You might call me a late adopter.
At a time when many people are taking a break from social media, I have taken a decidedly contrarian view -- after years of holding out I have finally joined Facebook.
I am one of roughly 18 people in the free world who until now refused to establish a status on Facebook. And lest you think I am a recluse, let me assure you, I am not. I shop online, watch Mad Men on airplay, and listen to current music, sometimes on digital radio. Some might even say I am hip and cool. Well, I might say that.
In any case, Facebook always seemed intrusive, not to mention self-indulgent: new mothers documenting their babies' every bowel movement, Aunt Jane parading pictures of her eight cats, former schoolmates flaunting fabulous book deals. Did I really want to waste my time posting the trivialities of my life? Or, conversely, poring over the particulars of others' lives and lamenting the missed opportunities of my own: parties I didn't attend, vacations I passed up, endeavors I never undertook.
For 10 years I avoided the siren call of the social networking giant, afraid to be sucked into this unique vortex of narcissism and voyeurism -- the same one causing many to now leave the site. Recently, though, a few trends and incidents changed my mind.
First, I finally realized that the preferred method for social interaction had become Facebook. Exclusively. "Hey are you going to the event at The Mansion Saturday night? Oh that's right, you're not on Facebook." The pretext seems to be that by virtue of "not being on Facebook," not only am I not privy to these activities, but I am not even invited.
Second, I was no longer up to speed on important news: government shutdowns, huge fires raging downtown, celebrity breakups. Some studies suggest that 30 percent of people now receive their news through Facebook. Whether what they are reading can legitimately be termed news is up for debate. Nonetheless, individuals who have never picked up a newspaper or browsed a magazine in their life are telling me about current events. And I mean very current. By the time my morning paper arrives the print is old, offering information that is way past its expiration date on the Facebook feed.
Speaking of expiration dates, apparently even obituaries have gone the way of Facebook. I recently learned of the passing of a friend's dad through one of my friends, who heard it first... on Facebook.
However, aside from these recent trends -- old trends to you early adopters -- it was a final incident over the holidays that sealed my decision. While skiing with my family before New Year's, I received an interesting email. (Remember email?) It included a picture of the ski patrol at our resort attending to a fallen skier. It seems that a member of the fallen woman's group caught her on film -- I mean digital -- and promptly posted the picture (of her lying prone on the stretcher) on Facebook. A close friend of mine discovered it on her Facebook wall and, knowing my technological limitations, emailed me the photo.
Thankfully, the wounded skier sustained no major injuries. I can't vouch for the photographer's well-being, although despite my limited knowledge of Facebook, the term 'unFriended' rings a bell.
Regardless, this paparazzi ski shot and its presumably unwilling subject opened my eyes to the final truth: Facebook is inescapable.
At its root, my avoidance of Facebook -- not to mention Twitter, Instagram and all other assorted social media -- has been grounded in the need to shield myself, to remain disconnected, literally, from probing eyes and sharing fingers. What I've realized is this: any attempts to maintain privacy and control is futile. My absence doesn't' prevent me from being exposed -- it just means I don't know about it. As Joseph Heller pointed out, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you."
Rest assured my life is hardly worth posting about, although my own slip ups could fill quite a few newsfeeds. Despite my reservations I have succumbed. I can no longer deny Facebook's utility. It is the new landline, the newsfeed, the modern-day rolodex. Not to mention it's the quickest link to all those Buzzfeed quizzes that tell me what career I am ideally suited for, or which 80s rocker I most resemble.
With Facebook turning 10, some say I'm so late to the party it's already over. Indeed, teens have already decided it is no longer cool. (The fact that it is no longer cool goes a long way toward explaining why I am finally joining; as a consequence of being a contrarian, the truth is I am terminally uncool.)
The question I've been wondering is: will it make me happier? I will soon find out.
What I can say with reasonable certainty is that I will refrain from posting accidents and incidents that befall my friends. If you notice me breaking this promise, feel free to get in touch. You know where to find me.