/ facebook

Fakebook

It's easy for me to track the day I deleted my Facebook account. The President of the United States announced that Osama Bin Laden had been found and killed during a mission the night before. I woke up the next day to find the news all over Twitter and, yes, Facebook. But on Facebook it was different. There were the typical "USA! USA! USA!" posts. But as I scrolled down inevitably I came to a gruesome picture of OSB's severed head being held by the statue of liberty. I realized at that moment this was not my social network anymore. Efforts to curate the list of people I was "friends" with a year after nuking my account once before and "starting fresh" had failed. Perhaps this realization coupled with the fact that I was making real meaningful connections with people on Twitter made it that much easier to jump ship. Regardless it was time to go and I removed my account on May 2nd. I should have prefaced this by saying 2 years ago I was staunch Facebook advocate. Not only was I building a quite large network of people I was "friends" with, but I saw opportunities for educators to take advantage of this huge network. "Meet and work with people where they already are," I'd say. Makes sense. Why try to force people to use Blackboard or even blogs when Facebook had all the tools right there and you could be guaranteed everyone already had an account. I sat in on a session at VSTE last year where a math teacher talked about his experience using Facebook to guide his AP calculus course (the experience was ultimately a very positive one). In January I was proud to stand behind the VSTE Board of Directors in defense of Facebook and other social networks being used in K-12 as the Virginia Board of Education was drafting proposal guidelines to ban the use of this kind of contact between educators and their students. I still believe the BOE was misguiding in writing those guidelines and I'm glad they ultimately removed that verbiage. I do feel there is perhaps potential in these spaces, but I also feel Facebook is doing more harm than good. After a little over a month of being offline you'd be surprised to find that many people honestly did not notice I was not there. When I announced I was leaving Longwood and Farmville, many people kept saying "Well good luck, we'll follow your adventures on Facebook!". No, you won't. One by one I'd have to inform these people I actually wasn't on there anymore, but here's my email address, please keep in touch. I've received just two emails from people who noticed I was no longer there, one from my father, and one from a close friend from high school. The truth is that Facebook has allowed a sort of "pseudo-friendship" to take place between most people. You can't "follow" or "subscribe" to updates from people, you have to "friend" them. And the use of that noun/verb in that context is damaging the actual connection we used to prescribe to the term. I can be "friends" with thousands of people, some who went to high school or college with me but with whom I may not have shared more than a brief passing conversation. I went to Chicago in April for training and one of the locals also taking training found me and "friended" me after 2 days of sitting in these training sessions. The next day my coworker was talking about how lovely his children are. This is not my idea of friendship, or at least it wasn't until Facebook came along and redefined it. Now as long as we're friends, you get to see all my photos, of my children, of my wife, of photos people took of me back in college. And if I don't change the default settings in Facebook your "friends" get to see and comment on all of that stuff as well. Thanks but no thanks. I want to build stronger relationships with people, friendships that require more than just hitting a like button on a status update. I want to converse with you regularly. I want to be able to read about your political interests without your crazy republican uncle chiming in with ignorant responses to valid arguments you had. I want to show you pictures of my daughter because I think she's beautiful, but I don't necessarily want your mother to tell me how cute she is (even though I do appreciate it). These connections take real work, they take time and energy. I'm not pretending it's easy, but it has so much more value than what Facebook has ever given us. I don't know if Twitter is my solution. Right now I'm pretty much "all-in" there and seeing great benefits to cultivating friendships in that space. But as with any social network I'd imagine as the user base grows the potential for it to outgrow civility is there. E-mail clearly is not the right solution, it's a difficult and tiring medium that reminds me too much of work. But we have to find this space where we can grow relationships that count. I'm putting the word "Friend" up on a pedestal and saying it means more than the verb we've given it. That's why I had to leave Facebook.