Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Big Divorce

 I am getting a divorce.

No, not from my husband.

From Facebook.

It has come to the place of irreconcilable differences.

Can’t get past the habits of the BOTS and the constant clones.

Yesterday, last evening in fact, I wished my elder cousin a very happy birthday. He turned seventy-two and for my paternal side, that was a milestone that just a generation before never achieved.

Barely did I press the little blue arrow to post the comment then I get a yellow warning notice that my account is not visible and I can’t use it. Of course, I refuted it and then the notice said if they find I my account is in keeping with their community standards - I will be able to use it again and if it isn’t, my account would be permanently disabled and click the button to download my information.

Maybe my spider sense could be going off and this could be a bot, but it had me thinking of how much time I’ve spent on the platform.

“Cousin Toni, you should get on Facebook,” one of my younger cousins told me at a big family cookout in a city I returned to after a lifetime away. “What is a Facebook?” I had barely been in the world of smart phones back then, in 2008, when he suggested it to me.

I think I got on the platform around the time of the Obama elections and after some of the community work I’d been doing in Kirkwood.

What’s the harm? It was just family, just sharing some updates on the kids, my family was literally around the world. My page is still private, but that definition of family has expanded and so have the “friends.”

The reality, however, is that they are not all my friends, they are associates, we have some common connections like book worlds, or our kids went to school together, or we went to college or seminary together, but friends, no, not really.  They didn’t show up to my sister-in-law’s funeral before the pandemic and didn’t show up to my brother-in-law’s just a few weeks ago when I flew back to my hometown after being away for two years. Of course, they did the social media thing and typed in quick condolences. One of my cousins did come, others lived too far away, it was a workday, it was real life.

It dawned on me while I was there and after last night, that this medium has created a lot of superficial relationships.

Now to writers, such as myself, it was a gift and a curse. The gift was that more people could know you by your nome de plume and could find your work, but it didn’t always translate into sustainable work or compensation for that writing. 

To social justice activists it was a platform to gather folks quickly, but even then, in some ways, those smart phones going live were more fuel to the fire of all the isms we are facing in this country. People were being more and more sensationalist for the clicks and likes and followers.

Sipping my turmeric-brown sugar-cinnamon latte while looking out at the changing colors of the season, I realized how much of my attention was given to this space. We had to be present to be relevant. In my former position, I was the social media/communications director (not titled, but that was what I did) and had to be on all the platforms, had to work with my team tracking which posts had the most engagement, if we had new followers, if anyone clicked on the donate button. It was consuming.

Consuming, that it is, it was taking away hours from real life. The phone replaced my camera, Instead of curating what parts of our vacation down at the Gulf Coast would be facebook worthy, I could instantly share the pictures we took at the sea wall just the other day. Some of the artistry was lost.

This facebook divorce was already coming, if barely speaking and separations are any indication of a failed relationship.

I had already switched to Instagram and yes, I know that they are owned by the same company, but IG is all pictures of books and me reading and talking about reading without the social, political, cultural exchange that became the picked-fence of facebook. I could just post a reel, like other writers, and go about my day. Twitter, my long-time writing relationship was even better with fewer words, even when they changed the options to write stories on there, I still liked that 280-character limit to get a point across. It is also where I have connected with other writers, so for now, I am keeping it, even with the somewhat hostile takeover by a certain narcissistic billionaire.

But the book.

The kids my daughters’ ages are not even on there. 

My inbox gets these New York Times Articles newsletter-like updates every day. This morning, how ironic, was one by Kevin Roose, “Good morning. Top Social Media Apps are struggling after a decade of dominance.” It was almost as if he was reading my mind…or my blog!

Truth be told, they are barely on Instagram and non-existent on Twitter most of the time.

They cherish real life, this generation that was born in technology and have had screens in every part of their lives for all their lives, they prefer real interactions. When they do post, it is like I used to do in the old days, choosing one or two pictures to tell the story of a moment,

I began to pull back.

They are adults, after all, and the lives belong to them, if they want family to know about everything, they will involve them, so fewer and fewer pictures of their performances or speeches, or whatever else my moms group was chatting about in cyberspace.

My IG was connected to my FB and if I shared a “story” or something, it would show up on FB, that had become the extent of my engagement for the past almost year. I was making fewer and fewer social-cultural-political commentary. I think I was exhausted from it and was shouting to deaf ears, wasting thoughts

I still have a lot to say. Yes, we are in critical times in our country. There is an election coming up in a couple weeks and I hope people realize they need to be engaged in the franchise to make any difference that impacts the people they say they care about. There, that is my political statement.

But I have more to say in other ways, through my other writing, through all the books on my TBR and the ones I’ve read that become a picture on my IG. Perhaps this divorce from facebook will relieve me of the daily need to try to be relevant that I am seeing on some of the posts, on IG, on some reels that are seeking to be more and more entertaining. Folks want their IssaRae come up.

It isn’t for me anymore.

Perhaps it never was.

I won’t have to worry about some folks reading a post and running to tell my husband what I said - yes, that happened.  

I won’t have to worry about analyzing the current political climate and posting about it to get people to awaken from their stupor and decide to show up.

I won’t have to worry about checking in or not or whatever.

It is not a good space anymore for an INFJ+Empath. 

Whatever will come of our ways of engaging in the future, I hope they will be less consuming, less toxic, less voyeristic, less one-sided. Maybe actually meeting people in real life to talk about social-cultural-political issues and realizing that chatting over coffee is a much better way to be present for change.

Who knows.

I do know that I’m not sad about it. I let some folks know I’m not on the platform so they won’t think something happened to me.  I may go on and download my information mostly because it has been a capsule of my life for a decade - I just want the pictures I posted. Maybe I will do that scrapbook my daughter reminded me I used to really enjoy.

For now, this pending divorce seems final and complete. We just need to finalize the paperwork and go our separate ways.

If you are looking for me, see the bespectacled curly haired caramel honey colored lady with her custom pens and journals sipping a latte looking out over the ocean.


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