Thursday, December 26, 2013


            Yes, it's official:  I am leaving Facebook.  The reasons are most likely obvious.  Everyone I talk to about it sighs, nods their head knowingly, and says something like, "That's great.  Good for you.  I wish I would do that."  Note that there is never even a smidgen of sarcasm.
            We are tired of Facebook.  Granted.  But Facebook is certainly not the entire internet.  Why, for example, do I not feel a comparable need to leave any of the other online time-sucks, which include...
  • Google+
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Instagram/6tag
  • Tumblr (mostly for following other people; I don't blog there)
  • Anthropologie website (shopping; by which I mean lusting)
  • J. Crew website (ditto)
  • Kate Spade Saturday website (*sigh*)
  • Blogger (reading other people's blogs)
  • And bouncing around the internet, trying to stay roughly appraised of the happenings (and discussions) in pop-culture-land.
            So, first off, I should totally stop going to websites like Anthropologie and Boden and tormenting myself with all the shit 1) I can't afford, and 2) I don't need.  This one will never, ever be good for my sanity.  On the plus side, I just threw away years' worth of fashion magazines and catalogues because it finally felt like an organic, "I'm ready to be done with this now" kind of moment. On the down side...well, Anthropologie just keeps making gorgeous stuff!
            But there is something different about all the other social forums.  This may be just me, but for some reason, I feel  the distance in the other formats much more clearly.  In other words, no part of my brain (no part of which I'm conscious, at least) thinks I'm genuinely connecting with other human beings when I'm on Twitter or Instagram.  But every once in awhile I'll get a serious personal message from a friend on Facebook, and most of the people on there started out as friends.  Friends.  Not "Friends."  Remember those?  Friends were people I saw, on a regular basis, and formed genuine connections with.  People I may even hug when I see them.  I realize I may be in the minority on this, but I still follow a basic rule on Facebook:  I do not "friend" someone unless they are someone I would want to have coffee with.  I think my stand-offishness is weird to a lot of people, but "a lot of people" also insist that smiling pleasantly is a reasonable response to strangers asking me how I am.  (Hint:  They're wrong!)
            My point is, when I'm on Google+, Instagram, Twitter, etc., I am there thinking, "I am incredibly smart and talented.  I have a blog. I love my blog.  I think people should read my blog.  I want to read other blogs, and participate in their conversations.  How do I keep my readers, join in the discussion, and find more people who would enjoy my writing?"  I've even started just creating usernames like @leighandharriet, because frankly, Terra Leigh Bell — the human being, who goes by that name, reads lots of books, and agonizes over her hair color — that person is not on the internet.  Because — and I really don't mean to sound bitchy, just pointing out something that seems to get lost — the internet isn't exactly something I or any other material being can be on.  It's not a material object.  I can't stand on it.  Or in it.  I am a physical being with mass.  The internet, not so much.  It's a gigantic, almost spiritual entity created only by connections.  It exists in connections.  One could argue that, as humans are relational, we also exist in connections.  But throw a person in solitary confinement, and while you will certainly break them, you will still have a body in front of you.  Cut all the computers of the world off from each other...well, then I guess I could stand on a computer?
            Facebook, for me, elides these distinctions in a very uncomfortable way.  Sometimes I'm on Facebook as Terra Leigh Bell, Friend.  Here's how that looks:  I bop around, see if any friends have changed their relationship status (because I'm clearly SO connected to them if I find out they've gone through a breakup that way, right?), look at my funny friends' status updates, marvel at how little of anyone's humor I understand, click on friends' links to read several articles written by left-wingers ranting about how incredibly stupid everyone on the right is (and in the terribly-written, politically-simplified, ideologically-bent, gramatically-butchered process, convincing me that the authors are just as bad), get angry at the world, bounce back to a friend's page, say something friendly, and finally turn on some Beyoncé and go to to calm myself down and fantasize about the life I will never have (and would find fault with if ever I did).
