Brian Willis

You Don’t Get to Set the Terms

A few months ago, someone I used to work for died. We’d fallen out of touch, as people tend to do given enough inertia and time. She had motor neurone disease, and over the course of a few months it took her ability to talk, and then her ability to function, and then it took her life.

I had no idea she was even sick.

However, thanks to regular status updates on Facebook, many people at her well-attended funeral did.

That, amongst other things, was the straw that broke the camel’s back and brought me back to Facebook. I created an account a few days ago.

This is actually my second time on Facebook. I signed up years ago, but deleted my account after a couple of weeks. I left because the site struck me as a place that turned procrastination into a group activity, and it didn’t make my life better in any meaningful way. It also became another inbox to check, with all the sense of social obligation that goes along with that.

Over the years since, when I read about Facebook’s creepy social experiments and questionable business practices, I’d roll my eyes and feel good about myself for being above all that. I became like one of those smug people who don’t own a television, confident in my own correct choices, and oblivious to how irritating I was to everyone else.

I’m starting to learn that I don’t really get to set the terms on which my relationships operate. If a friend wants to invite fifty people to a party using Facebook invites, it’s a generous and forgiving person that goes out of their way to invite me over email—and it demonstrates a sense of entitlement on my part to demand they go out of their way to do that. It’s gotten to the point where opting out of Facebook is much like refusing to own a phone. There are some people who might be able to pull it off, but I no longer can.

So far the whole Facebook experience hasn’t been great, but I’m not hating it. It seems like once you’ve signed up the default pattern of events is to have a few moments of nostalgia with everyone you lost touch with from high school, then curate your profile to pick the music and movies that best identify you as a person (i.e. provide targeting information for the Facebook advertising team), and then finally rifle through every snapshot you’ve ever posed for to find the very best one to use as your profile picture. Seriously, looking at some of these profile pictures you’d think my friends and family were the most photogenic people on earth.

So convince me it was worth the trouble and go follow me on Facebook.