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"Which is another way of saying that Facebook is George Costanza's worst nightmare: It enforces, second by second, the collision of worlds."
November 27, 2012 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Are Your Facebook Friends Stressing You Out? (Yes.) - "The finding, which is similar to one determined last year, is nice as a headline: It's both unexpected (friends! stressing you out! ha!) and ironic (the currency of the social web, taking value rather than adding it!). What's interesting, though, is the why of the matter: the idea that, the report theorizes, the wider your Facebook network, the more likely it is that something you say or do on the site will end up offending one of that network's members... Unsurprisingly, per the study's survey of more than 300 Facebook users, 'adding employers or parents resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety.'"
Facebook's power, and its curse, is this holistic treatment of personhood. All the careful tailoring we do to ourselves (and to our selves) -- to be, say, professional in one context and whimsical in the other -- dissolves in the simmering singularity of the Facebook timeline. The circumstantially mediated relationships typical of IRL interactions -- you see your boss at work, your friend after work, your mother-in-law at Thanksgiving -- are mediated instead by one overarching, and overpowering, circumstance: Facebook. Suddenly, Work You is the same as Family You is the same as Friend You (is the same as Gym You is the same as Cooking Class You is the same as Trip to Thailand You is the same as Road Trip You is the same as Words With Friends You is the same as Happy Hour You). The You itself -- which is to say, you yourself -- gets flattened, condensed, homogenized. Contextual personhood gives way to comprehensive personhood. You become, for better or for worse, universal.

Which: stressful! Because, as liberating as it is to erase the divides that separate formerly fractured identities -- as nice in theory and in practice as it is to live an all-purpose, one-size-fits-all existence -- the mingling comes with costs.
*Michael Zimmer - Facebook's Zuckerberg: "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity"
*Steve Cheney - How Facebook is killing your authenticity
*Kieran Healy - Actually, having one identity for yourself is a Breaching Experiment

previously on MeFi
*The Five Stages of Facebook Grief: "Facebook's popularity is based on the reality that human beings are social creatures. Staying connected with people we know is innate to us. But maintaining separate social groups that we don't want to clash is also innate."
*Redefining the you that is you: You Are Not Your Name and Photo: A Call to Re-Imagine Identity.
posted by flex (135 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
You mean how everyone's doing so awesome all the time, having so much fun with their adorable families in exotic places? Yeah.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:59 AM on November 27, 2012 [25 favorites]


The biggest stress-inducer for me is the number of friends I have in bad family or financial situations that I can't do anything about. When I see them in person, I only get the small snippets of their situation, and it's usually when they're on the other side of rough waters and they have some perspective. With Facebook, I get the constant stress of seeing them go through whatever they're going through. They may not be that close emotionally, and they're usually at least an hour or two away, and they post about one miserable circumstance or another and it's just a reminder that I can't do anything to help.

Or, more accurately, that I could do something to help, if I were self-sacrificing and caring enough to leap out of my chair and/or start forwarding money from my (rather empty) bank account every time someone on Facebook posted about their crappy situation... which doesn't exactly make me feel any better about myself. :(
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:02 AM on November 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Remaining friendless pays off again.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:02 AM on November 27, 2012 [43 favorites]


I wish facebook and anything like it had never been created.
posted by Evernix at 11:02 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Can I just say how much happier I was when people had personal blogs.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 11:03 AM on November 27, 2012 [46 favorites]


A billion narcissists writing their autobiographies.
posted by iamabot at 11:05 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, yes, there's also "By helping other people look happy, Facebook is making us sad" (previously) & "Is Facebook making us lonely?" (previously).
posted by flex at 11:06 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nah, Facebook has helped me realize that my family and friends are all much, much, much crazier than I am, and that I actually live a very normal, secure, stable life, and am quite successful based on my definition of success (e.g. not money).
posted by TinWhistle at 11:07 AM on November 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


You know... I was already a smug non-Facebook user yesterday...
posted by Cosine at 11:10 AM on November 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Friendster cleverly avoided this problem by never loading.
posted by srboisvert at 11:14 AM on November 27, 2012 [28 favorites]


Among people I'm friends with on Facebook at least, any public presence has descended to posting articles and cool things and the least possibly controversial statements about work or school. They're incredibly guarded about stirring up controversy or revealing personal information due to all of that mentioned above. Any potentially compromising personal information and photos are kept to closed or secret groups and personal messages. This is just to say that I think people will increasingly start treating Facebook as they would any other pubic space, and we're already moving in this direction.
posted by lookoutbelow at 11:16 AM on November 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


My work has taken care of my Facebook stress problem by making me work 80+ hours work weeks, thus ensuring I have no time to check Facebook. Thanks, work!
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:16 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Facebook is where I go when I want to troll my conservative friends from high school.
posted by Michael Roberts at 11:17 AM on November 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


They're always having fun. I hate them so much.
posted by tommasz at 11:17 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not a smug non-user, or ex-user. I just don't open it anymore. I'm sure people are wondering where I've gone, although I assume there are automated systems in place still letting my "friends" know what I'm listening to on Spotify, or whatever.

The constant stream of the minutae of others lives was stressful and numbing - maybe I'm a sociopath, but I just got sick of giving a shit. But, yes, as the article points out the even greater stress was the show I was trying to put on - it wasn't even a complicated thing, I can't recall moderating myself for work people, and I take pleasure in pissing off family, but nonetheless everything I did on Facebook was subconsciously planned to make an impact - make someone laugh, make someone angry, change someone's politics, proove my wit and intelligence. I threw this all at some crazy algorithm that then decided which of my "friends" would read it. Then, the hours of monitoring, seeing if I scored any "likes" or comments. Something about it now feels pretty tragic. Whoever I was trying to be, it wasn't me, and keeping that game going constantly was a huge stress.
posted by Jimbob at 11:22 AM on November 27, 2012 [21 favorites]


Mostly facebook just provides a way for me to lord my superior scrabble playing skills over friends hundreds of miles away, which prevents said friends from throwing those little wooden tiles at me when I play really obscure words. So overall, I'd say I'm generally lower stress.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:23 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


The need for a limited friend-book is becoming greater. It may end up a feature of Facebook, a separate site or a bunch of separate sites all serving that need in different ways. There are pretty complex questions to sort through in implementation ... figure it out tho and you'll make the next Facebook.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:24 AM on November 27, 2012



Facebook saves me stress because I don't have to call my mother every week to let her know what me and the kid are up to.

I do love the woman to death, but she makes me insane.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:24 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Having just endured a post-election meltdown in which my parents temporarily defriended my sister, I can say that I'm just about ready to nuke Facebook from space at this point.
posted by scody at 11:25 AM on November 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Unsurprisingly, per the study's survey of more than 300 Facebook users, 'adding employers or parents resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety.'

In other news, water is wet. But I don't know why people put themselves through this. Even if the convenience of using Facebook still outweighs the irritations, then there are ways to contain it. There's no requirement to connect with every childhood friend, classmate, relative, and employer. It is possible to use Facebook in a limited way, connecting only to local friends or organizations and only reading it occasionally. Using Facebook more like a social calendar to track local events and less like a family/class reunion + office Christmas party is likely to induce a lot less anxiety in the user.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:25 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I miss the days when most of my friends were on LiveJournal. Something about it encouraged more in the way of coherent thought and reflection rather than Twitter-like snippets of nothing. Facebook did me the favor of reconnecting me with people I'd lost touch with years ago, but past that? Ugh.

I could get back to LJing, but I know I'll never drag my friend base back there again. :/
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:26 AM on November 27, 2012 [24 favorites]


Circles will solve this!
posted by Burhanistan at 11:26 AM on November 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Facebook has actually been very good about telling me which people I know are worth hanging out with and which are not, which in many ways reduces my levels of stress because I neither feel bad about not hanging out with them more often, nor potentially put myself into a situation where they're an asshole to/around me IRL.

A Facebook friend and a person I fell out of touch with, who I sort of maybe would consider hanging out again, posted something about how it is bad to give money to homeless people because some of them are faking it (I guess they are only really, really poor) and they'll just spend it on booze anyway. Aaaand remove from feed.

So, uh, thanks for keeping assholes out of my life, Facebook!
posted by griphus at 11:27 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


"The Edinburgh study found that only one third of Facebook users took advantage of its listing privacy setting, which can be used to control the information seen by different types of friends."

I love how they bury this sentence deep in the article, and then go on to theorize as if there was absolutely no way to keep your worlds from colliding.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:27 AM on November 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


I do like being able to keep in touch with old friends who don't live in the area, or new friends I've met online and don't live nearby. I'll take Facebook over occasional letters and long-distance phone calls anytime. I'm glad to see instant news of, for instance, an old friend's son getting into a prestigious grad school - a son I first met when he was in kindergarten (gawd that makes me feel old).

