So, I've been off of Facebook for a week and a half now. Since I am not responsible for the Because I am Girl FB page while I'm on leave, there is no professional requirement to put up with the personal stress of being there.
I was feeling a lot of responsibility around Facebook. I was feeling like I should have been:
1. Posting/reading more about Idle No More.
2. Wading into huge fights on my own Facebook threads that seemed really complicated and overwhelming to me.
3. Talking about the personal stuff I am going through in some sort of role-model way to encourage others to also take care of themselves.
Shutting my account down has been a huge relief on these fronts.
But I'm also conflicted about it. When Jesse talks about what it is like to go back to Facebook in this LJ post, he says (in part): "Oh my god I missed people! I felt so cut off while I was gone from that place!" And I really do get what he is saying about that. There are people I pretty much only interact with through Facebook, and I do miss their presence since deactivating my account.
At the same time, I have been thinking a lot about Dunbar' Number:
Dunbar's number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar's number. It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 230, with a commonly used value of 150. Dunbar's number states the number of people one knows and keeps social contact with, and it does not include the number of people known personally with a ceased social relationship, nor people just generally known with a lack of persistent social relationship, a number which might be much higher and likely depends on long-term memory size.
... that makes a lot of sense to me. It's really hard for me to keep momentum on thousands of "relationships". I am feeling a real desire to hunker down in a lot of ways, and have conversations over email or the phone or in person, with people who I love and trust. I have had of people check in with me privately since I shut down my Facebook, and every time I have the urge to reconnect my account in order to get some kind of interaction with the world, I reply to one of those messages instead. I've been setting aside time for meaningful correspondence, and have even resisted writing up some kind of official statement about why I'm off work right now and just copying and pasting it to everyone who asks, without really thinking. I guess one of the things I am doing is trying to be a more mindful friend.
It's not easy! It's much easier to broadcast things, even super personal things.
And just to be clear, I DO think talking about things in public has a lot of value. I feel like it's good for certain issues to stay on people's radar, and I have had a LOT of people tell me that they don't interact with me much on Facebook but get pretty much all of their news from things I post or conversations I have. So that's nice, but I guess it's a different thing from building a community around me.
I DO feel a sense of community when I post on Livejournal, which is I guess semi-public. I think the value is more to me than to anyone who might be lurking (Sarah's comment to this entry, for example, feels like an invaluable insight), but also wow LJ feels like a lot of work. I guess it's valuable work though, it's just harder because the fact that it requires deeper engagement is also what makes it so important.
There are just so many people who will never see what I post here, though. And it's true that that is a big part of what makes it great, but it also means the bulk of my friends (online or otherwise) won't ever read it or weigh in.
I wonder if I could make a FB list of only 150 people (the low end of the Dunbar number) and just post anything personal filtered to that group. Maybe that would be a part-way compromise? I really don't know. Maybe that would still feed into the pull of shallow/broadcast posts? Everything burns out of FB so fast.
DEAR ALL OF MY FRIENDS, PLEASE COME TO LIVEJOURNAL.