An open letter to Facebook and those who friended me.
Facebook is no longer a platform that I feel I can continue to use, because of my inability to curate the content that is shown to me and the content that others see of mine. Therefore, I will be deleting my account. I cannot say with certainty whether this is a failure of myself to understand the platform and it’s feature set, or a fault with the platform itself. I am not even sure if it is a problem that can be fixed, but the account must go.
I originally got a Facebook to keep track of my extended family. To follow their lives in a way that allows me to remain socially introverted and only engage when I am in the right mindset to do so. Then, it became a tool because of work, and work began to mix with family in my feeds. I followed several of my coworkers. It was fun seeing their lives outside of work, and it made me feel closer to them as coworkers. Then I joined the board game industry, and used it to connect with other designers, publishers, and the industry community at large.
Having all of these groups in one space sounds convenient, and for a time it was. I’ll talk about each of these groups in more detail, but I want to assure you that it is none of them in particular that I am picking on or leaving because of.
Starting with the most recent addition to my page, for a long time Facebook seemed to be the only place the board game industry gathered. The board game industry groups were and are invaluable to a new and/or indie designer. Everyone is here. I even found my first publisher here. I wouldn’t be where I am today, if it weren’t for Facebook.
Then there’s work. I’ve made a lot of really good friends at work. Colleagues that made an impact on me and my life. Connecting with them on a more personal level, as well as having the ability to continue to connect with them after leaving the company. At face value, this felt like a net win to add to my feed, and for a while it was.
Lastly, Family, as I’ve already said, is why I got a Facebook in the first place. I want to share my family’s lives. These are people I’ve known my whole life. I love and care for them, and want to keep them in my life. A lot of transgender people don’t have the privilege to say that.
If it were just these four groups that I interacted with, I would be perfectly content, but it’s not. I’m also connected to those people’s friends, family, coworkers, and industries. Did you know that if your estranged uncle Hubert makes a public post that you reply to, Facebook might decide to display both his post and your reply on my feed? What about that ad where you reply to complain about a company’s product and/or services? That shows up on my feed too! I see it all. Facebook makes sure of it. Some things, I just don’t want to or need to see, but on Facebook they’re impossible to ignore. It shows you everything.
In the real world, we slowly lose contact with people. Individuals come and go from our lives, but somehow on Facebook they live with you in your social circle forever. 20 years ago, you’d change jobs, move, switch schools, or any number of things could happen, and you’d never talk to someone again, but Facebook? There’s no limit to the people you can keep.
On top of that, I feel as though it is impossible to remove someone from my feed without doing so in a way that hurts someone. I’ve unfriended lots of people, and hid tons of friend requests in my tenure on this site, and every time I struggle with the decision. I know I’ve hurt people’s feelings by unfriending them, while inexplicably not unfriending other people. For that, I apologize. Because it was and is never my intention to hurt someone. At what point do we know each other well enough to add each other as friends? At what point are we estranged enough to unfriend each other? I feel like these questions are different for everyone, and that everyone is using Facebook for different reasons.
Once again, this may not even be Facebook’s fault! I honestly don’t know.
Some solutions I’ve thought of include creating multiple accounts (probably against Facebook TOS?), deciding what actual group of people I want Facebook to be for and removing everyone else (because that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings), attempting to learn Facebook well enough to curate the algorithm in a way that works for me, personally, or finally to somehow work with Facebook in some capacity to improve the platform (because Facebook’s going to listen to one rando with 125 friends? I don’t think I’m narcissistic enough to believe this post will reach anyone).
But then I realize it goes beyond just the content that I see. It’s easy to blame everyone else, when the fault is as much my own, if not more. There are few people in this world that I am completely comfortable being myself with. Not coming out as transgender until almost 5 years ago is proof of this. For the longest time I couldn’t even be myself with myself most of the time, let alone anyone else.
I find Facebook’s tools for curating who I say what to, and what the people who see what I say to be inherently flawed. Sure, I can make posts private to specific groups or individuals, but the recipients of that post have no way of knowing who I shared it with and why. I don’t even know if the almighty algorithm is going to show the people I’m writing to the things that I wrote.
Ultimately, the decision came to simply delete my account. I don’t have the mental spoons to handle the deluge of information, and the tonal whiplash of so many people all at once. I want to assure everyone that reads this, that nothing anyone did specifically caused me to make this decision.
If you wish to follow me for whatever reason, you can find me on Twitter (but don’t get offended if I don’t follow you back), or you can follow my infrequent and random blog posts on mattie.lgbt. If you need to contact me, or want to talk to me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (but please don’t get offended if you don’t hear back from me immediately) or if you’re close enough to have my phone number, I’m a text away. In addition, I use Discord and Slack extensively. If you have a server you want to share with me, don’t hesitate to message me, and I may or may not join. I’m even on Google Chat, though I’ve never really used it. These are all platforms that for one reason or another I feel safer and more comfortable using than Facebook. Maybe one day I’ll even blog about each individual site, and how I use them, and why I’m not leaving those communities, but at least for now… this is goodbye.
So long, and thanks for all the fish,