This morning I told my friends on Facebook that I may need to break up with them.
They took it well.
It’s not a permanent breakup, really. It’s just a trial separation. And it’s not even about them. I like them. Especially the ones I really know. I like them a lot.
But this form of friendship is wearing on me, and I’m not sure it’s sustainable.
Let me date myself.
I remember when people first started talking about Friendster. That was 14 years ago.
It’s amazing, they said. You’ve got to get a your own page.
You’re idiots, I told them. It’s not real. It’s total bullshit. They aren’t your friends. Don’t waste your time.
But they journeyed onto that first social network, and then the next, and the next. I didn’t follow quickly, and as a result I began to lose touch with a few of them. Soon I saw that these sites were quickly shifting into marketing spaces for musicians, so I did what most young, entrepreneurial musicians did:
I snagged ever my-name-URL I could.
I got a MySpace page (somehow there are still 11K people following me there). Then, once it was available outside of college networks, a Facebook page. I was late on the Twitter game, but I managed to swap usernames with @mattmorris in trade for a CD and a merch t-shirt long before the platform became one of the 3 standard login platforms. I also got my @mattmorris Instagram, but I never dove into it with the same kind of gusto that I did Facebook and Twitter.
Currently, between Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram I am followed by roughly 58,000 people. I’m sure there’s some overlap between the different platforms, so the actual number is probably a fair bit smaller. But still, that’s a lot of eyeballs.
Well, it’s a lot of eyeballs if the algorithms allow.
There’s a part of me that still believes that it’s all bullshit.
But then there’s another part of me that realizes that some of those 58,000 people donated money to help me pay for my first year at Iliff. Some of them shared their resources when I asked them to support New City Initiative’s Race to End Child Homelessness. They stepped up to give when I asked, they bought tickets to my shows, and they downloaded my albums.
The cynic in me looks at that paragraph I just wrote and thinks – so…is it just about the money? Is that why the 58 thousand matter? And yes. The financial support has mattered.
But I’m also feeling nostalgic for a time when place mattered. I miss that being primary, not secondary. Life used to take place primarily in rooms, and when it didn’t there was a sense of longing. But place has changed now, and no one seems to mind. Everyone has complied. We’re all compartmentalized into different servers, pages, groups, profiles, and threads, and we’ve all just acclimated to this.
I found myself asking my husband, “Do you think I could still do the work that I love to do if I wasn’t on social media?”
“Of course,” he said.
But the thought was real and pressing to me, and I wasn’t sure I believed him. That is how much I have projected my identity into these different online spaces. I question whether I could live out my vocational life without social media.
Something has got to change, but I don’t know what.
These feeds feed us.
I believe that if I were to remove myself from all social media – or even just Facebook – that I would lose contact with dozens upon dozens of people. I think they’d think about me less. Some might forget me. And not because they don’t like me. They’d just stop seeing my face, my words, my pics of random things in their feeds. Someone else’s face would take my place.
My husband has been on a Facebook hiatus for a while now, and I don’t think anybody has reached out to see if he’s ok. They haven’t even noticed that he was gone.
And the same would happen with me, I’m sure.
I’m torn. I feel this desire to leave, but I also want the validation that social media provides. As soon as I publish this post I’m going to share it on Facebook and Twitter. A part of me hopes that you’ll share it, too. While writing this post I went back and checked the two previous posts and found that my last post had 41 shares and the previous post only had 16. I wondered what it was about “Trust” that was better.
Before I know it, I’m no longer writing: I’m crafting SEO.
This post is over 775 words now. Will you read them all? Will it get shared? Could it reach 58 thousand people? How much would I have to pay Facebook to make sure that everyone of my followers sees it? Does it matter that much to me, this post?
These are ridiculous questions to ask. But they are the kinds of questions that arise from this muck we all wade through each day. And if you’re not asking them, someone is asking them before they publish something that you see on your feed.
Someone is making choices about what to feed you.
And chances are, you’re just eating it without thinking twice.