Last night I deactivated my Facebook account. I wanted to start my one month experiment fresh, no temptation, no log-ins, no distractions. It was simple enough. You go into your account settings, choose the Security settings and hidden at the very bottom there is a hyperlink that says "Deactivate your account?" It doesn’t have any of the happy icons accompanying it or any of the helpful tips. When you click on the link it tells you that you can deactivate your account and reactivate it simply by logging in with your same email and password. Then it shows a random selection of photos of your friends with the message that “So-and-so will miss you!” As you go through the radial button selections, it asks you to fill out the reason that you are leaving. The list goes from the paranoid (I don’t feel secure) to the malicious (my account was hacked) with several more selections in-between. It even gives you a comment box, should you not find a reason to your liking. Once you make your selection and hit deactivate, it logs you out of Facebook and sends you an email telling you that you have deactivated your account and then helpful hints on how to reactivate it. Facebook will remind you that your friends won’t be able to search for your profile nor will they be able to see your past posts along with a few other guilt-laden facts. I thought to myself, well my real friends know my phone number, email, and even my address. I am sure they could find me if they searched hard enough. Facebook wants to be the center of your universe and technologically perhaps it can be. Emotionally, I think not. Just like nothing can replace a real live performance, I’d like to think that flesh and blood friends will trump the cyber friends as well.
This morning, when I got to work I booted up my computer and the Spotify music app that I recently loaded via Facebook popped up and I thought what better way to start the day than with a little music. I was unaware that it would use my Facebook credentials to log-in and within minutes I received an email that said “Congratulations! Your Facebook account has been reactivated.” It then dawned on me. If you use your Facebook login to access other websites, or you have other apps (like my Nike+ Sportsband) that post info to your Facebook account, both are using your login information and either type of “sharing” will trigger a reactivation of any Facebook deactivation. It’s kind of like the Eagles song “Hotel California” where the lyrics remind you that “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” So, I went through the process of Facebook deactivation again and began uninstalling applications that might trigger reactivation as well as turning off any sharing options I had previously set up. I suppose if I had permanently deleted my account, things might be different, but then again perhaps I would have been blocked out of websites that only used my Facebook credentials for log-in. I’m not sure, but it has been an eye opener of how entwined and complicated your Facebook relationship can get. It’s exasperating enough to almost feel real.
I began this experiment because I wondered if Facebook was just a mask that people wear to feel connected without really being connected at all. Facebook allows you to be both avatar and authentic making it almost impossible for your “friends” to really know the real you. Fresh from my day one fasting experience, I have to wonder if it is clear who the creator of that mask might be-- us or the environment. My hunch is that it is both. And that leads me to my next question: If a place like Facebook allows you to hide who you are, what you share, and who you share it with in the same breath as it encourages sharing freely what you like, where you go, and what you do, how does that translate into our behavior and ethics in the real world? Will we all become very adept vacillators – one minute being honest and authentic and the other being a façade portraying our favorite avatar or superhero version of ourselves? And I guess that is what my Facebook fast is all about. I’ve lost touch of what is real and what is a façade. And yes, we all wear masks be it a Facebook one or not. It is that simple fact that has led me to wonder who loves the mask the most, the wearer or the observer? On the one hand the one wearing the mask always knows their own truth, while the one observing the mask always has the potential of uncovering its secrets. Perhaps in my deactivated world, I will learn to do both.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012