping in touch with my Austin friends. Ironically, I used MySpace more often after I returned to Austin a year later.
All MySpace really did was give people a way to stalk each other. Who’s friends with who? More importantly, who isn’t friends with who? What does that backhanded comment on my friend’s page mean? Why is this person contacting me? Et cetera. I knew it was a complete waste of time, but I couldn’t look away. The increasing amount of drama in my life probably would have still happened, but MySpace did a splendid job of helping it along.
When Facebook opened its gates to the ivory towers, I remained steadfast in the hell-no camp for years. I was living in a city where I knew almost no one (NYC) and then moving to another city where I knew almost no one (Seattle), so I should have jumped at any chance to connect with people. I still don’t think FB would have helped me in the way I wanted it to. I was determined to continue forming real, substantial friendships instead of superficial online ones.
I didn’t, and still don’t, understand how one makes the leap from a collection of pictures and blurbs to a friendship. Something has to be there already, and an online connection just helps keep it going. I remember receiving a physical LSU Freshman Facebook the summer before I began college. I didn’t want to be in it then, either.
As you see, I succumbed. Once I completed the BDH, I felt like I finally had a reason to be in the modern interpretation of a social network other than “look at me, another special snowflake!” (“Modern” meaning post-Fark. Even though I post less than I used to, I’ll always be a Farker.) I had made something unique that I was proud of and I wanted to share it with anyone who would like it. To guard against the same self-defeating patterns I experienced with MySpace, I vowed not to post anything outside the realm of Barbies, Hearses, and the occasional Dream. Some Seattle topics were okay, too.
Did I keep my promise? Well… yes and no. I say that I succumbed because I started to use FB for its intended purpose. I joined some groups, spent some time reading my feed, “liked” things… all that shit. If ever I found myself lingering on someone’s profile, I reminded myself that my FB account is for other people to look at me, not for me to look at them.
Believe it or not, I stayed the course in that respect. In place of all the self-defeating MySpace creeping, I was racking up friends and likes and general support for all the events I was doing, and even getting invited to more. While studies have shown that most people who use FB excessively are less happy because everyone’s lives appear better than theirs, I was the exception proving the rule: My life looks awesome because it IS awesome. Everyone thinks I’m great and hooray for me.
Oops, now I’m a giant fucking narcissist.
I heard FB recently changed their terms again and also began cracking down on profiles that don’t represent real people. As if everyone who decides to use their real name are being 100% truthful online to begin with. It doesn’t matter what you choose to call yourself, we all present an image that we want others to see.
Anyway, the BDH is a person, place, and thing, and I want to use the internet to convey that in the most friendly, honest, and interesting way that I can. Perhaps this post isn’t doing the trick. However, it has been festering in edit mode for awhile, so I’m going to make it live and possibly edit some more as the spirit moves me.
Sorry for the abrupt (non)conclusion.