            Then, sometimes I go to Facebook as Terra Leigh Bell, the Pseudo-Activist.  This is when I get on my high horse about the things I genuinely care about — animal rights, statism, religious bullshit, military bullshit, police bullshit, and women-specific issues — and go to Facebook just to post links and read other people's links, and "like" pages in the hopes that by clicking on my little laptop I will get all the captive sea mammals of the world miraculously released and left alone by our loathsome species.
            Tilikum is still in his nightmare, and probably will be until he dies.  I'm thinking more concrete action might be required.
            And then sometimes I go to Facebook as Terra Leigh Bell, the Writer's Agent.  It's a little hard to explain the difference here.  I think a lot of writers and artists have a hard time promoting themselves, and I do get that difficulty.  I guess the way I'd explain it is to say that I really stop being myself.  I start being my own agent.  Because I genuinely think I'm talented, and a good thinker and writer, and I REALLY want people to read my work, I'm pretty happy to post links to my blog, and talk about my forthcoming book from Babel/Salvage.  But I have to step out of myself a little bit to do this, and frankly, it feels icky to step out of myself in a forum where moments earlier I might have been pm-ing a friend about some serious parenting issues or arguing about the role of religion in feminism.  Those are personal matters with which I feel intimately and passionately connected.
            Promoting my blog requires me to step one or two paces away from myself, and for whatever reason, I am always one or two paces away on all other internet channels.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's a sign of something being wrong with me (though I doubt it).  Maybe I will hurt someone's feelings by saying this (though I also doubt that).  Whatever the reasons, I don't like the weird in-between space that is Facebook.  I don't like noticing that a friend has suddenly removed all photos of their (now former?) partner, and then looking at an ad for Amazon.  It makes me a little sick.
            For awhile, I thought I would stay on Facebook and just try to take those steps back there as well.  After all, it is a major mode of communication these days, for everything from a running group I recently joined, to doula and midwifery organizations.  And it's not that I don't want to be in touch with these people.  It's just that I want to actually be in touch with them.  As in, we see each other in the flesh occasionally.
            Recently, I had a bit of a realization:  the final evidence that Facebook is not functioning as a genuine social connection (for me at least).  I suddenly realized that I never talk about my boyfriend on Facebook.  Some of my friends that I don't see very often may not even realize I have a boyfriend.  And I suddenly noticed that I wasn't mentioning him on Facebook because it felt gross.  Like I was dragging this beautiful, precious thing in my life into some kind of advertising-mixed-with-aching-human-loneliness muck.  Which made me realize — Facebook is a muck of advertising-mixed-with-aching-human-loneliness.  Sometimes it's disguised as hipster irony, sometimes as intellectualized distance.  It's still aching, and it's still alienated as hell in the modern world, and why did I ever think Facebook didn't contribute to the alienation again?
            So for those of you who didn't know, yes, I have a boyfriend.  His name is Michael, and he's awesome.  He's also Jewish, and an Atheist, so Christmas was interesting.  And he is such a gorgeous gift in my life right now, I have no desire to drag him into that muck.
            And for those who follow my blog, thank you for reading, and I will continue to post links to new posts on Google+ and Twitter; feel free to follow me in either of those spots.  Also, you can subscribe right on the homepage (I think the link is in the right-hand margin).  It says "subscribe in a reader," but you can also just subscribe via e-mail.  The official Salvation from Facebook day is probably either New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.  I'll keep posting reminders until then.  I definitely don't want to lose readers (and so far, the vast majority of my traffic comes from Facebook, so this is something of a scary move for me), so I'll do whatever I can to take readers with me.


  1. I am getting email notices of your posts about a day after they go up, so you're in no danger of losing readers who are connected that way.

    I am one of those friends who will nod in sad recognition at your assessment of the state of Facebook. I stay only for reasons you don't have: children who live far away, and relatives in Norway.

    May this move add to your energy and your writing time. See you in the physical world!

  2. Thanks! I've been pleasantly surprised by how quickly I saw people subscribe to me via Twitter and Google+, so I'm less worried now. Also, I think my sanity is worth more than readers.

  3. the writers agent thing has been a real pusher in keeping me on/getting me back on facebook. it's a weird cycle, that.