I'm lucky, in a sense, that I don't have family I'm on speaking terms with who use FB, which cuts away one big source of drama.

These days I mostly use FB to post kitty pics.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:30 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Facebook just a tool - do these people also get stressed by their cell phones or their toasters?

I haven't added anyone from work, except a few people I am really friends with. And I'm old and boring, so being friends with my parents is no biggie.

I find Facebook a useful tool for keeping up where my craft group will meet, and now for communicating with the dog rescue group I joined. It's also helpful for contacting my out-of-state friends about meeting up when I travel.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:31 AM on November 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Among people I'm friends with on Facebook at least, any public presence has descended to posting articles and cool things and the least possibly controversial statements about work or school. They're incredibly guarded about stirring up controversy or revealing personal information due to all of that mentioned above.


This is pretty much how I've used Facebook since 2007, and I've come to the conclusion that it's not a generational issue or a Facebook/social media issue, it's just a general lack of propriety from people who over-share or go off the deep end with crazy politics.
posted by usonian at 11:32 AM on November 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Gee, I feel left out of all the drama. I just post innocuous things on Facebook like 'Aw, my son did something clever' and 'Ooh, look at this pretty work of art', and pretty much everybody I know does likewise. There isn't much pressure to compartmentalise because nobody's saying anything controversial.

I guess I live in a Facebook backwater.
posted by Kit W at 11:33 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


23skidoo- was that comment a great joke (decrying the article burying the privacy settings when that is exactly what FB does)?
posted by Gratishades at 11:34 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Facebook's Zuckerberg: "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity"

A man who lacks integrity is really not going to be my go-to source for defining integrity.

I feel very fortunate. My kids, who are facebook's real consumers (age 17/18), are turned off by the voyeurism and exhibitionism they see on facebook. They don't mind the ads, but they ignore them online as much as they ignore them on TV and on billboards. What they do mind is seeing their friends' personal lives on display. They're not prudes, they just instinctively know TMI when they see it. So they use facebook to learn what events are going on and to take advantage of closed groups (band, theater group, etc.), but they hardly ever write anything on their own or their friends' pages.
posted by headnsouth at 11:38 AM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's fun to mix it up though; post a link to a death metal song on you-tube followed by a picture of a baby hippopotamus, then a funny meme photo or photoshopped political image, topped off by a quote from a famous philosopher. Forget about who you offend and just throw gobs of random poop everywhere like our ape cousins.

As long as you are not aggressively racist, sexist, or sectarian there is no reason to fear.

Common sense dictates that you don't friend your boss, teachers or other authority figures unless you configure a dummy account that you never use except to friend people who aren't really your friends.
posted by Renoroc at 11:38 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Facebook just a tool - do these people also get stressed by their cell phones or their toasters?

This. I get so tired of hearing about how Facebook creates problems in people's lives. For heaven's sake, learn how to use it properly.
posted by orange swan at 11:38 AM on November 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


The circumstantially mediated relationships typical of IRL interactions ...

Wow ... sounds important ... is this about FB or the Large Hadron Collider? What's with the agglutination of polysyllabic euphemisms?

Anyway ... since nobody's required to play, there must be some payoff for the supposed stress. Reminds me of the old Firesign line "How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all?"
posted by Twang at 11:40 AM on November 27, 2012


Facebook saves me stress because, living alone, with all my real friends busy with spouses and kids and cats, I'm no longer talking to myself or to the wall.

Isn't that right, Mister Jade Plant?
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:41 AM on November 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm not a smug non-user, or ex-user. I just don't open it anymore. I'm sure people are wondering where I've gone, although I assume there are automated systems in place still letting my "friends" know what I'm listening to on Spotify, or whatever.

The constant stream of the minutae of others lives was stressful and numbing - maybe I'm a sociopath, but I just got sick of giving a shit.
No offense, but you find the minutia of others' lives annoying, yet you intentionally let everyone know what song you're listening to at every moment?

WTF. That's minutia. Maybe Joe's eighteenth post about how his cute kid did something cute in an oh-so-cute way gets a little old after a while, but Jesus, WTF are you thinking? Who the hell do you think cares what song you're listening to?
posted by Flunkie at 11:41 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


23skidoo- was that comment a great joke (decrying the article burying the privacy settings when that is exactly what FB does)?

Gratishades - was THAT comment a joke? Because every time I post on fb, there's a button that is right there that I can click to decide who sees the post. It's not buried at all.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:44 AM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


When I was in high school and college, I thought my friends were just kind of young and silly and that in a few years they'd grow up and be really interesting people.

Facebook was where I learned that this would never happen- they weren't just young, they really were stupid and now they're a bunch of crypto-conservatives. The kid who smoked the most grass back in the day came out in favor of drug testing for welfare recipients. The young socialists are now cheering on drone strikes.

I have no interest in being 'friends' with dullards. My Facebook presence now is under a false name, and I'm only contacts with people who have similar music and art interests. Strangely, they all seem to think drug testing welfare recipients and drone strikes are a bad idea.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:44 AM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have phrased that quite so harshly. I do stand by my point, though: If you're concerned with letting everyone know what song you're listening to at any given moment, you might want to back off on the complaints about the "constant stream of minutia".
posted by Flunkie at 11:44 AM on November 27, 2012


Dear Timeline,

Was it narcissistic when I stared at my own reflection in that pond?

:P :P
posted by basicchannel at 11:47 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have been unfriended by people I do not even know!
posted by Postroad at 11:50 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Facebook is great for me-I have lived many places and can keep connected with all the IRL friends I have made. I actually like seeing old students' babies and pet pictures. And it helps me keep up on my non-English language skills.

I have a very large family and we are closer through FB than we are IRL. We have all made the decision to ignore posts we don't like on each other's walls- the evangelical contingent can post all the love Jesus memes they want as long as they don't tag me and I keep my lefty screeds on my own wall.

I also am in an excellent music oriented group and have made lots of "friends" that way-not always easy for someone of my age with pretty open music tastes. I even got a gaydate to see Father John Misty- pretty good for my conservative city.

I just don't understand how difficult this is- set privacy, ignore the feed you don't like.
posted by Isadorady at 11:50 AM on November 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I assume there are automated systems in place still letting my "friends" know what I'm listening to on Spotify, or whatever.
Jesus, WTF are you thinking? Who the hell do you think cares what song you're listening to?

Automated. He assumes there are automated systems in place. He's probably right. Who knows what companies have contracted to be tied into facebook at this point. I have seen spotify posts on facebook and Jimbob has too, so he probably figures spotify is in cahoots with facebook but he likes using spotify and anyone who doesn't want to see those auto-generated posts can block them, or block him, but he can't be bothered to go in every other week to see what non-facebook apps he might be using have been swallowed up by the insatiable walmart of the internet.
posted by headnsouth at 11:50 AM on November 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm half-mad, I have relatives who post racist caricatures of Obama, half the stuff out of my mouth sounds like a combination of David Lynch and The Simpsons, and I teach at a community college. No facebook for me, thanks.
posted by angrycat at 11:50 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Good rule of thumb... only Facebook people you talk to, or want to talk to in meat space. And use those selective privacy filters for the love of dog.
posted by edgeways at 11:51 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Automated. He assumes there are automated systems in place.
You have to intentionally let that stuff do its thing with Facebook. Or at least in my experience. I've never used Spotify, but I've also never run into a service I've used which somehow automatically hooked up with Facebook without my explicit approval.
posted by Flunkie at 11:53 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


hal9k is reading
"a constant stream of minutia"
on MetaFilter
posted by hal9k at 11:53 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


The real headline is that people apparently pretend to have friends whose opinions they don't respect and don't actually like enough to be secure in expressing their own opinions or be happy that they're happy.

Facebook didn't cause that. Facebook lets me keep up with people who now live across the world and I'd otherwise be very unlikely to be in contact with. Facebook helps me coordinate large and/or collaborative events with my friends.

Feelings of alienation and depersonalization are a function of the complainers, not of the technology.
posted by cmoj at 11:55 AM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


People who post FB updates on Metafilter are the devil.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:55 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I struggle using facebook. I like being in touch with my not-so-distant friends and long-lost relatives/friends but there is an accepted "tone" to facebook that I find chafing and restricting. I can only smile and post cute-icisms for so long before it makes me feel like retching. Don't get me wrong — I post cute pics of my kids just like the next guy. But sometimes I want to write "Hate myself today. I really need to learn to control my emotions and quit sabotaging myself or I'm never going to get anywhere." ...and people don't want to hear that on facebook, no sir.
posted by papercake at 12:03 PM on November 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


Facebook just a tool - do these people also get stressed by their cell phones or their toasters?

