I opened my first Facebook account in 2010, as a marketing tool when my novel, Into the Wilderness, came out. In those early days of social media, Facebook didn’t just connect to long out-of-touch friends, but also to new readers.
As my network grew, I became caught up in the numbers, seeking and accepting connections. In 2014, I started an author page and began cross-publishing my blog posts, gaining an even wider audience.
After a while, I found myself sucked into spending so much time growing my platform on Facebook that I wasn’t attending properly to the important activities of daily life, like writing and sleeping.
Then came the lead-up to the 2016 election, when my news feed was filled with alarming links and memes. I’d fall down the rabbit hole of articles, video clips, and comments — and sometimes even leaving the platform to verify what was being passed as news.
But not always.
At some point during the last election cycle, I started subscribing to the digital edition of The New York Times for a better source of national and world news. But after the election, I took a mental-health break, with a news blackout as a survival strategy.
About the same time, the Times installed a paywall on its content — including its recipes. I paid it, finding comfort during dark times in sharing good food with good friends face-to-face in real time.
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This election cycle, I’m already limiting how much news I ingest, and I vet the sources I get it from.
If we’ve learned anything from the past five years, it’s that social media is not the same as sound journalism, and hopefully voters will consider the slant and veracity of all the sources of political information no matter where it comes — including The New York Times.
From the beginning, I’ve been cautious about online security. My Facebook accounts are linked to a separate email, and I run software that performs real-time scans when I’m online.
Nevertheless, I started receiving friend requests from sketchy men, and messages from friends warning me my Facebook account was hacked. I’ve added two-step authentication for another layer of security, and I change my password regularly. It helps, but it’s not a sure thing, and I’m starting to wonder if being on social media is worth the security risk.
I know people who are not on social media, and I’ve begun to envy the equanimity they enjoy from living disconnected.
And face it: Facebook is Old School in the world of social media. I’m also on Twitter, though I don’t tweet. I’m discouraged by the vituperative tone and mean-spirited tweets that pass as public discourse there.
Instagram is now the place to be, and I do have an Instagram account, but I only lurk. I know I’d reach a wider, younger, hipper audience if I posted photos that linked back to my blog, but just the thought of narrating my life in photos exhausts me. I’d rather live firsthand, without a camera between me and my experience.
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My disenchantment might be the result of my status as a digital immigrant — someone who came of age in the paper era (where instead of FaceTime I corresponded from abroad via ink on tissue-thin aerograms). Or it could be a generational divide — I just prefer the pace of reading language that evokes images I can picture for myself. I don’t know. I do know that I’m deeply tired of living online.
Additionally, that flurry of finding out where high school and college acquaintances live, whom they’re married to, and how many kids they have, has long ended. It turns out that in most instances, there’s a reason we fell out of touch.
At the same time, Facebook is a convenient way to keep abreast of closer friends’ lives, complete with photographs of their kids’ weddings, their travels, and their grandchildren. But this can also be done privately — by email, phone calls, snail mail, and visits.
There’s no question that Facebook makes it easier for readers to find me. But a Google search brings up my website, which is the point of being on Facebook for me.
Really, the only thing that’s stopping me from leaving Facebook is FOMO: fear of missing out.
And so, I ask: Is Facebook necessary?