June 18, 2020
I have a strict rule about inviting people over to my house: only invite people with kids.
This might seem contrary to my identity as a childless 35-year-old who offers toddlers hot sauce and who very much enjoys addressing visitors as “burning piles of rotting mucus” when they beat me in Scrabble, but rest assured I’ve thought this through:
Parents with children are the only ones who eventually have to leave.
Ah, the strategy! The scholarship of this plan!
You see, were you to invite a childless schmuck like me into your house, you know what we do? We stayyyyy. Oh, do we stayyyyyyyyyyy. We stay because we have no obligation to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning with the baby, and we stay because we don’t mind if we have a headache the next day, and we stay because we are suddenly, wildly impassioned about this one RIVETING story you never knew about that one trip we took to Egypt, and we stay because your pool is better than ours, and because champagne is delicious, and because this is what life is all about, and because let’s face it: we do not have miniature milk dumpsters drooling all over our laps.
And I’m tame. I’m a granny! With high emotional intelligence! And a high sensitivity to other people’s boundaries! So trust me when I say: neither you nor I want other childless schmucks coming over. They’ll never leave.
Which is pretty much how I feel about Facebook.
Oh, glorious Facebook, hallowed be thy name! Specifically, the infamous Facebook business page. Or shall I say: hallowed be thy blame?
Having a Facebook business page is a bit like inviting 25,000 childless people over to your house and then having to keep feeding them, and entertaining them, and being polite to them, forever. [long, delirious stare]
That’s one of the problems with Facebook: you’re never alone—at least not mentally. Sure, you can log out, but that’s really only akin to hiding in the bathroom for a while with a gin, isn’t it? As soon as you come back to reality, you’re smacked in the face with Jim Bob ripping a huge fart in your living room and some lady named Teresa gurgling all your cheese.
They aren’t mirages! They are there, waiting for you. Forever.
At least, that’s how social media can feel. Mind you, it’s not (always) about the people: it’s about the platform. Most people are actually quite lovely (and I do like most people, to be fair—exceptions shall be listed on my tombstone); but the constant pressure of people waiting for you in your digital living room, even in solidarity, has to tendency to create a persistent low-level energy suck that feels akin to never being done with the dishes. Why are there always dishes to wash? Who made these dishes? I just washed the dishes, and now they’re back!
This, for me, is Facebook.
The never-ending digital dishes.
No, no, let's take it a step further: the never-ending digital dishes plastered in this morning's egg. OUCH.
Also, can we talk about the term “engage?” I hate this word. It reeks of forced, plastic, artificial conversation with a (not so) hidden agenda. That’s because anyone who is “engaging” with you on a Facebook page or group is doing so with a hidden agenda. That has to be the case, because this is business, and everyone’s got an agenda. Somewhere along the way, some deep-fried cousin of Voldemort told the online business world that they should hang out in Facebook groups and “engage” as a marketing tactic—AKA loiter around and cheer lead for strangers who are supposed to notice how helpful you are and ask to hire you instead of you actually doing work worth noticing—and I’ve been dodging them ever since. Similarly, every time I see someone calling others to “post your bumhole in the comments” (bumhole my emphasis), I cannot help but view this as “put your bumhole in the comments so I can be viewed as someone who engages!”
Engagement is a pseudo form of leadership that is too easily mistaken for mattering.
Granted, Instagram is not immune from this. I dislike phony peacocks on Instagram too. But at least my feed is filled with original photographs from creators, rather than yet another copy and paste meme that dramatically oversimplifies complex, nuanced subjects and acts more like fascist propaganda than thoughtful opinion.
Speaking of fascists, Twitter is actually my favorite social media platform because the focus—at least historically—has always been on contributing ideas. What’s important in your industry, what you’re working on, which conversations add to the greater corpus of your body of work. Keyword here being: corpus. Twitter feels like a large conversation hosted by humanity to which you may contribute, rather than tiny little gossipy enclaves. Twitter also has a slant toward career, companies and news—and maybe that’s another reason why I like it. (In case you missed the hot pink cover, I recently published an entire book about creating an unconventional independent career.)
But I also favor Twitter because of the crowd: written platforms attract writers, and writers tend to be critical thinkers. The arguments tend to be more sophisticated; the ideas a higher caliber; the perspectives better reasoned. And I learn things by being there. On Facebook, I learn nothing.
And perhaps that is the most important distinction.
So since how you spend your time is how you spend your life, I’m doing an interesting experiment: I’ve gone ahead and unpublished The Middle Finger Project Facebook page—which, by the way, you can do without full-on deleting—because I want to curate my energy intentionally. I want to be stimulated by the conversations around me. And I want to learn and actually engage, not pretend to.
And somehow, I feel like I’m coming out of the bathroom and, to my greatest surprise?
It was never that I wanted the people to go home: I just wanted a different crowd.