Everything is just a tool and yes, people get annoyed with tools. Everyone has yelled at a car, clock, screwdriver, computer and yes, a cellphone and toaster. To expect people not to annoyed by these things is odd. To expect people to not be annoyed by Facebook, which actively switches its feature set around and mandates features one may not want is also odd.

For heaven's sake, learn how to use it properly.

Tell Facebook to stop changing how it's used.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:06 PM on November 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have phrased that quite so harshly. I do stand by my point, though: If you're concerned with letting everyone know what song you're listening to at any given moment, you might want to back off on the complaints about the "constant stream of minutia".

Flunkie, signing up to Spotify (which I love), required, like every damn thing these days, my Facebook login. I just assume it's doing something with it.
posted by Jimbob at 12:07 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is just to say that I think people will increasingly start treating Facebook as they would any other pubic space....

posted by lookoutbelow


Eponysterical.

I am so, so sorry.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:12 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like Facebook in that it helps me keep in touch with my friends and family since I live far away from most of them. However, yeah, it does stress me out when my Facebook friends have insane opinions and when I have to read a bunch of posts celebrating Augusto Pinochet's birthday. For my part, I try to post only things that I find interesting or statuses that let people know what's going on with me.

Also, without Facebook, how was I supposed to see my ex-girlfriend slowly grow farther and farther away from me, until the day that I realized that she had unfriended me, despite having promised that "we would always remain good friends"? Tell me that, Metafilter.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 12:12 PM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Common sense dictates that you don't friend your boss, teachers or other authority figures

And common sense once again comes up short upon even a moment's thought. This kind of knee-jerk "fix ur privacy settings" advice is always posted in this kind of discussion, but it doesn't account for the many good reasons for Facebook users to feel under surveillance even if their own personal privacy settings are configured perfectly and they never friend, or always restrict what's visible to, people they don't want to share with.

The problem is that, privacy settings be damned, we don't have control over who sees much of what we post on Facebook (or sometimes even knowledge of it — do you really know all the people listed as your friends' friends-of-friends?). When you comment on a friend's post, you feel like you're talking to that person and to the others who have already commented or who comment frequently, not talking to their entire list of friends/friends-of-friends — you may not know, and often aren't thinking carefully about, every single person who may see the comment, and you can't control it in any case. I manage my FB settings very carefully, but I've still experienced both professional and personal problems around this kind of thing, where a trusted friend of mine turns out to be loosely linked to someone who I'd really rather hadn't seen a comment. And I think Facebook absolutely thrives, both as a website UI and as a company, on muddying the waters and encouraging people to post more than they would if the audience were clearer. Pretending that having privacy settings for posts is an easy fix for the major audience and privacy problems with Facebook discussions is disingenuous.
posted by RogerB at 12:13 PM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is kind of timely for me. My grandma died this morning. I'm still trying to sort through my feelings and I'd like to express something with my friends and family... but I'm totally balking at making any mention on Facebook. And I'm a Facebook addict, I'm on it multiple times a day every day and see a lot of what my Facebook "friends" post. But I don't think I want to mention something so ghastly as a death for people to read about. Ain't nobody got time for that. But it's not like I'm just having a normal day either. I literally don't know what to do with myself other than stare out the window.

On the other hand one of my best friends posted a pic of her mom in a hospital bed last month... o_O boundaries, WHAT ARE THEY ANYMORE

Frankly, I'm exhausted from becoming my Universal Self; I'm not the least bit surprised comprehensive personhood is stressful !
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 12:14 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, without Facebook, how was I supposed to see my ex-girlfriend slowly grow farther and farther away from me, until the day that I realized that she had unfriended me, despite having promised that "we would always remain good friends"? Tell me that, Metafilter.

That reminds me, I've got some unfriending to do...
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 12:16 PM on November 27, 2012


The answer is Google+.

It's like Facebook, just w/out your friends.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:19 PM on November 27, 2012 [18 favorites]


But I don't think I want to mention something so ghastly as a death for people to read about. Ain't nobody got time for that.

That is the kind of thing that I DO want to see on FB. When an old student of mine was killed in Afghanistan FB was a place where a lot of people found out about it and connected again.
posted by Isadorady at 12:20 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Part of the problem, I think, is that many users just want to connect with their friends on Facebook. They want (even if they don't articulate it) a quiet and predictable interaction. Facebook, as a business, however, needs to keep updating -- adding features, changing settings, expanding the pool, increasing eyeballs to monotize -- there will always be friction between those purposes.

Me? I gave it up after I got creeped out by being signed in to sites I had never visited. Thanks, Facebook! Here I thought I was deciding things!
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:25 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Circles will solve this!

You're probably being sarcastic, but... they really do. This is exactly what they're for, and they work.
posted by Jpfed at 12:25 PM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Dear Everyone in the Entire World:

I told you so.

Regards,
Fellini
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:25 PM on November 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


I more or less stopped using Facebook my sophomore year of college, after some site layout or feature change that tipped me over into "this causes more anxiety than it gives me joy, fuck it."

I've had an online journal for almost ten years now, and been otherwise active online for longer, and I think the "holistic treatment of personhood" is only part of what stresses me out about Facebook. I mean, yeah, I far prefer LJ/Dreamwidth because it's an established identity sandbox for me with little RL crossover or expectation that I need to share every little thing. Facebook seems to always demand more more more to be shared with more and more people and entities.

But on top of that, it is this black hole of social obligations and ways to trigger my otherwise mild social anxiety. I can mingle at parties and make conversations with people I don't know, and in general go about my life as a slightly awkward but functional social being. Put me on Facebook though, and I get overwhelmed. There's this flood of information from friends and family, and deciding if or how to respond to posts and pictures and status updates just takes up way too much energy and makes me worry about a whole new arena of social anxiety.

So now I'm a Facebook hermit who only emerges to like photos of my baby cousins.
posted by yasaman at 12:27 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I have been through a Facebook watershed over the last year. I first started being conscious that I am working toward a higher professional profile, and it was a bit of an issue that my personal highly lefty politics were out there for hundreds of people to see - many of who I didn't know that well. So I cut my friend list by half. It was definitely getting to be an "anxious event full of potential social landmines." I needed to make into more of a place where I could share my informal thoughts and attitudes with people I can certainly trust not to use it in ways that could eventually harm me.

Then I did another pruning early this past year, because there were a bunch of people who I was not that close to, just an acquaintance, and I found that I was getting bogged down actually trying to keep up with all the info. I'm one of those people that likes to scan my whole feed once or twice a day. I couldn't do that and have 400 friends. Then there was the thing of getting caught up in disgusting political conversations on friends' walls, and I needed to get away from that. So I really trimmed my list to mostly actual friends, people I do want to keep up with.

People say "just put them on a list and block them!" But what's the utility of that? I don't need to keep a catalogue of everyone I've ever met. Well, maybe I do, but Facebook is not the place to do that, because its policies are so super fishy. And, I reason, I can still contact almost anyone on the thing through the messaging system, so I decided to narrow my FB world to a group that includes just people I want to socialize with.
posted by Miko at 12:31 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Facebook saves me stress because I don't have to call my mother every week to let her know what me and the kid are up to.

posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:24 AM on November 27


Agreed with Pogo. I decided just a couple of months ago to get back on FB for the main reason of avoiding the obligation of phone calls (I really hate the phone!), but can still be "in touch" with long-distance friends and family.

But I have found that it hasn't taken long for me to feel icked out and back to my cynical ways from the constant happyhappy, joyjoy of everything! And the exclamations! They're just everywhere! After every comment! Big fucking deal. I'm ready to go back off the air.
posted by foxhat10 at 12:31 PM on November 27, 2012


> You're probably being sarcastic, but... they really do

Nope, I was serious, even though I don't really socialize at all on G+. But I think Google is playing the long game with G+ and we'll see more slow but steady adoption as they worm their way into users' lives with things like instant camera uploads, Drive integration, etc.

The name is less stupid sounding than "facebook" anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:31 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not at all stressed out by FB, mostly because I keep my friends list absurdly small. It's made up of immediate family, my immediate social circle, longtime geographically-distant friends, and a a teeny tiny handful of authors and other public figures. There's no one on my friends list whom I wouldn't cheerfully invite over for dinner*. (Neil deGrasse Tyson, I'm looking at you.)

These are the people I want to hear from and the people I already hear from; Facebook is just another way for me to keep in touch with them. Seeing their baby videos and their book signings and engagements and their party photos and their Instragram dinner shots makes me genuinely happy, and hearing about their daily trials and challenges helps me feel connected to them, because I would want to hear these things any way I could.

