Facebook never really seems to step out of the limelight. It seems like a constant chain of stories from the IPO, Facebook’s solution to Snapchat, Instagram, etc. But even in the face all the hype and service improvements, I’ve largely abandoned Facebook. It’s not a concern about user agreements or privacy settings – I really think they’ve finally worked all those out to a functional level. I’m not even upset about the Timeline or some other aspect of the interface. Largely, I find myself stepping away from Facebook because of the users and the way that we all use Facebook.
I hate to see our relationship fading, I always loved the ability to capture a moment and share it with those that I was connected with. I still think it’s great when people take the time to share the little snippets that make their lives bright … a kid’s first experience … a particularly good meal … or even those questionable photos that make you wonder about a person’s lack of discretion (while making you jealous of their experiences). The reality is that I feel that Facebook has become America’s new political soapbox. It’s a myriad of guns and Moveon.org graphics peppered with the occasional reminder of personalized humanity.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to shy away from a lively debate. I am intrigued by the public discourse, but it’s Facebook, not BeliefBook, or PoliticalPartyBook. I add people because they are interesting and I want to connect with them in some way. I enjoy intelligent discourse and perspective sharing … a link to an article occasionally thrown in with updates about people’s actual personal lives. I do enjoy when people post the things their working on or even add their own commentary to the material that they’re reading or watching. The reason that Facebook has lost its luster is it seems that we’ve allowed the discourse to become funneled into a binary for or against system rather than the collage of diverse personal perspectives that Facebook should really represent. For me, it seemed to really kick off somewhere during the height of election 2012, and while I’ve waited for it to fade into the background following the election, it seems that the climate of Facebook may be changed forever.
There’s a bit of truth to the admonition to “never talk politics or religion in polite company”. Certainly we have to bring up those topics up just for the sheer need of societal advancement or improvement, but they’re conversations that need to be handled with understanding, delicacy, and finesse. My experience with Facebook has been reduced to a quick chore, something I feel I have to do out of obligation to communicate with others but it’s lost much of its sense of social connection. The conversations have become positionally narcissistic. I think it’s essential to discuss our personal take on political issues, but it needs to be a truly personal take rather than a M-16 meme poster or a decontexualized Mitt Romney quote (and admittedly, I’ve been part of the problem in the past).
So for now, I’ll move on from Facebook onto something more personal and fun until we can all learn that the electronic equivalent of shouting viewpoints at one another does nothing for anyone. I mean seriously, has a snarky graphic really every been the impetuous for a personal political realization? I’ll still log on in hopes that people will remember how to be civil and inclusionary. The potential to connect with one another is amazing, and I hope we (re)understand that. I’ll still use Facebook for organizing and collaborating with others who share some of my more esoteric and stranger interests (urban chickens anyone?), but for now I’ll avoid the news feed until we all learn how to behave on Facebook like we expect each other to behave out in public.