O’Connor sings “Ode”; or, getting used to life without Facebook

It came to my attention recently that Sinéad O’Connor recorded “Ode to Billy Joe” in 1995. My first reaction was to think of all my friends on Facebook who would find this fact very interesting and cool. But I haven’t been on Facebook since about ten days after the November 8, 2016 disaster.

I’d been very active on Facebook for about eight years. In many ways, I love Facebook. Being in touch with all those friends and relatives is amazing. I cannot name a stratum of my life–from kindergarten to grade school to summer camp to teaching to… anywhere–from which I did not have friends, sometimes many friends, on Facebook.

I’ve defended Facebook against its detractors many times, especially against the criticism that it’s a waste of time. It’s time spent communicating with friends. What could be wrong with that? How better to spend one’s time?

And if it were only that, then that argument would hold. The problems for me arose acutely during the 2016 campaign, though I can see in retrospect that they weren’t entirely new. The best way to sum up the difficulty I faced with Facebook is to say that what I needed in 2016 was an echo chamber and, contrary to popular myth, Facebook isn’t one.

I have no interest in “discussing” and/or “debating” so-called “issues” like capital punishment, women’s health, LGBTQ civil rights, and so forth. There’s nothing to discuss.

Facebook is problematic for me in this connection for at least two reasons.

First, there’s the endless, inescapable stream of claptrap from the right. Some of it comes from my friends; a lot of it comes from their friends, who see that they have said something on my page and come along to argue with it.

Second, I am not nearly as adept as I wish I were at ignoring the bait. To my sorrow, I really do find myself wanting to tell the haters and bigots and enemies of the Constitution what I think of them–even though I know full well that it’s a waste of electrons.

After the election I decided that I actually could not stand Facebook any more. Oh, and about that time thing: it had become a serious drain on my time, and it wasn’t all a bunch of joyful communing with friends. I found myself spending, say, ninety minutes in the morning, and more time later, mostly swatting at right-wing gnats. That is not an appropriate use of my time. Moreover, it made me miserable during the campaign (during which I was already pretty miserable, because I saw clearly all along that Fuckface was going to win), and after the election my already small reserves of tolerance for Facebook-style “discussion” were essentially depleted.

I’ve done a good job of avoiding Facebook. I logged in to say thanks for everyone’s birthday wishes last week, and that’s pretty much it.

But it’s a hard adjustment. I’m used to telling lots of people things all the time. When I learn that Sinéad O’Connor recorded “Ode to Billie Joe” and have to keep it more or less to myself, it feels weird.

That’s OK, though. I’m working on repurposing the Facebook time and mental energy to other things. I don’t yet know how my role in the resistance will pan out, but I want to give it a chance to do so. Facebook can of course be a rallying point for people of good will (that is, Fuckface’s enemies). But, to use a favorite phrase of my late father’s, it exacts a price.

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