I only joined a few years ago, after dragging my feet for a long time and being a loudly smug non-user of FB. Initially I accepted all friend requests from anyone I'd met, including the mean girl (now in her 40s) down the street from my childhood home and my niece's roommate, because I hadn't really figured out how I wanted to use FB connections.

I pared down that list a year or two ago. I sent a message to each friend-list friend I was removing, mentioning the then-recent privacy breaches that everyone was chattering about and remarking that I was experimenting by cutting down my FB list to just my immediate circle, nothing personal of course, so great to reconnect with you, you can always email me at [address].

Almost everyone responded (sincerely or not) with understanding: thanks for letting me know, nice to hear from you, whatever works for you. Only one person responded with hostility (Hey, the mean girl from my childhood street is still mean!), which showed me how right I was to disconnect from her.

Like any communication tool, it's most useful if you customize it to your needs, not to the needs or desires of others. I don't feel bad about denying friend requests and I don't feel bad if someone denies my request, because I figure they're using FB as it works for them.

Realizing I could hide specific posts (or specific people) was a great change for me. I have a friend --- an actual real-life invite-him-to-dinner friend! --- given to political vitriol. I agree with his politics, but his phrasing really tweaks me. During election season, I completely hid him without having to de-friend him. During non-election seasons, I cheerfully hide his occasional hostile political outburst (so I don't get sucked into it) without having to miss his recipe for bourbon punch or his gorgeous landscape photos.

*which is the standard unit of fondness-measurement chez Elsa: "Do you like him?" "Well, I wouldn't invite him over to dinner or anything, but he's fine."
posted by Elsa at 12:31 PM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


But I don't think I want to mention something so ghastly as a death for people to read about. Ain't nobody got time for that.

> That is the kind of thing that I DO want to see on FB.


I agree. If you were my FB friend, I would certainly care and want to know something so big in your life. And --- in case this is a source of hesitation --- as a FB friend, I wouldn't be preoccupied with your phrasing, either, because I would understand that emotional events are complicated and hard to convey.

I'm so very sorry, The Biggest Dreamer. Take good care of yourself.
posted by Elsa at 12:35 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is maintaining separate social circles and identities innate or is it a product of living in large-scale societies in cities? Would our ancestors, in small villages or hunter-gatherer bands, have had the luxury of having different faces they presented to different people, or were identities unified in a proto-Zuckerbergian fashion, with freedom from breaching coming from people informally looking the other way (I.e., you were polite and deferent to the village elders but they didn't expect you to not horse around with your buddies, knowing that they were once at your age and status). Could the Zuckerberg/Gundotra vision of the future of online identity be the village writ large, with everyone knowing where Joe Bloggs is in the graph, but bosses informally agreeing that censuring employees for posting photos of themselves not being automatons would be out of line?
posted by acb at 12:37 PM on November 27, 2012


Is maintaining separate social circles and identities innate or is it a product of living in large-scale societies in cities?

Anthropologically the strongest case is that this was almost unheard of until the nineteenth century, so, yes. Privacy and having separate "profiles" in one individual is a thing created by modernity - a historical anomaly, too, maybe.
posted by Miko at 12:39 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


The real headline is that people apparently pretend to have friends whose opinions they don't respect and don't actually like enough to be secure in expressing their own opinions or be happy that they're happy.

Aw, c'mon, man, flip it: You don't have anyone in your life whom you care about and enjoy spending time with that you disagree with about politics/sex/money/religion?

It's a snub not to accept a friend request, one that has to be carefully managed in order to avoid social friction. And yeah, they have some tools in there to manage who sees what, but a lot of people aren't sophisticated enough to use them and even if you are it's easy enough to have a minor brain freeze, tick the wrong box and set of a bananas-in-the-break-room cascade of awfulness.
posted by Diablevert at 12:39 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, G+ circles definitely do solve this problem, but they do not solve the "nobody's on G+ problem" AKA the "Facebook network effects" problem. I was able to resist joining Facebook until G+ came along, but it may take many more years before friends come over, if they ever do. Given the shit that people are willing to go through with respect to privacy settings, invasive apps, etc. I can't imagine the kind of colossal cock-up it would take to get people to ditch Facebook en masse. It may happen in a "death of a thousand cuts" fashion, but I don't see it happening any time soon.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:43 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a snub not to accept a friend request

I'm not really sure it is. The reason I think this is that no one who's not already my friend can know how I use Facebook.

I have friends who just never got into daily Facebooking. They might come on once every three weeks, make a generic "hi everyone!" post, and not show up again for ages. Sometimes I'll request a friendship from someone and will forget all about it until I get approved months later. My dad reads it intensively sometimes, then gets into a crazy work schedule for a few weeks and doesn't check in at all.

There's plausible deniability in this for everyone. It's not necessarily a 'snub' to be denied a friend request. It could just be that person has a different FB use policy or different FB habits than I do. And that has to be all right; it's better for my mental health to be forgiving about that than to obsess about it. Maybe we need to encourage people to not feel like it's their right to be friends on FB with everyone they happen to know, and not to interpret all "no thanks, I only friend my family and close friends" or silences as snubs. That's the gap where stress is flourishing, and it doesn't need to.
posted by Miko at 12:44 PM on November 27, 2012


I think it'll be interesting to see how people use Facebook, or whatever it will be, in 10-20 years. Use to be you lost touch with a vast majority of the people you grew up with (for me this means childhood friends from the late 80s and high school friends from the middle-90s).

Not saying you still can't do that, but the majority of the people I'm friends with now (meaning talk to outside of the status update box) are friends with people from childhood and high school.

Now, everyone has the opportunity, be it one that you have to actively search out and start, to never lose touch with anyone.

It's been said before, but the more I see what childhood and high school friends are doing, the more I realize that losing touch is one of the great things about growing up.
posted by stltony at 12:50 PM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Facebook's Zuckerberg: "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity"

Mr. Zuck hasn't posted anything personal on his public timeline since Facebook went public. He's a bit of a hypocrite if you ask me.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:53 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does anyone know how to get gold plating off a unicorn? Long story.
(525,252 Likes. 122,152 Comments)
posted by griphus at 1:01 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mr. Zuck hasn't posted anything personal on his public timeline since Facebook went public. He's a bit of a hypocrite if you ask me.

Actually, I think that's good evidence that he lives by this statement. I felt there was a choice: be a lot more hushmouthed and circumspect in public, or just be a lot less public -- choosier about who I'm informal with. Chose the latter.
posted by Miko at 1:03 PM on November 27, 2012


It's a snub not to accept a friend request

Like hell it is.

Okay, maybe once or twice I meant it as one, but come on, it was from the mean girl on my street whom even my father once said was a bitch.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:03 PM on November 27, 2012


only one third of Facebook users took advantage of its listing privacy setting, which can be used to control the information seen by different types of friends

And do I trust Facebook to not change these setting arbitrarily, without telling me, either accidentally or on purpose?

No. No, I do not. Facebook Me is the vanilla G-rated version. Sorry if that offends you, Mr. Zuckerberg.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:03 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know how to get gold plating off a unicorn?

Elec-troll-ysis.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:05 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


> He's a bit of a hypocrite if you ask me.

I don't know what the man really thinks about all this, but I suspect in his comments he's more trying to shame people in order to cut down on multiple accounts that dilute the advertising algorithms, rather than any kind of forward thinking about our evolving sense of identity or anything.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:05 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I joined Facebook literally a week ago, and so far, yeah, I'm not going to share much of "the real me" on there.

Which is kind of a pity, because a lot of the people that I want to keep up with on there, the weird esoteric types that don't live locally, are the ones with whom I'm most interested in sharing "the real me." I guess there are private messages for that, and otherwise, I can keep hitting the "like" button when they post pictures of their cute dogs trying to steal Thanksgiving dinner.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:06 PM on November 27, 2012


I still have a profile, but I'm more or less an ex-Facebook user. The tipping point for me was seeing the increasing amounts of my personal site activity that Facebook was exposing to other users in my network, without my consent. And realizing that they could expose as much more as they wanted, at any whim. It's something I knew conceptually, but this incident really drove home just how much of my data—and behavior, really—that Facebook owns and controls, independent of me having any say in its use.

For me personally, I've found that I'm more satisfied with the quiet that has ensued as the result of leaving. I'm now back to communicating with people more through email, phone, or IRL meetings. And I find each communication in these media to be much more valuable and rewarding than any I had on Facebook. I needed a better signal-to-noise ratio than Facebook was ultimately able to provide.

