The two major differences between Mark Zuckerberg and David Koresh are (1) Koresh is dead and (2) he was never worth $15.7 billion, even at the top of his game. In important other ways, they are very similar, both Messianic leaders with fanatic followers and an organization that, once you join, is very hard to leave.
I was never an enthusiastic Facebook member, joining only at the insistence of a social network marketing guru who had been sipping the magic Kool-Aid for too long. To me, Facebook seemed to be a Classmates.com gorging on human growth hormones. As it turns out, that was true and so, after much self-debate, I decided to drop out.
Once the decision was made, I discovered that Facebook really, really doesn’t want you to leave the compound. If I left, they would no longer “own my eyeballs”, both a critical part of Facebook’s business model and a particularly ghoulish metaphor.
There is no “I quit” button on the Account Settings page. If you noodle around a bit you can find a “Deactivate” option. That sounded right until I learned that deactivating my account wouldn’t really erase me from their database, it would simply make interaction with me difficult, supposedly impossible. I would become like an insect trapped in amber. Facebook would still have my personal profile to do with God knows what. On second thought, even God doesn’t know. Facebook is not forthcoming about how they use your profile data.
Somewhere during my search on Facebook I discovered a statement that said, in essence, “You must notify Facebook if you want to be deleted” but then gave no clear path which would allow me to do that. Finally, as a desperate measure, one used by many students faced with a research paper deadline in less than eight hours, I went to Wikipedia and Google and searched various phrases, hoping for a way to safely leave the compound without drawing attention to myself. Finally, on Google, I found explicit instructions.
Once I had completed all the steps required, including entering my password and successfully deciphering one of those strange code jumbles where the numbers and letters are highly distorted so as to resemble the random scratching of a second grader who is still confused about when capitalization is or is not appropriate, I was notified that Facebook had received my request to be permanently deleted. This, the notice said, would take effect in 14 days and that, should I change my mind, I could simply return to the site and cancel the request.
Fourteen days! I can order an entire side of beef on line, have it shipped from Omaha Steaks in a flash-frozen container the size of a refrigerator carton and be eating tenderloin from the thawed carcass in a matter of 24 hours. One wonders, does one, why Facebook takes 14 days simply to go to my page and quickly and humanely give it a dose of software cyanide. I suspect that there is more to this story that has yet to be told. My 14 day waiting period is still ticking away.
My reasons for leaving Facebook are simple.
This will come as a shock to many of you with Facebook accounts: not all of the people in your list of friends on Facebook are actually your friends. In fact, most of your Facebook friends aren’t friends at all. Well, you may wonder, if they are not friends, who are they?
This is an excellent question and one that you should have asked yourself long before you got fully involved in building your vast but loosely connected social network kingdom. But you didn’t do that did you? Instead, whenever a new “friend request” popped up, you thought, much in the vein of Sally Fields, “You like me, you really like me” and promptly accepted the invitation. Fool.
Now you have a cache of connections, 80%+ of whom you couldn’t pick out of a line-up because you haven’t laid eyes on them since the Nixon administration. That cute little red haired girl who lived next door to your best friend (what was his name?) is no longer cute or red headed. The Young Republican go-getter in your fraternity is now a grizzled member of some survivalist group and he sends you links to sites that teach you how to load your own ammunition or sterilize putrid water.
I received a “friend request” from a guy who was a famous high school bully. He took great delight in peeing on underclassmen in the showers during gym class. I was one of the pee-ees (is that a word? If not, it should be.) and now he wants to be my friend, send me pictures of his grandchildren and of the candy apple red ’59 Chevy, which he has recently restored, fully chopped, channeled, rolled, tucked and souped up. He seems trapped in a time warp regarding the car but thinks that all is forgiven in the inappropriate peeing department. I don’t know about you, but when someone treats me to a golden shower without my express permission, I tend to hold a grudge.
Then there are the “friend requests” from innocuous people of whom you have but a vague recollection, but your shaky memory of them is not loaded with troubling baggage. In fact, your memory of them has no luggage at all. What you have in common is that some time in the remote past, you lived in the same school district. What harm could come from accepting these requests? Plenty, as it turns out. These are the very people who are desperately looking for another sucker who thinks Farmville is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Like me, growing up in south central Kansas, many of these vaguely familiar people grew up surrounded by farms, about which we thought almost nothing. Now these folks want to be virtual farmers and they want to include me in the gaiety. If it is so much fun, why the hell didn’t they just do the real thing, ship me some edamame beans and then leave me alone?
And what to make of the “you’ve been poked” announcements from women friends who you would have gladly poked when you were both randy teens, several decades ago? Should I just blithely poke them back on Facebook to be polite? Would this be the start of some unseemly Internet sexual connection that could spiral into a marriage-breaking misunderstanding, especially since the poke-er is now a hefty, post-middle-aged dowager with whom the prospect of sexual contact is extremely troubling. I click the “Ignore” button on these requests but then fret that I have offended.
Finally, I am friends with several young relatives, nieces, nephews, the usual. These young folks are the very people for whom Facebook was created. Their lives are filled with faux drama which they are eager to share, “Just finished finals and headed for a massive kegger at the Beta house”, “She can be a real b*tch but she lets me sleep over”, “Check out my pictures of Mardi Gras. I got this load of beads just for showing these.” The posts and pictures are enlightening and often contain waaaaaay too much information. I could report this information to their parents but that seems a poor way to treat a friend. They are friends, aren’t they? It says so on Facebook.
Zuckerberg doesn’t need friends anymore. In fact, when someone suddenly amasses $15.7 billion, having friends tends to be a liability. Mostly because they all want to borrow a billion or two with which to start their own Internet social media site so that they can eventually make some real money. Mark probably won’t miss me, although I could use an extra couple of million just to pad out the old IRA. Think that he would take my call before my 14 days are up? After all, we are friends.
Postscript: In my June post I discussed a Cleanse Diet that I was on for the better part of a month. That adventure is now complete and I want to give a brief report on the results. Immediately following the 21-day diet, my skin was supple and smooth, my hair thicker and darker, the bags beneath my eyes had shrunk to merely carry-on satchel size, my energy level had surged to alarming levels, my cognitive abilities allowed me to complete expert Sudokus puzzles in a matter of minutes and my libido, well, you can only imagine. The evening of the last cleanse day was a Friday and we decided to celebrate with a bacchanalia at our favorite Italian trattoria. A look in the mirror Saturday morning was a grim reminder of how quickly one can become re-toxed. On the plus side, I rarely fixate on mucus anymore and we are financing quite a remarkable blender.
Observoid of the Day: Friends come and go; enemies accumulate.