Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Deactivated and free
Last night a little voice inside me said, "Deactivate your Facebook account." The voice sounded like he meant it. A voice like the one that commanded father Abraham, "lech lecha me'artsecha umimoladetecha umibeyt avicha - Go leave your land, your kin and your father's house!" So I did. And today I'm feeling strangely relieved. I was never a Facebook fanatic. Not one of those for whom Facebook is a controlling force in my life. I might have checked my page a few times a week on average over the last three years, and hardly ever updated my 'status'. In truth, the impulse to deactivate may have been topped off by an article I'd just read in Newsweek about The Social Network, the new Aaron Sorkin movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook. The piece talks about Facebook as an electronic document of our collective loneliness. And suddenly I was feeling soiled: At worst, an accomplice to a massive fraud, unwitting participant in a Ponzi scheme that has sucked in half a billion other suckers, and at best, a very sad, lonely and unproductive person. The obvious suddenly occurred to me: Facebook is a complete waste of my precious time. The process of deactivation was oddly complicated, well, not really complicated, just bothersome. There were moments of trepidation, as if by deactivation, I was contemplating a type of suicide. How will my 'friends' and loved ones feel? Will they know that I have left this digital world, or will I just not be there when they seek me out? Should I be writing a farewell note? Who will miss me, and worse, who won't even notice? Facebook does not let you go easily. Enlarged pictures of your 'friends' appear at the top of your screen, smiling faces and underneath "So and So will miss you". I was almost choked up. And then, to test your resolve further you must provide a reason for your departure with a drop-down menu to help you out. When I tried to deactivate without a reason a red flag appeared. We will not let you leave without an explanation. I thought, hell, who the f*ck do you think you are to require a reason? I'm a free man. I can go whenever I want. I got angry. Then I felt kind of sorry for Facebook. Like she was a pathetic girlfriend pleading with me not to break-up with her, and demanding desperately an explanation, so we could part company with peace of mind. Afterward, there are the "are you sure" windows which you have to okay, in case you are feeling remorseful for 'breaking up'. Finally, you get messages from Facebook in your email inbox telling you that you can always log back in at any time using your old password and restart exactly where you left off. There's something creepy and stalker-ish about this. In order to permanently erase your presence a request must be made to an unseen higher authority. Permission must be granted. Possibly related, after doing the deed last night, I had a nightmare. In my dream I was out having a blissful dinner with my wife. The next moment I am walking on Chabanel, the place is deserted and the huge industrial buildings that we administrate are skeletal frames, as if a nuclear wind had blown through the neighbourhood leaving rubble, bent metal, and mounds of shattered glass. It is a scene of apocalyptic horror. Utter destruction, devastation and waste. I am lost, calling out, wondering what happened, looking for an explanation, fearing for my livelihood. And then a disembodied voice behind me says, "Didn't you feel the earthquake?" I am dumbfounded. I wake up.