I don't judge others who like/use Facebook one way or another. But I don't miss it, and I don't imagine it will ever return to play a prominent role in my communications with people.

"Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity"

Having varying levels of privacy in your life demonstrates a lack of integrity? What an odd thing to say.
posted by Brak at 1:07 PM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


All this stress is stressing me out.
posted by quadog at 1:08 PM on November 27, 2012


I remember first joining Facebook in 2004. Back then it was just some college kids on the East coast. You got one picture, your profile pic. People took time to list out their favorite movies and books and bands. There were no grown-ups, no tagging, no liking, no poking, no linking, no business pages. No one on there was married or had kids or real jobs. You could only do two things, really: private message or write on someone's wall. It was a slightly more advanced version of the physical Facebooks they would try to sell you over the summer.

And it was fantastic. It was a free space. No censoring, no politics, no "look at my kids and my house and my pets." It was a space for party planning and finding that rando you hooked-up with and flirting and jerking around. If you had more than 100 friends it was a Big Deal. It wasn't a central thing of anyone's life. It wasn't a distraction. People didn't spend much time thinking about it. Just check it every now and again to see where the party's at, see if that girl you liked left a smiley on your wall.

And then the creep started. I remember getting those first friend requests from friends in college in the Midwest. And poking became a thing. And adding multiple photos. And when they added "it's complicated" to the relationship status option and everyone thought that was hilarious and clever and annoying all at the same time.

When they opened it to high schoolers I got off. It had become too much of A Thing and I was scared of it, largely because it's sole purpose to most of us at that point had been to organize basically licentious and illicit activities and suddenly all of these "outsiders" were infiltrating. Toward the end of college, however, realizing that I had no way to stay connected to all of these interesting people I knew, I rejoined, reluctantly. By that time, it was open to everyone, you could get tagged in stuff. Shortly after, you could like things. My grandparents joined.

Now it's this huge stressful thing that exists basically to either make people anxious, jealous, or narcissistic. Generally some combination. It feels like there ought to be some moral in here about not inviting everyone to the party - I mean, in the end, it really was the open invitation that allowed Facebook to become the monstrosity it is today - but of course it couldn't have stayed the little licentious college kid playground that it was either.

I guess the saddest and most stressful thing about it all is that you just can't hide anymore. You can't run and you can't hide and you can't organize drunken orgies on rooftops without everyone finding out and shaming you, and that's just sad.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:14 PM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Your Facebook friends also make you fat and broke (the academic paper by Wilcox and Stephen).
posted by needled at 1:15 PM on November 27, 2012


Facebook's Zuckerberg: "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity"

Facebook's Zuckerberg: "Trusting me with your identity is an example of being a dumb fuck."

Seemed an appropriate context in which to remember that one.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:19 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hierarchy of people with whom I actually enjoy interacting/spending time, in order from "really enjoy" to "utterly despise":

Real life friends
People on MetaFilter
Extended family
Co-workers
People at church
People on public transportation
Members of jam bands
Hardened criminals
Police officers
Facebook "friends"
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:32 PM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Facebook is an interesting experiment in self-representation. It's not that you end up with a holistic personality, it's that you develop a Facebook personality. I tend to use it for updates about myself, photos, and an awful lot of jokes. I don't generally care to engage in political discussion on Facebook, because the quality of that discussion is pretty low, but I do appreciate that my friends post political stuff, because I think that Facebook is an awesome (if complicated) tool for grassroots organizing. And I like to know what the Facebook cause du jour is, because that sort of stuff is driving our political dialogue as much as anything.

In my case, Facebook has caused me to really examine who I want to interact with and how. I used to follow all my old school friends, all my old family, all my coworkers. But I applied Pastabagel's theory of possessions to my online friendships, and realized that, thanks to Facebook, if I ever need to be in contact with anybody, I could be. But I didn't need to be; not all the time. So I went through an unfriended everybody I didn't really need to interact with on a regular basis, and left a note saying that I was limiting my account to people I regularly interact with, and if people thought they had been unfriended in error, they probably were, and I would happily friend them again. A few people did refriend me, and a few I refriended, but for the most part nobody seemed to care.

And there are a few people I am online friends with who I have muted, and who don't see many of my posts, but, for one reason or another, I wouldn't feel right about unfriending. Family, mostly. But, with maybe three or four exceptions, everybody I am Facebook friends with are people I actually want to interact with, or at least see what's going on with them. And the me that I present on Facebook is on I am comfortable with everybody seeing. And it's not a breaching experiment, any more than celebrities are engaged in a breaching experiment by having a public persona they can take with them to talk shows or public engagements. It's just one more identity, or, rather, one more variation on an identity. And it's still so new that people make a lot of mistakes, but, I think, down the road, most people will be able to successfully navigate between private personas and online personas. In fact, their private personas might be sharpened by this, if the "breaching experiment" link is right that we define ourselves, in large part, by the secrets we keep.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:32 PM on November 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm mostly friends with people I don't know on facebook.

It makes me giggle a lot, sicne I'm largely on there to play social games, and the only way to play social games is to have a freaking enormous pool of people to give you stuff. There are whole threads on extra-FB forums for random friend requests; I once got twigged as a spammer for adding too many disparate people in one day and they made me stop for a while.

I also say, like... nothing on Facebook. Now and then I'll reshare something, but most of my connections to people are through other means, and Facebook becomes the place where now and then I learn something about someone and then contact them privately about it.

I honestly don't see Circles and G+ as an improvement. Like Facebook they're pushing for a single identity, and history shows that security measures can be breached. I prefer social engineering through a persistant pseudonym to protect my privacy, though I have considered making my Name Jane Smith with the nickname Deoridhe; I'd probably need to pick a less false-seeming English name to make it work, though.

I find it ironic how much the single-English-standard-name metric encourages outright lying.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:34 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember first joining Facebook in 2004. Back then it was just ...

Yeah, I liked their early stuff too, back before they sold out. Good times, man.
posted by headnsouth at 1:37 PM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


it's better for my mental health to be forgiving about that than to obsess about it.

I completely agree about that. At the same time, you are literally saying "no, I do not want to be your friend." Mature people can grasp all the stuff you've said. Not everybody you want to defriend is mature. That's why it's a stressor, something to be managed.

You pay either way, really. I've quit, myself --- option one --- and lots of people find that weird and some people whom I do know in real life tend to forget I exist sometimes, because Facebook is their preferred outlet and everyone else they know is on it. But I'll take those costs as opposed to the others. There's something I enjoy about real life feeling like incognito mode.
posted by Diablevert at 1:44 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


MonkeyToes: "This is just to say that I think people will increasingly start treating Facebook as they would any other pubic space....

posted by lookoutbelow


Eponysterical.

I am so, so sorry.
"

That... is quite the brilliant typo.

Anyway, I still think Facebook is useful somehow simply because it ties the internet to the real world. People have always cultivated a public persona - carrying around pictures of their kids to show to people, discussing politics in context of shared citizenship, telling funny stories, and discussing things seen in the media. And people have always reacted negatively to people who over-share or stir up controversy in a way that diminishes the value of that space, based on norms of what is and isn't appropriate. And though we're definitely still in the process of establishing those norms for Facebook, I wouldn't give it up just yet.
posted by lookoutbelow at 1:44 PM on November 27, 2012


you can't organize drunken orgies on rooftops without everyone finding out and shaming you

Events have an "invite only" privacy setting. Organize away!
posted by owtytrof at 2:07 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just shut up and like my status!
posted by Mister_A at 2:09 PM on November 27, 2012


I've also noticed that personal what's-up emails have decreased a lot since FB has become popular. Like an order of magnitude.

Probably the same way most people stopped calling when email exploded. And writing letters when phones became universal...etc...
posted by gottabefunky at 2:17 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Facebook doesn't really stress me out for the reasons listed in this article - I was never interested in cultivating any particular identity on it - but I feel uncomfortable seeing certain categories of things posted by people I'm simply not close to at all. Former coworkers, high school classmates that I was never good friends with but didn't dislike and was initially happy to catch up with but don't need to know every detail of their lives in real time, etc. I've turned off updates from a lot of them, but it's still weird to me.

The whole thing makes me feel like I know too much about all these people that, in any time humanity existed over 10 years ago, I never, ever would've known, except for possibly finding out at a high school reunion every few years. Facebook has made me want to go to high school reunions so much less, because really, what's the point? Facebook is a constant reunion with everyone.

