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Why I stay on Facebook even though I don’t enjoy it much

I’ve not enjoyed Facebook much for months and months. Especially since the election of our current President, the place has become so polarized and tribalized. Angry screeds and narrowminded memes. Siding up and tossing ad hominems.

It’s not fun. I keep thinking I should quit. And then something like this photograph happens.

Me in 2nd Grade
Me in second grade, 1974 or 1975

A fellow I knew in elementary school, someone with whom I’ve not spoken for nearly 40 years, shared it on my wall. It’s me at my desk in our second-grade classroom. The fellow’s mom brought cupcakes for his birthday and photographed the class. He came upon the photo his his mother’s things, made a quick mobile-phone snap of it, and posted it.

What a joy to see this photo! I’d forgotten what a mop top I was, and I had no memories of what that classroom looked like.

But what happened next was truly special. Because I’m connected on Facebook with so many of my elementary classmates, many of them commented and reminisced. And we discovered together that we all felt like our elementary school was a truly special place where we felt safe and cared for. We shared memories of our teachers, of walking to school together, of after-school snacks at each others’ homes, and even of summer fun on the playground. We experienced community in our neighborhood through our school, and we agreed that it was wonderful.

This wasn’t just sticky-sweet nostalgia. We Monroe School alums had a joyful shared experience thanks to this photograph. We compared our notes to find that we all privately felt the same way about our long-ago experience. It validated that experience, I think, for all of us.

In this way, Facebook is like an abusive relationship. It’s good just often enough that you don’t leave.

This gorgeous school building underwent a thorough renovation in 2010. See interior and exterior photos here.


42 thoughts on “Why I stay on Facebook even though I don’t enjoy it much

  1. Your description of FB as an abusive relationship is as good as any I have seen.

    I have tamed most of the political excesses by no longer following the worst offenders. It is the manipulative commercial tactics that irritate me the most. At some point enough others will stop using it that good things like this will stop happening. Mr. Zuckerberg has taken something great and ruined it by being too greedy.

    • I’ve been on an unfollow jag lately, trying to make FB a more pleasant place to be. But at some point I will have unfollowed enough people that there won’t be much point in going there at all.

  2. Jason Shafer says:

    Well said about Facebook – and this coming from somebody who quit it the first time about five years ago. It’s crossed my mind to leave again, but it is the best tool to stay somewhat connected with people I enjoy interacting with but rarely see. So, yes, it is well described as being like an abusive relationship.

    • There are people I’m sure I’d entirely lose touch with were it not for Facebook. Some of them I would care to lose. So yeah, I keep going back. :-(

  3. Jim, I joined Facebook around 2008 I think, after resisting for years. Then it was only to help our dance club promote and communicate our social scene, a good way to let everyone know where to meet and when. I didn’t use it much, aside from this.

    Then I got involved with someone and we communicated almost exclusively via FB private messages. Though of course this could have been any platform, including email. When that relationship ended I quit Facebook and deleted my whole history, probably early 2010. I haven’t been on it since.

    The reasons you state Jim – all the political opinions and character assassinations are one reason, but another is the rest of your post – the memory part. I had a happy childhood, but I’m quite content to fall back on my own memories, and have no desire to get in touch with anyone I went to primary school with.

    Online I’m more interested with connecting with people who share similar interests and passions now. I know Facebook has a vast number of photo groups etc, and I believe it’s the single largest archive of photographs ever compiled in the history of mankind, eclipsing Flickr years ago. But the downsides of it massively outweigh the pluses.

    I’m quite happy to keep to a very select social network online which is almost exclusively email and a small collection of blogs, including my own.

    I have recently rebooted my Twitter account after not using it since 2014. Whilst I’m finding a little value there in what people post, I cannot bear the ads. Every four of five tweets is an adverted, or a “promoted” tweet. There weren’t any of these when I was last active, it was purely communication between the you, the people you follow and the people who follow you. At this point, I’m feeling the ads experience will lead me to abandon it again soon.

    I don’t know what the ad situation is with FB these days, but when I last used it in 2010 I disliked the amount of ads. I can only imagine it’s escalated since then? Another reason I never give it a second thought…

    One of the saddest things is overhearing conversations in shops etc. Just a few days ago I was in a shop queue and the girl in front was on her phone, the conversation essentially being “I can’t believe she put that comment on Facebook and used that emoji. Just from that I know it was aimed at me. I’m well upset, because now X has come up to me and said “did you see that comment on Faceboox Y made, have you fallen out with her”…” And so it went on, people conducting their relationships (including disagreements and feuds) via a very limited and notoriously easy to misinterpret format of text and those silly emoji faces…

    Goodness I’m glad I left eight years ago!!

    • I get a lot of traffic to my blog from Facebook. Sometimes that is the only reason I persist there. Because I don’t have time for the drama either.

