Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A New Year's (Media) Diet Part 3: Facebook

This is the third in a series of posts (part 1, part 2) on some new approaches to media I hope to adopt and maintain throughout the year. 

Part 1 was a list of reading/thinking that has inspired me to make some changes, while Part 2 honed in on the realization of my "intellectual obesity."

In today's post I recall what it has meant to severely limit my profile on facebook.


Last April found me essentially shutting down my facebook account. Should you visit my profile all you'll see is a picture of my face (fancy that) and a message containing my email address.

I didn't shut down my account completely as numerous people still message me through fbook (which I forward to - and usually respond from - my email regarding), and I still somewhat manage the page Hillside has on there, but I otherwise dropped out of all groups, stopped importing my blog posts, untagged myself from a lot of photos and now rarely accept new friend requests.

Why start here for my digital diet you ask? Why begin with arguably the most "social" of all "social media?"

Essentially, I began with Facebook because I found the amount of time I spent "keeping in the loop" could've been better used actually "keeping in touch." And I emphasize "touch" because the more technology makes it easier for us to connect virtually, the thinner I believe it's making our relationships.

A good friendship is often a matter of quality over quantity.  We've all got friends to whom we feel intrinsically connected regardless of how much time we've spent together or correspondence passed between.

What makes a friend a friend is one of life's most celebrated mysteries and technology really can't change that for the better or worse - but it can erode and distract and just plain waste your time.

And this was the nail in Facebook's coffin for me.

With Facebook added to the mix I was consistently tricked into believing I was actually investing in my friendships. More often than not, the sad reality was that I was merely eavesdropping electronically. I was watching life unfold rather than take part in it myself. It felt so exciting and convenient - and oddly natural - that I rarely noticed my absence from the pictures I was viewing and the status updates I'd read.

And so I took the counter-intuitive step and decided to pay less attention in order to pay more attention.  Believe it or not, it's one of my favorite aspects of this diet so far.

Just like in the days before Facebook, I look forward to - anticipate even - catching up with old friends in person. Waiting to be in the same room - around the same table - and learning how lives have changed since last we were together is proving much more satisfying than reunions where there's little to be surprised about because I've already seen blurry pictures of it online.

I may not be as informed as I used to, but I am beginning to feel more attuned. Attuned to realizing when it's been too long since I've hung out with someone I care about. Attuned to when I haven't heard from a good friend. Attuned to the people in front of me right now.

Up next:
Twitter trends....


Corinne said...

Fascinating. I'm curious to how you started his. Was it a more gradual shift or a sudden departure? Also did you explain yourself or just suddenly go off radar?

James Kingsley said...

Hello Corinne. Glad you're intrigued!

It was definitely a gradual shift, but at a certain point (it was in April) I decided to jump ship "for the summer." Turns out it's still summer for me :)

I posted a little bit about the initial jump here,
http://jameskingsley.blogspot.com/2010/04/facebook-purgediet.html .

Surprisingly, I've received very little feedback about the move. I wasn't expecting people to cry out for my return to facebook or anything like that, but it was a lot less hassle then I was assuming it would be.

Christa Kingsley said...

Bro- seriously considering the idea of closing my account on FB. After watching "The Social Network", it totally hit home for me how much I hate the concept of big brother watching us. I know it may sound incredibly paranoid...but for real, the "smart advertising" freaks me out...considering taking the plunge...or solid leap!

James Kingsley said...

hey sis - as i was telling corinne above: what made it easier was slowly cutting it back and then taking a pre-determined break at a certain point. after that you can return as you see fit, or not at all.

Michael Krahn said...

Couldn't resist... just sent you a Fb friend request. ;-)

I like the idea of electronic eavesdropping. You could develop that some more. This is really all Facebook is if we're not using it to drive us into face to face interactions with people.

Check this out:

James Kingsley said...

that's a great article michael - thanks for passing it along.

and no offense meant if i don't "friend" you eh?!

Michael Krahn said...

No, you have to friend me. How else can you eavesdrop my comings and goings?

Bring on the Google Reader Redux...