A large portion of me wants to just disable my account and be done with it, but I worry about losing touch with the few people I actually do want to keep up with regularly, who share all their big news over that as opposed to ever considering sending an old-fashioned email. It's the sort of thing that makes me hope Facebook just kind of dies a profoundly uncool death over time, MySpace style, so that I can go ahead and not be on whatever social networking site comes around next.
posted by wondermouse at 2:25 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Probably the same way most people stopped calling when email exploded. And writing letters when phones became universal...etc...

I have a problem with this line of thinking, though. Facebook is not necessarily like the others in your list which are general platforms, not specific websites like Facebook is. All sorts of weird arguments in support of badgering people to use Facebook follow that line of "just go with the times", and don't really stand up to scrutiny.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:26 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I am using Facebook wrong then. In the last year I've decided to be open about my mental health issues and maybe it is my friend group (old friends, new friends, select family members, and dog rescue people) but they've been supportive. Once I stopped trying to just post when I was happy and superficial I've felt happier. I've had a lot of people come out to me on my wall about having depression, what meds they are taking, and how screwed up the health system can be. My friends have commented that they feel more free to be themselves and not always up about their mood and health.

Why should I shut up about it just to avoid annoying people by being a downer? (Of course, I also post dog pics, happy stuff, etc...way too much dog pics) They are just as capable of scrolling by or filtering my feed. I encourage everyone to be more open to everyone these days. It makes a difference.

Course I did quit Facebook in the past and then feel awful because no one e-mailed me. I've accepted Facebook is here and I might as well be myself there as well.
posted by kanata at 2:30 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


The answer is Google+.

It's like Facebook, just w/out your friends parents.


ftfy.
posted by juv3nal at 2:31 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Facebook just a tool - do these people also get stressed by their cell phones or their toasters?

I get a small panic every time my mobile phone rings, luckily that’s only once every week or two at the most. I can count on one hand the number of people that have that number. The last, and only time I can remember, I used the toaster I nearly set things on fire. I can’t imagine why I’d want a Facebook account. I’m still iffy about MF.
posted by bongo_x at 2:58 PM on November 27, 2012


The You itself -- which is to say, you yourself -- gets flattened, condensed, homogenized.

I hereby invoke Jim Gaffigan. Seems to me, Facebook is McDonalds.
posted by Moistener at 3:04 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Facebook doesn't have to be a narcissistic life-log, it can be great for political discussion and organization, here's two recent Brazilian examples of grassroots action that were successful thanks to facebook mobilization:

The plight of the Guarani Kaiowaa tribe was brought into the media spotlight thanks to Facebook protests, and the court order evicting them from their land was eventualy overturned.

In the last election for mayor in São Paulo, the pink movement helped to turn the tide against the right-wing populist evangelical poll leader, throwing a couple of epic street parties in the process :-)
posted by Tom-B at 3:28 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can I just say how much happier I was when people had personal blogs.

I've also noticed that personal what's-up emails have decreased a lot since FB has become popular. Like an order of magnitude.

I have no regrets about killing my facebook account, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything I actually want to participate in, but it does seem like the Facebook explosion has sucked all the air out of the internet compared to five or six years ago. It's not personal anymore. But maybe that's just because people get married, have kids, and generally stop having free time as they get older.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:30 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think saying it's "just a tool" is reductive. It is, in fact, a new kind of communications platform, not just one website among many. It's not the kind of universally adopted technology that a phone or a letter was, but then, it's not really done yet. I have a feeling we're going to evolve a much more comprehensive "directory" sort of function on the web, which everyone will eventually have to the degree that everyone has an address - once we get beyond the class-based lag issues of the digital divide and have the equivalent of a Rural Electrification Project for the web, that is. I suspect that medium will be a lot less social in nature, or at least have far better controls for the social function.

As a website, I think Facebook is going to be over within five years. But as a paradigm, the basic "we're-all-connected-and-this-is-where-you-talk" format idea is just getting started.
posted by Miko at 3:35 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


And do I trust Facebook to not change these setting arbitrarily, without telling me, either accidentally or on purpose?


This thread prompted me to go through my friend list and dump a bunch of people into that Restricted List that only shows them the stuff you make public. But I realized that there were people that I had already put on that list, who somehow were no longer on it.

So, yeah. Not so much with the trusting of the settings.

I'll stick to mostly vanilla stuff too, except for the occasional post-election "neener neener" at my wackadoo Bircher cousins.
posted by ambrosia at 3:38 PM on November 27, 2012


How do I sort this thread by Most Recent?
posted by srboisvert at 3:42 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've also noticed that personal what's-up emails have decreased a lot since FB has become popular. Like an order of magnitude.

Happily, I also notice that my email box is much more blissfully devoid of chain letters and other such garbage that I'd get from my extended family. I don't know if all of that has gone to Facebook, or just dissipated with the other types of communiques that Facebook enables. Either way, I'm not complaining.

With Facebook and the inevitable improvement of spam filters, my email inbox has turned back into a place where I get Real Things™ from Real People™. It's like I'm living in 1991 again.
posted by Brak at 3:59 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I miss the days when most of my friends were on LiveJournal. Something about it encouraged more in the way of coherent thought and reflection rather than Twitter-like snippets of nothing.

I miss those days too, but by the time I drifted away from LJ, I was beginning to have more or less the same problems described in the article: the more my Friends list grew, the less I could say. Can't scintillate about how much [x thing] annoys me because some drama-bucket will identify with [x thing] and take it personally, or some more-right-on-than-thou dickface will tell me earnestly that disliking [x thing] is a serious moral flaw. Can't post any thoughts on solitude or singleness or celibacy without attracting all kinds of unwanted "Hey, baby" stuff. Can't post anything sad, for fear the pity-party sharks will smell blood in the water. Can't post anything that anyone might take offence at-- and you remember the maelstrom of the damaged that was LJ; half the people out there were itching to make everything about themselves anyway. And those are the very people who'll fly off the handle if you take them off your Friends list. I ranted to anyone who'd listen about how I wished the Powers That Be would rename it a "Contacts" list, or any less loaded term than "Friends," since that would make its necessary fluidity a good deal easier. Removing one of 400 "friends" on Facebook may be awkward, but remember the eggshells you had to walk on to remove just a few out of 50? (You could never unfriend people singly, because DRAMA; you had to wait till there were 4 or 5, and then post a carefully worded "Nothing personal" disclaimer.)

There were good things about it-- I mean, it was annoying as fuck, but it taught me a thing or two about not speaking thoughtlessly. I did encounter many kindred spirits whom I still value. The offence-takers did make me rethink some matters. And... I would sort of rather have the blood, sweat and tears that was (most of) LJ than the Stepford shit-parade that is (most of) Facebook. If it's swamp or desert, at least the swamp was fertile. It's like Diablo Cody said:
"[...] There is no such thing in life as normal. And if you walk around pretending to be normal, hiding your scars and incisions and putrescing wounds, you only further the Conspiracy of Normal, which exists to make us all feel like shit."
LJ aired the wounds; Facebook furthers the conspiracy.

Of course, now that LJ's such a ghost town, I've started writing there again far more freely, because no one is listening.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:00 PM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I still post stuff on LJ. Well, to be precise, I post stuff on the blog on my own site, which gets crossposted to LJ. Sometimes I think of making it crosspost to Facebook as well, so there's something there.

The one time I really spent time on Facebook was when a friend from animation school died suddenly. Most of those animation circles seemed to be on FB, so it was there that I discussed what a shock this was, traded private messages as details of exactly what happened came out, and hooked up with one of my friends for a place to be when I flew to LA for the funeral.

Then I just kinda vanished again. Facebook keeps on sending me mail about how "so-and-so posted a link". Usually, so-and-so is someone who I friended and can't actually remember who the hell they are.

It's just never become a thing I use. Something about it just… never clicked.
posted by egypturnash at 4:23 PM on November 27, 2012


I am amused by the author's horror at parents posting on their kids' walls. If she only knew...

I don't post anything of note on FB. One of my work projects requires me to have an FB account for log-in purposes, but all I ever share are silly wine related things and dog pictures. The Monsters and all of their friends have added me, and I get notes from the kids all the damned time.

Real conversation? I do that at G+ and LJ. I don't have anyone added to any of my social sites that I don't want to be there.
posted by MissySedai at 4:36 PM on November 27, 2012


Last week, I found out that two weeks ago, a childhood friend of mine hung herself. A mutual friend told me over dinner, while I was visiting Chicago. "Did you hear about Julia?" No, I had not. Jesus Christ.

I mean, she always posted photos of her co-workers at the law firm, the new house she'd bought herself, her French bulldog, and all of the projects that she was involved in. She had just shared something I posted the week before. Foolishly, I felt up-to-speed on her life by viewing those photos and messaging with her occasionally. Since her death a lot of her old friends have been in touch, grieving. My heart hurts. I feel like an asshole, because I doubt she'd ever realize how deeply her passing has affected me, or others, and that's the one thing she should have known.

