Un-Friending Facebook

It’s going to be hard to avoid being smug.facebook cracked

The current revelations about Facebook and how 50 million users’ information was accessed by the election data company Cambridge Analytical is frightening.  Brian Williams referred to it on MSNBC as “data harvesting.” It has led to scrutiny by regulators, apologies from the media giant and a promise to improve oversight. It has also led many users to cancel their Facebook accounts. The scandal, NPR noted, “is grounded in everyday America — after all, it was the millions of women, men, parents, grandparents, friends and old acquaintances on the site who had their data accessed.”

Not me. Never did Facebook, not even at the urging of friends, family members and others. One relative who will remain nameless said, “If you were on Facebook I could send you pictures of my grandchildren.” I told him I know how to open picture attachments on email. “But,” he countered, “if you were on Facebook I could send you MANY pictures.” My thought exactly.

I’ve written before on this site about the apparent inability of proud parents, grandparents, pet owners and the like to edit the pictures they post on Facebook or in their holiday correspondence. I know, digital photography makes it so easy to get multiple images, and it’s hard to choose the best one (or two or three or …). But I wish they were able to at least try to emulate professional photographers who must sift through myriad images and select just one perfect one.

When asked why I refused to consider Facebook, I’d say, “I don’t want to feel obligated.” It would be one more obligation in a life already over-full of obligations. Having a website that very few people look at is somehow comforting. If a person manages to stumble upon my site and leaves a comment, I respond if I want to. Usually I want to and do, even if it’s just to say thank you. But if I don’t want to, I don’t have to.  Like when someone wrote accusing me of being an “elitist” because I had wondered how the person many people thought was best qualified to be president lost to the person many people thought was least qualified. I have to admit it was tempting to try a reply defending so-called elitism. (What exactly is wrong with aiming high?) But I didn’t.

My website was launched when I thought I had finally secured an appointment with a literary agent to help with a book I’d hoped to get published. The site was a way to describe my background and to show my writing ability.  (Ultimately, the agent never looked at the website, and our meeting consisted of a lecture on aspects of book publishing I’d already acquired through my own research. That meeting was the extent of our contact.) To keep the blog from getting stale, I tried to post at least two items each month. But even that became impossible in the face of various family and personal emergencies, and my blogging went into hiatus.

I’m back now but in no way feeling smug about having chosen to bypass Facebook. There are just too many other dangers out there in the digital landscape. A loss of privacy — and worse worries — is the downside to the digital revolution, isn’t it?