Facebook mind

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Talked to my friend M6 today, he pointed me to this inspiring article, Zadie Smith's (movie) review of The Social Network in the New York Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/25/generation-why/?pagination=false

Could anything inspire you to take down your Facebook profile? I forget that I still get inspired about things, and that my mind can change completely in an instant. I feel like I'll never die.

NOW, while your friends are migrating to Google+, now is the perfect time to pretend that you've migrated too. Disappear for a little bit. Why? pagination=false.

The review's message? (Actually, wtf? Since when does a movie review have a message?) There is one point about people simplifying themselves to fit in Facebook's fields for them. I actually wasn't too fazed by that one. These guru types in human-computer interaction decree that shit all the time. The point that got me was the romance of "its none of your business." I've heard it before, but I've only recently started opening up to it. (AHH!!! Its ironic for me to write that for you to read on my blog. Yes, I know. No, it won't stop. Its part of the beauty of this whole thing.)



I won't just down a whole pastry all at once. I like to eat the chocolate off the top by itself, and then the crust by itself, and then the inside when that's all that's left. It sounds like reductionism, but its something more. Closing your Facebook is something with parts, and you can enjoy all of them. Don't go straight to "Deactivate account". Turn off every option in every box, one by one. Notice the ones that take multiple clicks? Those are the ones that affect their bottomline. Read the clarifications, apologies, disclaimers, experience, enjoy. It might take about an hour. I found myself googling the inner workings of who sees what when. You might go back and double check that this one thing is off, thinking that you just turned it back on somewhere else. You can view your profile from the perspective of every friend.

I chose to just make everything private instead of deleting my account. Oh, misspeak. There is no deleting your account. You can deactivate it. You'll be back.

I'm not even deleting my account! I've never appreciated how many privacy options they have. Its a lot of options. Its been over an hour. I love experiences, and I love sharing. Since that is what Facebook is about, every thought I had while shutting it down was ironic. Wanting to share the experience of doing it, or lessons from it, or the feeling of wanting to keep any of my carefully curated Interests and Activites. Every doubt I had before unchecking something was profound. I rarely feel irony so densely, I can tell because I'm also feeling the panic of needing to mention it here before someone else can call me out. I've never felt like such a part of my generation.

Stage one ironies

  • Writing this, to the world.
  • Also, when I was writing the status update on Facebook to say that I'm doing it.
  • The update was longer than 420 characters, and I spent a few minutes trying to shorten it.
  • And when I thought of starting a Facebook group: People Who Quit Facebook After Reading That Smith Article.
  • When it took me (even) a second to realize that those people wouldn't be on Facebook anymore

Stage two ironies

  • When I decided, without checking, that the group almost certainly exists---either despite the irony or because of it. You don't have to tell me, I just know.
  • I've reduced what I share and who I share it with, I've changed my emergency contact to someone else's email address, and changed my password to something I don't know, and changed my language to some inscrutable. All that is somehow easier than simply deleting my account.
  • I've been selective about what I close off: I'm keeping the link to this website public, I'm keeping messages, posts, and friend requests mostly public. All this is so that I can continue to be exposed and have exposure. There is some cognitive dissonance in there that I can't see. Maybe its obvious to you, but I don't see it yet. It will be fun to tease out over the next few days.
  • I'm making choices that will be reversible. It makes room for this to be just a crisis. Maybe it is. It feels good right now, liberating too, and the process of doing it has been a ball.
  • Continuing to write this, to the world.

Amazing things I didn't know about FB privacy that say something about the sophistication of Facebook and the number, length, and knuckles of its fingers

  • The "download your information" option under Account Settings is pretty cool.
  • I never use FB apps, so I was really impressed that there were sixteen random websites that I had allowed to have access to all kinds of stuff about me. I never used to care. I'm only kind of sure that I care now. The doubt comes because I know I don't care as much as I know I should. You can kill those apps if you can find the page.
  • Behind the scenes you'll find that they have lots of good information about security, privacy, and the law. Good for them. Facebook also showed me which of my friends "Liked" which of those information pages. That really says a lot, about the site, about the friends, about what they think, like, feel, and expect of others. And the fact that I'm getting all these mental moments from a security page. This is all so rich.
  • If you've noticed random pages saying that this or that friend likes some event or brand, they're doing it with you too. You can turn all that off. You have to go to three or four different places, under both Account and Privacy settings.
  • You can change your language to "English (Upside Down)." CHECK, MFers.
  • When you are in Japan, you have the option to share your blood type. (Stage three: You can't tell what books I like but a picture of me sitting on the toilet is still on the internet.)
  • Click on every option, tab, and blue link. A lot of options, like "Only me," are hidden in "Custom." FB is hiding its disapproval ...
  • ... with one exception: Facebook got worried when I turned off one of the social advertising features. I got a popup assuring me that I had been misinformed. false rumors. Its like it feels.


Deactivating your Facebook is hard. The metaphor to suicide is hard to miss, and it isn't lost on Facebook. I've got a screenshot of the deactivation page. This shit is amazing. They will do anything legal to to keep me in. The further I go through the stages of withdrawing (I did not say withdrawal), the more I learn how much its a great idea.

OK, fine, its a great idea. Is that really enough? Maybe this whole thing is a crisis. After my fervor dies, and I don't move out to the woods, don't get chickens, and miss all the posted parties, I'm bound to return to Facebook. It is incredibly powerful.

But I've made some changes, and I've tied a great knot. Only paradox could make it natural to leave and to stay away. Facebook connects me to my friends. It makes me more accountable to them. So, using Facebook, I gave them the power to keep me off Facebook. I'll try to return, but I gave my new unknown password to the friend most likely to mock me and twist the knife. Its one of the many things friends are for.


postscript: more specific things I loved about the article

  • "tiny, exquisite movie star trailed by fan-boys through the snow." ooh! meter! yes! I know that reference. That was my first moviestar crush.
  • This line too: "I don’t think exclusivity was ever the point; nor even money. E Pluribus Unum—that’s the point." There is an echo when you read the Latin, even when you don't understand it, because you already read the word money just before it. You only see that phrase when you see money.

Thanks 6! And thanks especially to all those invisibles who actually quit without giving a thought to blogging it.