I can't describe how awful it feels that my idea of connecting with people, or at least maintaining contact, has been reduced to clicking on a digital thumb. (I'm very angry, and I know this is off-topic and rambly and I apologize for that.) My life is not as pretty as it appears on Facebook. No one's is.

Facebook provides the illusion of being connected and having an inkling of what's going on in other people's lives, but none of the benefits provided by actual human interaction, which is messy and complicated and should be acknowledged. Fuck Facebook.
posted by blazingunicorn at 4:53 PM on November 27, 2012 [29 favorites]


Facebook, texting, and becoming Borg are not for me.
posted by wrapper at 5:46 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just post photos of my family on Facebook for friends and distant family to see. We've been in rural Japan for the past few months, so there are always interesting photos (from my point of view) to post. I avoid sharing links about politics, although I do share cool stuff I've found on MetaFilter on Google Plus.

At the same time, I work from home, and need some sort of human contact, so I use Facebook as a virtual water cooler with other folks who do the same thing I do (translating and copywriting). It's a good way to blow off steam.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:48 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Important stuff] ... Facebook provides the illusion of being connected. ... Fuck Facebook.

blazingunicorn, I agree so hard I can barely put it into words.

And I find it instructive that the notion of being "off-topic" shows up when the subject deviates from the stock-photography version of life found in Facebookness.
posted by Moistener at 5:57 PM on November 27, 2012


...do these people also get stressed by their cell phones or their toasters?

Thank God nobody can see what I'm toasting.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:38 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the world would be a much, much better place if all decent people unfriended the dullards, the speaking-in-tongues Christians, the Randians, the high-school acquaintances, the nasty abusive relatives, the weird coworkers, et cetera until they were just contacts with people whose company they actively enjoy.

Nobody should feel guilted into online contact with people they do not like. Life is too short.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:57 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Having two identities for yourself is literally a lack of integrity.

I've had a really hot/cold relationship with Facebook. I didn't understand the point, at all, until 5 or 6 years ago, or so, when a group of folks I hung out with when I was a teenager created a page (group? I can't keep up with the lingo) documenting the 80s punk scene in my hometown. Honestly it seemed like the single-best use of the internet I had ever scene. People posted old footage of shows, mp3s of band rehearsals, hundreds upon hundreds of photos. I scanned and posted all the posters I had saved. It made for a nice archive of something that is never going to be kept anywhere else. I had grand ideas about seeing if other folks had done anything similar and pastiching together a history of 80s punk in small towns across Canada. Only I didn't.

As a former dedicated LJer, I was also sad when people left in droves for FB. There is a group of women I have been in daily contact with since the days when HipMama was still a thing. We were all there when it imploded, migrated to another forum which came apart similarly, then fell in together on LJ. We all friended each other on FB eventually, but it wasn't the same thing, at all, naturally. Until I had the brilliant idea to create a super secret LJ group for the couple dozen of us who were still going strong. It doesn't have the long form writing that LJ did, but it maintains the intimacy and has a freshness and chattiness that LJ didn't. I'd say 80% of my FB time is spent interacting with that group.

Between these two eras, though, was a long period of beating myself up with FB. I always said it was like inviting a high school reunion into your HOME, every single moment of every single day. Hell on earth! Now I just don't interact with those people and it's all fine. I don't have a person on my friendslist I wouldn't be happy to actually see in person.
posted by looli at 6:58 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course, now that LJ's such a ghost town, I've started writing there again far more freely, because no one is listening.

LJ also allows you to set up friends groups, which were circles before it was cool.
posted by Jpfed at 7:02 PM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I love Facebook. I've only got a few people posting obnoxious stuff, and I haven't defriended them because they are people that I really love in spite of their occasional obnoxiousness.

I love Facebook because I have four young children, so not much free time and not much money. I don't get out a lot. I don't often see the friends that live across town & I certainly can't travel across the country or around the world to see friends and family that live further away. I don't especially like talking on the phone, and I don't have many opportunities for phone calls that aren't interrupted by a toddler screaming at me about something or a five-year-old who does not understand that the cool lego tower he just built does not take precedence over a phone call. For a long time I stayed in touch with a few people by e-mail, but e-mail addresses change or are lost in a computer crash or something ridiculous & poof - that friend is lost.

Now I can quickly let almost everyone I know when something big is happening in my family. I can post pictures of my kids. I can see pictures of all the kids I don't get to visit in person. I can let someone know that I'm thinking about them when they're going through something tough or congratulate them when something exciting happens. It's not as good as a face to face conversation, but it's a lot better than what happened before I was on Facebook. Which is nothing.

I first joined Facebook because I found out by e-mail that an old college friend was dying. We had lost touch, but it was one of those friendships that would have picked back up no matter how long we went without talking. Unfortunately, by the time I got in touch with the people who knew anything about what was happening, he had already died. At the funeral I saw so many old friends that I hadn't seen in years. Now we talk to each other on Facebook. Now when another friend is facing late stage breast cancer, I've been able to keep up with what is happening with her and we've chatted on FB several times. I can't visit her in person, but she won't die without knowing her friend loves her.
posted by Dojie at 8:06 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just when I thought living the intersection of multiple marginalized communities didn't offer enough opportunities for people offending each other... now I realize up it's been a boutique business requiring people to actually speak, one individual to another. Now we have FB offering the same opportunities for outrage, on a Wal-Mart, vertically integrated, globalized scale.

Thank goodness I don't have a FB profile. I can continue in my old-fashioned manner to outrage purposefully, one thin-skinned acquaintance at a time.
posted by Dreidl at 8:10 PM on November 27, 2012


Yes! Exactly! This is why I quit FB. I just can't be "myself" to all these different people at the same time. I end up being some unrecognizably inoffensive church lady, which is no fun at all.
posted by HotToddy at 9:02 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gee, I feel left out of all the drama. I just post innocuous things on Facebook like 'Aw, my son did something clever'

Nonsense! Blasphemy! Facebook is only for pictures of my adorable dog. You breeders and your damn kid photos are ruining Facebook.

Now, what's this about Facebook causing stress?
posted by formless at 9:45 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a conversation via FB messenger recently, I said to my friend (someone I met on the street outside a bar and would run into occasionally -- FB kept us connected and allowed us to develop an actual friendship, even when he was living on another continent), I don't know. I find myself more and more confused by how other people see me. His response was, Well you make a very conscious use of facebook, as we all do. So part of that answer is on you.

Part of the answer is on us. I have a very satisfying relationship with Facebook because I've decided to keep my profile public. I write a blog that a lot of people follow, some of those people have friended me or subscribed to my public feed (which is 99% of my content). Facebook is a tool, a very important tool, in organizing regular monthly events and contacting writers and performers and storytellers to take part (though just for first contact, business goes to Gmail).

Facebook is also a way for me to keep people abreast of my health situation. I have a blog for that, but I post it to Facebook as well. And you know what? When I have good news, more than 100 people are happy for me. And when I have bad news, more than 100 people rally around me. I have over 800 friends and of those, I know at least a quarter are following what is happening to me. They care about me, maybe only because they are fascinated with someone who is struggling with illness and mortality, or maybe they like my writing, or maybe they actually care about me.

I have also become a hub for family members to connect around -- cousins who aren't contact with some of their siblings but who share contact with me, relatives from my father's side who we never grew up knowing. I have an extended family in a way I never did as a child because my cousins were at least a decade older. And I see those cousins encouraging my sister to take control of her life and her health. And my sister is using Facebook to keep herself accountable to her goals. She is getting support there because she has asked for it.

When I was hospitalized eight weeks ago and couldn't read or watch TV because of the opioids I was on, a friend I don't know well came by with Archie comics. Another acquaintance came by and read me short stories. We are not close. Reading to another person is a very intimate thing to do. Another woman, a very recent friend who I'd just met through a storytelling event I run, offered to give me a back rub. I let a near stranger rub my back with coconut oil while lying in a hospital bed because of Facebook.

I have collected so many baby and children's clothes for a refugee family I helped out with recently that I will be able to provide baby things for another hugely pregnant refugee mom and to another immigrant family with a child with special needs. Because I asked for help and people rallied, people I've never met, friends of friends.

You make a very conscious use of Facebook. Part of the answer is on you.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:59 PM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


blazingunicorn hit the nail on the head; the illusion of closeness and subsequent lost human interaction are my main problems with what Facebook pretends to be, but I also want to echo what stltony said about losing touch with people. For every person from my childhood who grew up to be admirable, there are a hundred others I would rather leave as childhood memories and nothing more. I feel like losing contact with people is supposed to happen. It helps you grow and mature and prepare for the inevitable times when you absolutely must lose contact with people you care about because they've decided to go six feet underground. [In retrospect, I've made my point here, but I've already typed the rest, so I'm still posting it.]

