[An unedited stream of conscienceness]
I walked away from my Facebook account yesterday. It was something that had been building for a long time.
I had contemplated walking away from it in midsummer, then hung on through September, then reconciled myself to go through the election. I’d thought about how I was going to walk away from it, after almost exactly eight years of nearly daily posts. The “fade to black” theme came to me in September. The original concept was to just type those words over a picture of a fadeout and leave it at that. I should have known that there was going to be no way I could simply walk away, Dylan-esque without some kind of farewell address.
My participation in Facebook started when another phase of my writing life ended. I had been writing up two or three paragraphs on something that amused or concerned me and sending it via email to a small group of friends, some of whom would then respond and a nice, smart-assed discussion would take place. The address list inevitably grew and eventually numbered about twenty. At some point, I’d received enough “unsubscribe” messages and annoyed responses, that I knew I couldn’t continue. Facebook had been a growing presence among our kids and I’d been looking at it as a news source when I decided that posting on the site would accomplish my goal of writing something without filling the inboxes of my friends. You could read it if you wanted, but unlike an email, you needn’t react to it.
It worked well from my standpoint, although it led to unanticipated friction at home about frequency and content (once a day; anything I found noteworthy). That led to one very memorable…discussion… on what turned out to be the worst and most humbling day of my life on which no one was injured or died.
At some point I noticed that when we were out around town, people were mentioning it to me, some mockingly, others appreciatively. By following my rule to first entertain myself, I’d developed a readership and something of a following. I’m happy to say that it was never about that, it just became that.
I’ve had this blog site for quite a while, too. I’d experimented with longer form writing during my extended period of hanging around the house, otherwise known as my 16-months of unemployment, also known as the Financial Crisis. I found that experience fun, but less pleasing than I thought it would be. I found myself being dragged down fact-checking alleys and eventually losing the part of the process I enjoyed most, the writing (and the editing, although I’m better at one than the other). I think the problem was that I was trying to throughly tackle topics that were too weighty–beyond my ability to lift them.
The more time I spent on FB, the more I liked it and the less time I spent on the blog. Facebook provided a nearly perfect vehicle for me, since it represented something of a “safe space.” I limited the people who could view the posts to my Friends, as opposed to the blog, which was there for the world to see, with its inherent risks to reputation and career.
My Facebook posts became “Things I’d like to write more about if I had time,” or “The thesis statements of blog posts I’ll never write.” Embedded in those comments is the root of why the blog didn’t work for me; I envisioned it as something only for in-depth pieces, and not quick hits for things that interest me. I was getting comments and compliments from thoughtful friends right up until the very end. It’s not been easy to walk away from, but it is time.
Not any more. It’s my intention to reimagine this place and be both quicker and more frequent. I don’t know exactly what that means yet. The post that follows this will be something of a “daily digest,” a couple things I came across though the course of my day that merit comment. It’s all an experiment at this point.