Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.*
The other day I hit the return button on my laptop while trying to figure something out on Facebook, committing to something before I was ready for the commitment, and whoooooop -- in a moment I was erased. Completely. My personal profile: gone.
[Side Note: before the helpful hint comments begin, let me explain. I was trying to merge my so-called Friends, all 5,000 of them, from my Personal Profile to my Music Page and then recreate a Personal Profile with only real friends and family, so that when I post something it doesn't go to strangers. I tried doing that at first: when I got a request from a name I didn't recall, I'd send a nice brief message: "hey, if we had a conversation, shared a beer, met in passing at a festival, please remind me..." but honestly, it just took too much time. Time that I wanted to be spending writing songs. Not that I really care that much about having strangers (or fans) be Friends, but my niece is getting to that age where she may start wandering onto my Facebook page and I want to protect her from certain elements, like the creepy "Friend" that IM's me asking what I'm wearing who might find her and do the same. I mean, I know I can defriend them, and I do, but its become a bit of a pain and I felt the need to go into a bit of hiding. I had downloaded all the info on my Profile Page before doing this, so all was not lost. But it did feel like a petite mort...]
At first: panic. I wanted to retract. To get myself back. I spent hours (literally) wandering through the labyrinthian so-called Help section. Which was no help. The Community Pages are a bleak terrain of shared ignorance. Because nobody knows how to fix anything, everyone's confused and lost and the folks who might actually get paid at Facebook to help out this global community sit drinking their Lattes and don't answer us. And keep changing the terrain (and redefining privacy without asking our opinion).
Its like an acid dream where you are stuck in Oz's chamber, nobody behind the curtain, screaming "IS ANYONE OUT THERE LISTENING?" and then all of a sudden you are swept into "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and you can't un-erase your erasing.
I'd thought about this step. I'd been talking to other friends who went underground, creating clever pseudonyms and re-friending real friends. Not any of these friends are famous in the global sense of fame, but they are musicians out there touring, one was on a national TV show, and even in the non-famous world of folk music, boundaries and privacy are a concern. Facebook has been increasingly feeling this way to me and to some of my friends. We kept joking about turning it off. Walking away. A few had. One even encouraged me to take the leap off the cliff into pseudonymetry.
I'd challenge myself to not open Facebook until my morning routine was complete (meditation, journaling, yoga, a bit of writing, emails that were important, etc.). I could waste hours there, following threads of friends of friends conversations, peering into photo albums of old classmates, real friends, ex friends, ex lovers, current lovers of ex's, until I felt like Pandora and felt like I'd snuck into a stranger's underwear drawer and found secrets I'd rather not have seen. I think every one of us has had some moment of personal relationship drama upon seeing someone else's post, or changed status, or photo. I spent a whole day in an airport reeling, fighting anxiety and fear about a post on someone's wall, waiting to have the phone conversation to clarify something and believe me, I felt like a childish asshole starting out with "Ok. I know this is gonna sound strange, and I know its gonna sound petty and childish, but I saw something on your Facebook page..." It has already been written about by better writers than I that our false sense of community has lulled us into complacent connection. We all stumble around snippets of strangers and almost-friends, checking in on loved ones, peering through the veil. It can feel sneaky and dirty and sexy and claustrophobic in that maze.
There's good there, too. I'm not just complaining. I found new friends, reconnected with old friends. I got invited to parties. I found out about shows I'd not have known about. Found new music, read cool articles, felt a collective tug of belonging as we all complain about the stupid posts going about. Kindling and rekindling. I felt a real loss once I was booted out. I felt like the world had gone on without me and I wasn't able to get to the party. It was weird. I missed logging on and seeing the posts of people I kind of knew but liked from afar; I felt close to people I barely knew. You get a sense of someone's style from their posts. Their quips. Their sense of humor. Their spirituality, sometimes. Their pathos. Their sarcasm. I loved checking in on Susan Werner, who in real life is an acquaintance, in that I like her, she likes me, we've maybe had two or three brief conversations before shows, but because we shared about 500 friends and she saw my posts and I saw hers and we'd comment back and forth, I felt like we'd skipped a few steps in the dance of friendship and perhaps one day, in real person, we could hang out and drink wine and laugh together like old friends and I'd say "oh remember when you posted to my wall...." Of course, there's good and bad to the skipping of the dance. The dance is part of the fun.
So I re-emerge on Facebook as another name. And this time I can define the parameters of who I want to be in my conversation. But after having 4,980 friends, having only 11 right now is feeling thin. I admit: I feel left out. And that's an old feeling that goes back to being picked last for the Kickball team in elementary school. And the truth is, I can still connect through my Page, where I'll post this. But I have to say, I do feel freed of something. And only by deleting myself, albeit accidentally, did I realize how tied (perhaps, addicted) to my own sense of belonging I was. To let go...to TRULY let go...has been a real lesson in what I was holding onto.
I’m collecting my strength, one day I shall manage without her,
And she'll perish with emptiness then, and begin to miss me.
(from 'In Plaster', Sylvia Plath)
* dialogue from the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"