        • WordPress does that automatically. But about 1/3 of the comments on my posts wind up on Facebook and I don’t want to miss them.

        • Jim about missing out on comments, I wonder if you educated/persuaded your FB audience towards the direction of your blog it would help? For example when you publish a new post and it appears on FB, write a comment immediately saying something like “I’m winding down my presence on Facebook but I appreciate you reading and would love to hear your comments over on the blog [link to post on blog].”

          I bet there are plenty of people who don’t realise how the posts appear on FB and assume you write them directly there, and don’t know that there is any other way or place to leave their comments. You could do this for a dozen posts or so and see if you got less comments on FB and mire back at your blog.

          Anyway, all up to you of course, I was just thinking about what I might do if I was in your position, and how I could plan my escape route with minimum negative impact. 😀

        • My Facebook audience is a pretty diverse group, far more diverse than my blog would attract on its own. I get about 10 clickthroughs from Facebook a day. I have about 500 friends there. Actually, I wonder if I’m wearing out my welcome on Facebook I’m on my friends with my daily blog posts there! But I’d hate to lose those 10 clickthroughs.

  4. Kurt Ingham says:

    I have a love/hate FB relationship, too. I love seeing great photos, forgotten music,various dogs and cats. I hate seeing abusive political rants or just comments -especially from friends (real, not FB). I haven’t lost any- but there are several I now
    view a little less enthusiastically.

  5. DougD says:

    I’m lucky to have avoided that abusive relationship entirely. There was an Esquire magazine article years ago that said men shouldn’t have FB accounts, so that’s been my excuse for years. My wife shows me something interesting once in a while, but 98% of it is tripe.
    At least our political discourse is not as polarized here, so very little political stuff goes by Tam’s FB. It’s the reposts of recipies and extended family drama that she skims over.

  6. Heide says:

    I love your abusive relationship analogy, Jim. Its promise to “connect [you] with people you care about” rings a bit hollow when its algorithms actively suppress friends’ posts in favor of showing me paid content. That said, it’s still the best way to stay in touch with friends all over the planet.

      • I don’t really understand why everyone who’s commented who’s on Facebook is complaining about it like they’re being forced to continue. We’re all adults, why not just leave, there’s no law that says you have to be on Facebook! Exercise your freedom! 😀

  7. Karen Bryan says:

    I am not on FB, simply because it becomes a JOB, sucking time away. I loved your comparison to an abusive relationship! I looked at the photos of your old school–beautiful! I’m so glad they didn’t tear it down. I went to grade and high school in southern California, and never got a chance to go to a lovely old building like yours. All the schools there look like strip malls–in fact, I went to fourth grade in an actual strip mall, leased by the school district because in the mid-50’s the area was growing so quickly they couldn’t build schools fast enough. I love to read fond memories of public education. I think I had as good an education as I could have had from any private school, no matter how fancy.
    What a great photo of you at your desk!

    • I didn’t understand how fortunate I was to attend school in such a beautiful building until my kids were in school and the buildings were so architecturally plain. It made me sad for them!

  8. What a neat experience. Facebook has indeed been a scary place lately. Glad to hear that there’s still some happy reminiscing floating around on there! Excellent share.

    • Facebook did it nakedly for a profit, but many others have figured out how to leverage that system’s manipulations for other means. To our detriment.

  9. I’ve to thought about leaving facebook for the same reason and others as well. I decided to reduce my friend count to those i went to elementary, middle and high school. Alway great to see a old photo posted on facebook and see how everyone has grow.

  10. I understand how you feel about Facebook. I check mine about once or twice a month just to get rid of the notifications. It’s nice to stay in touch with people from your childhood as long as you don’t discuss politics.

  11. I had a very similar experience. I was thinking of the best man at my wedding 20+ years ago and how we had lost touch, as humans inevitably do. I looked on FB and found the name of someone who, by his profile pictures vaguely resembled the man I knew. I posted a picture from my wedding on his wall and he replied to me with just a few words on the post “Holy S+^t there a trip down Memory Lane!” That was 3 years ago.. We are still friends to this day and get together when we can as he is in California and I in NY… Thanks to FB…

  12. Facebook is a major distraction, redirecting the mind for twenty minutes or more, nevermind the content. Four times the distraction of texting while driving, or even answering that Bluetooth phone call which can result in serious injuries. Although, even a large number of accidents happen in the driveway.

  13. I also have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I tried leaving it for a few months and closed my account down. I ended up going back because I have such a large extended family who live quite far away, and I missed seeing pictures of my cousins and of old friends’ children growing up. I live in the UK and the period leading up to the Brexit vote was awful. Disagreements were all played out on Facebook in nasty tones – one side unable to see things from the others’ point of view. I feel the strains it placed on friendships and family members still hasn’t gone away.

  14. Pingback: Why I stay on Facebook even though I don’t enjoy it much — Down the Road – Virtual Studios

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