The other day I had lunch with someone who had been a good source for me. The first thing he said when we sat down was “where ya been? I don’t see you on Facebook anymore!” I could only smile as I replied, “well, I’ve been everywhere…just not on Facebook.” It’s a little sad to think a person would deduce you disappeared from the world just because you disappeared from a social media site. I wasn’t hiding. I just was playing on a different field.
Two years ago I abruptly posted a status update on Facebook that I couldn’t face it anymore and would be hanging up my status-updating spurs. I had a good time for about six years cracking jokes, baiting those on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me to get all upset and silly, catching up with long lost friends, acquaintances and co-workers and using the site to promote this blog. But then it stopped being fun. Good-natured disagreements devolved into bitter rhetoric. It started feeling more like work to keep up with expectations of an unspecified number of funnies, or at least near-misses each day. So I quit. But I’m not gone.
Yes, every once in awhile I’ll lurk and read what’s going on at the CNN Alumni page. Too often it depresses me when I see the latest notice of one of the extended CNN family has passed away. I only actually posted when my very favorite former boss at the network died and offered some personal thoughts. Actually it was a link to a blog post.
Once a year I’m humbled by the number of people who wish me a happy birthday and I attempt to thank each and every one individually. If they took the time, then I can too.
I thought I’d miss it more, but I don’t. Aside from the total time-suck, I’ve made room in my brain for other thoughts and ideas, instead of scanning all sorts of news sites for funnies fodder. Now I read the news…to learn the news. There are enough jokes in government who are walking punchlines. Some deserve to be simply punched.
I still get friend requests. I’m not rejecting you. I’m ignoring you out of respect, because what kind of a friend would “friend” you then never interact with you. I’ll save my ghosts for Halloween.
Will I ever go back? Not a chance. People who need to find me know how. Besides, I don’t trust Facebook with my personal information and if I want to be targeted, I’ll have a bullseye tattooed on my ass. It’d be hard to miss.
And if I do think I came up with something funny, I’ll probably just torture my family or a friend in person. They won’t have to post a comment that says, “wow, that sucked!” They can just tell me face-to-face, and then we’ll pour some Jack on the rocks and have an honest laugh..together..like real friends.
It’s been about a year since I quit Facebook cold turkey as a means of reclaiming my time and a bit of my sanity. I had developed a bit of a following for some mildly funny posts to the extent that when I attended a business or social event, my followers would give me warm greetings, engage in conversations, call out specific posts.
But then yesterday, while covering an auto industry event, I found out how fleeting Facebook “friendship” really is. One of my more ardent former followers…a fellow journalist..greeted me with a big “hi! and a smile. Then came the hammer. “You don’t seem to post much anymore,” she said. “Oh no,” I replied. “I quit a year ago.” Her face fell, then hardened, and then she curtly cut off our conversation and turned to speak with someone else.
Are people really that idiotic and shallow to the point of de-valuing your acquaintance simply because you choose to discontinue posting quips on a social media site?
I asked my daughter, who, in her late 20’s, is a social media savant ,if this was common behavior or simply a display of immaturity by a middle aged knownothing.
She gave me a very serious look while explaining to me in no uncertain terms, “you must maintain your online presence to build your personal brand.”
Now I ran social media communications at Fiat Chrysler for 11 years so I’m not exactly a novice at online branding and the working of social media, but for some reason this hit me like a shot. It just seems so horribly pathetic that human beings can be judged by such an ephemeral criteria. Luckily, I’m at an age where my reputation has long been made. I have no one else to impress except my family. In my semi-retirement I have no occupational aspirations other than to dabble here and there with freelance projects and my very nice part-time position at Automotive News. I do not wish to be some sort of social media personality and the only thing about me that goes viral might be a bacteria I catch in the locker room where I play hockey.
What this has all done is harden my resolve not to reverse course and resume my Facebook presence. Oh..I’m still online..through this blog and a very occasional tweet and posting links to some of my current work on Linkedin, but that’s it.
