Why I'm Not Ready to Leave Facebook Just Yet
A lot of folks have been talking lately about leaving Facebook in protest over its latest scandal, this time time involving a shadowy company called Cambridge Analytica gaining access to the social media giant's user data and using that information for various nefarious purposes, including Brexit and getting Trump elected.
This is only the latest in a long line of controversies surrounding the perpetually embattled social media giant. People are understandably and deservedly skeptical of Facebook, which doesn't exactly have a great track record when it comes to transparency, honesty and also not being terrible.
There are plenty of reasons to want to leave Facebook and never look back beyond its connection to organizations like Cambridge Analytica. Social media famously shortens already tiny attention spans. It generates a never-ending stream of jealousy and resentments by continually reminding us of the incredible successes of our friends, colleagues and peer groups. It tells us that everyone else looks better than us, that they’re getting the gigs and promotions and book and TV deals we’re dreaming about while we're seemingly stuck forever running in place professionally.
There are all sorts of downsides to social media and Facebook but the rewards can be enormous as well, particularly if, like me, you have difficulty dealing with people in real life, who are perpetually besieged by social anxiety.
On an emotional level, Facebook is ideal for people like myself who wrestle with debilitating self-consciousness and self-awareness, who are deeply intimidated by the mere idea of human contact and human interaction deep into adulthood.
Facebook allows me the comfort of more or less constant low-level human interaction without the terrifying specters of phone calls and in-personal interaction and all the myriad stresses and complications that comes with dealing with people outside the comforting, low-stakes, low-intensity world of online friendships.
You might argue that the almost inherently superficial human interaction that I get from Facebook is a poor substitute for the real thing, for meaty, substantive person-to-person conversations and deep, penetrating relationships that span years or even decades. That’s almost assuredly true, but for someone who has enormous difficulty making and keeping friends, the virtual camaraderie and banter that comes with Facebook is a whole lot better than the paralyzing loneliness I would feel without out it.
In a sense, Facebook is a crutch and a cheat in that it gives the fuzzy impression of friendship, or “Friendship” since in Facebook’s world friendship can be attained by pressing a button, and is not a complicated, difficult, ongoing process that I will never understand, but sometimes it’s okay to rely on a crutch.
Emotionally, I’m nowhere near ready to give Facebook and its reassuringly low-pressure, low-intensity, low-stakes friendships up. That’s true professionally as well. I see my Facebook group Society for the Toleration of Nathan Rabin, which is about four years old at this point, as a dry run for this website. It was a way of building a community of readers and friends and former coworkers that was interested in me and my writing, and was willing to follow me wherever I went.
As a small businessman with a fragile young business with an advertising and promotional budget of roughly zero dollars, I depend on Facebook and Twitter as invaluable promotional outlets for my articles and columns and ideas and projects. There’s a huge spike in page-views when I post something to Twitter and Facebook every day, and I’m not in a place to lose that surge over otherwise very legitimate political and ideological reasons.
I guess what I’m saying is that at this point in my life, I don’t like I want to have Facebook in my life so much as I need its various functions, for both intensely emotional and professional reasons. I wish I didn’t, just as I wish I was better at real life and also interacting with other human beings, but I’ve discovered that it’s good sometimes to realize your limitations, frustrating as they might be.
Join a nice community that could, conceivably replace Facebook, get access to patron-only content and be a Smash Mouth-like all star over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace