I joined Facebook back in the Spring of 2007. More accurately, my oldest daughter signed me up. I didn’t have a clue what it was, just that it was going to a place on the “internet” where we could connect. It’ll be fun she said. And it was. For a very long time.
For many years it was just my family, extended family, close friends, and some relatives that I engaged with. Except we didn’t use the word “engage.” We just kind of wrote to each other on this thing called “our page” and conveyed, either through words or pictures, what we were up to. The things we wrote on our pages somehow miraculously were shared with our group. This group was tightknit. This sharing happened maybe once or twice a week. It was entertaining. And as my daughter promised, it was fun. Harmless recreation and amusement. Like playing a board game in some respects. It was just another way for us all to connect and stay close. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what my family and friends shared. Even though, the truth was I spoke to them all the time, so I knew what they were up to. Some of us were even in the same house. But somehow seeing things on my computer screen was little more special. Kind of exciting even.
In some ways it wasn’t all that different from the way it is today. People sharing stuff. Mostly photos back then. Specifically, photos you took of other people, places, and things. Not of yourself. Nor your food. Pet photos were shared. But no funny cat or dog videos. No one doing stupid things, pulling stunts, name-calling, bullying or belittling. Nothing mean or unkind. There was no one crying into the camera with mascara running down their faces like rivers of ink. That would all come later.
It was a happy place. And for the most part, everyone played nice. Until they didn’t.
Not to state the obvious, but what the hell, I will. Once those people, places and things were monetized and a dollar sign was hung over everyone’s head, Facebook took a dip-shit dive into darkness. Not all of it. But a lot of it.
I remember so vividly the day I realized that the golden days of Facebook’s innocence were over. And social media began. I was at work, and we were tossing campaign ideas around for one of our clients when someone said we need to look into promoting things on Facebook. I remember thinking to myself, ‘well there goes the neighborhood. The fun times are over.’ This next thought I had may sound shocking or cynical, especially coming from a woman who has spent over 30 years working in the ad biz, but here it is. Advertising and marketing often ruins things, no matter how good the intentions. It’s all about the money, after all. It’s business. Nothing personal. Just business. From that day forward the underlying message in everything about Facebook was “how can we make a buck?” And “who can help us make that buck?”
New careers and media stars flourished. Everything from influencers, bloggers, vloggers, YouTube sensations, podcasters, content developers, and reality stars. Everyone was suddenly an expert. Everyone had an opinion. And the right to express it. Regardless of whether it enhanced or harmed another.
Everyone wanted to be an internet star. Ordinariness was obsolete. Boring. Fame was the name of the game. Followers were currency. The numbers added up to big dollars for the lucky few people who were blessed with the Midas touch. Anyone and everyone with an iPhone and a ring light had the potential to be a star. Truthfully, some of this “entertainment” is fun and well done. Not everything is crap. A lot of it is good and positive and dare I say at times, uplifting.
But the reality is, there is also a very dark side to all of this. A nasty underbelly.
Very slowly and very insidiously over time I grew to hate Facebook. And all the other social media platforms that were cropping up. But Facebook in particular, stuck in my craw. Maybe because it was my first, and the first cut is always the deepest. And it’s not because I don’t like change. I do. I welcome it with open arms. Come to me Baby. But my Spidey sense back then has borne out. This was a change that could get ugly. And it has.
I’m not one for sitting around pining for the “good old days.” I don’t waste my time with such foolishness. I believe that the good old days are now. These are them, folks. Enjoy it while you can.
But, a peculiar thing happened while I was hating on Facebook. It took a while for me to realize it. I can be a slow learner at times. Over the past few years, I was growing my friend’s group and Facebook community in an interesting way. Without realizing it, or deliberately intending to do so, I have been connecting with more and more people who are really quite wonderful. In so many ways. Mostly women around my age, but there are some men too, and people far younger than me, some are friends of friends, people from all around the globe, many of whom I have never met and probably never will, people who have had careers or jobs with a creative or artistic bent or in the helping professions, people who continue to enjoy working, whether it’s for someone else, or for themselves, people who are still interested in life and all the mystery and wonder it holds, people who want to do good and be agents of change, people who care about the planet and all its inhabitants, people who want to be of service, kind people, generous people, smart people, funny people, broken people, tender people, thoughtful people, helpful people, inspiring people, older people and young people.
So, it’s been a full-circle moment for me. I’ve gone from loving Facebook, to being mildly disillusioned, to finding it boring, tedious, and downright tiresome, to experiencing Facebook fatigue and to positively loathing it, only to come around to kind of loving it again. Or at least the beautiful friends I have gathered in my little cyber neighborhood. Facebook as an entity or meta, or whatever, Zuckerberg, is shameful in so many ways. It’s big business at its worst. But here’s the thing. The perplexing paradox. Without us, it doesn’t exist. We are the commodity, their stock-in-trade. Remember that.
A few weeks ago, when I expressed that it was time for me to leave, to part ways with Facebook, a good friend of mine so wisely said, ‘if there was a better alternative to Facebook, many of us would be using it instead. But there isn’t. Yet.’
I liked the ‘yet.’ I keep that thought tucked in my back pocket for safe keeping. And in the meantime, until yet happens, I plan to hang out with the nice people I call my Facebook friends.