It was fun making people laugh and triggering some smiles during my time on Facebook, but it’s always best to leave the stage with the audience wanting more. That doesn’t make me worth any less. I still tell jokes…to my real friends…not on Facebook..but face to face.
It didn’t hurt a bit. With a couple of clicks I deleted my Facebook account after roughly 6 years. I had a good time using it. It was a platform to crack some jokes, comment on the news, tell some personal stories, support my friends during tough times and promote my work. In the end, though, it was also a place to waste time and open myself up to, at times, unwanted contact.
I didn’t spend big chunks of time on the site, but I did expend a lot of mental energy dreaming up posts that I thought (sometimes foolishly) that would be entertaining, put a smile on some folks’ faces, be a little controversial, or heartfelt. Sometimes posts would come to me in a flash, other times I blew 10, 15, 30 minutes scouring news and other websites for Facebook post fodder.
This isn’t what I intended when I opened my account. I thought it would just be a fun way to keep up with my friends and maybe reconnect with those with whom I lost touch. The problem began when I started receiving very favorable comments about some of my posts. Gradually I started accumulated followers and was expected to be somewhat entertaining. People would tag me so as to bait me into coming up with a funny comment. Some suggested I go into standup comedy. I appreciated, very much, the kind words but then I placed pressure on myself to come up with something witty or emotional or meaningful or inspiring or, ofttimes, idiotic, at least once a day. It became work. I didn’t need more work.
Of course the election brought out the worst in people. Shallow, narrow-minded people who can’t take a joke or poke a little fun at themselves or who threaten to unfriend you if you don’t believe every moronic thing coming out of their keyboards. Who needs that?
The sad part is I love to write and I do love to entertain. I’ll be doing here on this blog for now on. I hope you’ll check in every now and then and find something worth the detour. I can also be reached via Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/egarsten and Twitter @EdGarsten. Thanks very much. Ed
I lost a friend today. I’m heartbroken, yet I never met her, never spoke to her in person, never heard her voice until someone posted a video of her today–the day she died.
How often have you heard the question, “yeah you have hundreds of Facebook friends but how many would attend your funeral?” The point is how many of your so-called “friends” do you really know or have a real relationship with, or honestly care about, or think about even a second after you log off?
Facebook says I have 800+ friends, and I admit, there are many with whom I’ve never shared a moment face-to-face. Such was my relationship with Melissa Kitchens.
We had one common bond, and that was we were both former CNN employees, or should I say more properly, formerly employed by CNN but forever a member of the extended family the network became over the past 35 years.
Our paths never crossed during my 8 years in Atlanta or my 12 in Detroit, yet
through her Facebook posts I knew Melissa was religious, devoted to her mother, her loving companion Chuck, that she was vivacious, beautiful physically and spiritually. In her post-CNN life she created a successful catering business and became Sweet Melissa. I understood her pound cake to be legendary and kick myself for never ordering one. I discovered she ran audio for CNN and had a sharp sense of humor and sometimes drove the directors crazy with her drawl and jokes.
If she “liked” or commented on one of my posts I felt I had accomplished something by sparking such a magnificent person to notice it and document her pleasure or agreement with something I wrote.
When she kicked in our guts by posting she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a breath left me and wondered why someone as perfect and pious and bright as Melissa was “rewarded” for all the good she brought to world with a scourge that would ultimately remove her from it.
“Pray for me,” she would post every time she went for an exam or another surgery or procedure. We did. We prayed for Sweet Melissa. I prayed for someone with whom I had only a virtual relationship but a visceral connection. It hurts the same as the loss of someone I would see every day in the office or in the neighborhood.
Tell me Melissa wasn’t a “real” friend and our friendship will end. You don’t know..or your arrogant..or you missed out.
Would Melissa attend my funeral had she outlived me? Who knows. I regret my business travel prevents me from attending hers, but no matter. That’s a false measure of friendship. Friendship is the elixir brewed by a combination of caring, concern, humor, empathy, sharing and affection. For Sweet Melissa, in her memory, my Facebook friend, my real friend, I drink to you.