Of course there are great people I've met later in my life who also don't need to be in touch with me forever--at least not constantly and through Facebook. I can certainly see how the waters (of my identity) would become too muddy if I tried to weave such a tangled web of all my past, present, and future social connections through a single platform. Anyone I care enough about to hear "big news" from has my phone number and/or e-mail address. Where does it end otherwise? Assuming Facebook never implodes, would you always remain "friends" with all of your acquaintances--childhood or otherwise--and watch that many people grow old, get sick and die one by one? Not to mention the hard times that plenty of people are going through at this very moment.

Really, your mileage may vary on Facebook's utility as much as our real lives may vary, but I'm one of the people who saw it as a college party that invited too many people and just became something completely different than what it was originally. I notice a lot of people in this thread who say they still like Facebook either (are old enough to) have kids they want to share or joined after it became open to everyone. [God, it's stressful and exhausting just trying to address all of the points of contention with Facebook that have developed over the years. I guess I won't dwell on the data collection, selling and advertising if they're not focal points here.] However, I will say to the people simply suggesting not to "friend" employers, family members, and the like that there is a massive amount of social pressure in some people's cases, thanks in no small part to Facebook trying to make things as visible as possible while also encouraging users to cast the widest possible net around the people in their lives.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 10:11 PM on November 27, 2012


I do have to agree that well, some folks should be lost touch with. I haven't really "reconnected" with anybody on Facebook. Some folks I wish I didn't find out how they were doing. I was happier not knowing. And don't get me started on the "Well, I got married and had kids! Wait, you didn't?" people who basically never spoke to me again after finding that out. I'm sure that's lovely for everyone else to "reconnect," but it hasn't worked that way for me.

But at this point, I'm so sick of "everything has to be Facebook." I miss blogs in which people wrote *gasp* several paragraphs at a time in, not "status updates" with "likes." I miss anonymity and semi-anonymity. I totally agree that the entire world should not get to see every single part of you, and that you shouldn't be forced to be the "sanitized" version of yourself for everyone at all times. I miss Facebook NOT being the first thing that random strangers, acquaintances, your relatives, and potential employers check for you. It used to be fun to google people, but now it's all Facebook. I don't want to have to log into Facebook to check the hours of a store because their only web presence is their fucking Facebook page that I have to "like" first. I don't like that I feel like I have to keep the stupid page because EVERYONE DOES FACEBOOK, and yet I can't really use it for anything because of the whole public face, can't trust privacy settings crap. Maybe I'd like it if it was for college-folks only (like it was when I joined, not for bloody everyone on the planet) still, but too late now. I hate that it has become the default everything on the Internet, and that everyone is going to be forced to use it.

Also, I heard today from someone who started having issues with Facebook because the advertising on it became incredibly specific, citing sexual preference + pets + location (no, not as bad as that sounds) to the point where he was creeped out at the netstalking. Ugh. It started out as a good idea and now it's just creepy and disturbing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:16 PM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I can understand this form of stress. I am way more candid on Twitter than I am on FB, even though my Twitter account is public, because I don't have to see 99% of my Twitter followers in person, ever. Plus tweets are more likely to just fly by than to be seriously contemplated. What's that statistic... 70% of tweets go unreplied/unretweeted?
posted by IndigoRain at 12:11 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I'm stressing them out.
posted by Decani at 12:21 AM on November 28, 2012


There are lizards who will break off a piece of their tail, in order to give predators a decoy to munch on.

That's how I look at my FB profile. FB is the panopticon, but you're not obligated to give it very much at all.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:20 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still have a token LJ presence. I'm not sure why it just folded up and died so fast, I think it still works pretty well as a place to keep in touch with people and share stuff. Too bad there's no one reading anymore.

Is it just that social media sites have a firm shelflife? Once it's 51% "the olds" no one uses it anymore?
posted by JoanArkham at 6:39 AM on November 28, 2012


Meh. It's not the greatest thing in the world but it's a necessary evil for small business owners -- go where your people are. We don't have money for giant print ad campaigns but we CAN pay to promote a post or encourage people to share it. It's nice to see the occasional funny thing from friends and family, too.

Do I wish FB was different? Sure. But I'm using it more as a business tool than anything else, so I'm not that invested in it. Eventually they'll change it so it's unusable for our purposes and we'll stop using but 'til then...necessary evil.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:15 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Facebook causes me no stress because I have something on the order of 15 friends on it. I decline requests regularly to connect from people I'm not well acquainted with. The idea of actually giving a damn about, or internalizing the missives of 200+ people, has never made sense to me. People who do that are doing it wrong in my opinion.
posted by dgran at 7:39 AM on November 28, 2012


Facebook is what you and your friends make of it. My friends and I often discuss serious things on there, and it has been a wonderful tool for keeping up with a group of beloved folks I only see once or twice a year at gatherings, and learning more about them and their daily lives than I ever would have been able to before. Just recently, I've practically been live-blogging my mother's ICU stay, her death last Tuesday morning, and my grieving process since then. I figure if people don't want to read what I'm posting, they don't have to. Other folks are telling me how much they appreciate me sharing this time in my life.

I'm troubled by the constant unpredictable changes, and because Facebook is so useful for me and my friends, I do feel like we're caught by the short hairs--I'm not sure what it would take for me to leave Facebook, given the rewards I get from it. This means that I complain about each change (ads in my newsfeed now, not just on the sidebar? Grrrr) but I put up with it.
posted by not that girl at 7:51 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I think Facebook absolutely thrives, both as a website UI and as a company, on muddying the waters and encouraging people to post more than they would if the audience were clearer.

I'm in total agreement here. This idea that "Facebook is what you make of it"? No. Not at all. "Facebook is just a tool?" No. Not at all. Facebook is what Mark Zuckerberg makes of it and decides it is. Facebook is the tool that Mark Zuckerberg decides it is, which is subject to changes on a dime without advance notice and absolutely zero user input.

Enough people here must have seen "The Social Network" or read Zuckerberg interviews to know better. Or you'd think, anyway.
posted by blucevalo at 11:49 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


My Facebook profile was created over a year ago only to enter a costume contest. It's registered with a gmail address that I use for my alter-ego and my profile picture is me in said costume. I never really learned to 'use' FB, have exactly two friends, and never post or get messages. Occasionally I log in and the activity from just those two is nearly too much. And I always log off. I have family members that are active users, but I guess the sociopath in me keeps me from joining in.

Oddly enough I do receive friend requests from people that I don't have any reason to know. On occasion I have emailed them to ask them "why the request?"; only crickets answer.

It sounds odd, but I've been around long enough, and stayed away from social media, to not have much footprint on the internet and I like it that way. My MetaFilter tracks are about the only trail I've left, and (this is not a challenge) it's relatively anonymous.

Reading through this post makes me want to just start posting random stuff to FB (a'la Renoroc) just for grins.

FB-induced stress? 0. But I could see it happening and the reasons.
posted by achrise at 2:32 PM on November 28, 2012


My FB-induced stress went from 0 to infinity during the Presidential Election, due to what I call the 'Mitt Romney Like Advertisement Algorithm Change'

Back in August or so, I 'Liked' and 'Subscribed' to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's official pages. And then, I didn't think any more about it. Now, as a staunch Leftist, I had a higher chance of travelling to the Moon before voting for Mitt Romney, but I wanted to be informed as to his ever changing policies. Everything was fine until October or so.

Then, FB started placing promoted 'likes' on the top of everyone's pages. So, Friend A likes Costco, Friend B likes Shell Oil...and I like Mitt Romney. It told all my friends, without question, whenever they logged in, that I liked Mitt Romney, and do you want to like Mitt Romney too?

A few who were practically strangers, or I only saw once in a great while at a Sounders match or something, just dropped me outright. A few others sent me either questioning or nasty notes - in which I explained myself. A couple just put posts on my Wall saying that the spam was really annoying, and could I please unlike Mitt Romney already?

So, it was with heavy heart that I removed Mitt Romney from my feed, and sent out apologies to everyone. That seemed to soothe the feathers, but still left a bad taste in my mouth over the entire incident. But as one close, actual non-FB friend commented, "if they're relationship to you is so superficial that they don't know your politics at all (which you post about a fair bit), they really don't deserve to be on your FList."

I seriously miss LJ. I'm 'bork' on there, if anyone wants to help revive LJ.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:31 PM on November 30, 2012


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