About five months ago, I deactivated my Facebook account and said goodbye to my friends and family. In doing so, I effectively deleted myself from the Internet, becoming the modern day equivalent of a Sadhu, a wandering ascetic with nothing to feed upon but the alms of Twitter links. Well, not really–but you get the point.
It all started in a bar. My friend David and I got into an impassioned discussion on what we were really getting from Facebook, the terrible things they were doing to the Internet, and how we didn’t need their brand of connection anyway. So, a couple beers in, we tromped back to my apartment, logged into one another’s accounts, changed the passwords and deactivated our accounts. We were off the grid.
Three months later, David succumbed to the gravitational pull of the social network and asked me for his password so he could get back on. He got his online life back, and I got $20, having won the bet. Win-win. I could’ve gone back on without shame at that point, but still didn’t feel the need. I held out. Like a lone ranger, I was fighting a cause, me against the Man. I didn’t need them.
Except, apparently, I did. Fast forward to yesterday. I wrote an email to David, reset my password and jumped back into the fray. It was scarily easy. All my friends, my feed, my latent requests–they were all waiting there patiently as if to say “We knew you’d be back!” I clicked accept on the friend requests I had, looked at some photos and went back to my work.
But then I logged back in. And then I did it again. I’d forgotten all you could do! I commented on friend’s status, listened to a song my roommate had posted, even friended somebody I met last weekend. I quickly checked the profiles of all my ex-girlfriends’ to make sure they were okay, but not too okay.
So why’d I do it?
- First and foremost, as a well informed Internet citizen, I felt it was my duty to understand the 800 pound gorilla in the room. No matter how much I disagree with some of their policies and strategies, Facebook is an important force on the Internet, and they don’t actually do personal harm to me. I weighted the cost benefit of being able to keep up in tech conversations with my one-man boycott, and better understanding something that 500 million users are on won.
- I forgot the fight I was fighting. I didn’t quit Facebook with much fanfare, but I did take a certain smug satisfaction in telling people I was off. I was stronger than them and better! Except, that’s not true. I just shifted all my ‘sharing’ time to Twitter and Buzz. Nothing really changed about my online behavior, and I sort of forgot why I quit in the first place. I got as fired up about Calacanis’ quit Facebook campaign as anyone (though to be fair I quit before this)
- I was curious about what people were up to. Facebook turns out to (obviously) be a good way to keep in touch with what people are doing. When I reactivated my account, I reactivated all sorts of weak ties I’d been missing out on. It felt good–so shoot me. Random observation: I think people are more active on Facebook now than when I quit. My stream is like a 100mph train. Every status update I see has like 20 Likes. So much for people losing interest.
So I’m back. Maybe it’ll last, maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll regret it tonight when I see The Social Network and my flames of hatred for Zuckerberg’s walled garden are stoked once again, but for now, I’m sort of enjoying it. I’ll still refuse to sign in with Facebook Connect when I have the choice, I doubt I’ll be clicking to many ‘Like’ buttons, and I still hope Diaspora or someone else presents a viable alternative to the Facebook gestapo. But, I’ll be commenting away on statuses until I get bored and maybe even posting a picture or two.
Either way, I still like Twitter more