Monday, December 21, 2009

I Don't Have a Facebook Account

Usually, I like being at the front of a tech curve. I like technically oriented magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc. I designed my own website, and do all kinds of things with digital media. Despite all of this, I never opened a Facebook account (nor do I Tweet). I've been thinking about why not for a while, and I can now boil it down to a few reasons:

1. Time Wasting: The NY Times posted this article about kids swearing themselves off of Facebook and watching their grades (and real friendships) improve. I already blow a staggering amount of time on the Interwebs. (see above). I console myself by telling myself that at least some of it carries a redeeming Torah value. At least I hope so. I also spend too much time reading news, checking the weather - you name it. I'm pretty confident that this is not a phenomenon unique to me. But Facebook takes time-wasting to a whole new level. Now it's not just famous people that I'd have to keep up with, but everyone: my friends, their friends, and their friends. And their pictures. And fun videos that they've flagged. And articles they'There's an almost infinite amount of Facebook worthy material for me to peruse, and I don't have time for it.

Then there's Farmville, Mafia Wars and other social network games - which I am intentionally not linking to. These are incredibly addictive, viral, mind-blowingly-time-wasting game that suck people in and then get them to pay real money for online stuff. I actually think that these types of game border on evil. If you want to waste your own time, that's one thing. But creating a game that asks people to waste time along with you to suck them in - that's an ethically questionable practice. End Farmville rant.

2. Silliness, Minutia and Friends: The funny thing about "friends" on Facebook is that they're not really friends. They're more like acquaintances; people that you know casually and keep track of. I don't care what my friend had for lunch or whether his kid has a cold (sure, it's a pain to them, but do I really need to know?), but I would love a forum where I could talk with real friends about real things. Facebook isn't built for that. It's more about quick hits and short status updates - Twitter on steriods, 140 characters at a time. I probably could build a closed Facebook group for my close friends to discuss real things, but then I'd have to deal with issue #1 (see above).

3. Modesty: There's something inherently immodest about the whole idea of Facebook. I don't mean immodesty in the skirt-length way, but rather in a lifestyle kind of way. Facebook is about broadcasting my status - what I'm doing, thinking, eating, which video games I'm playing - for the world to know. It makes everyone a mini-celebrity. We promote ourselves, because my gripes about my kids' homework, or what we had for dinner must obviously be important news. But this very notion of celebrity runs against the principle of modesty. Modesty teaches us to live a proper life without broadcasting details to the world - the very opposite of the Facebook ideal.

We live in a world fascinated with celebrity. Everyone wants to be famous - either for gatecrashing the White House or planting sweet potatoes in their virtual garden. Judaism wants us to do the opposite: to lead real, meaningful lives in which we engage with and study Torah with our real friends, children, and families. And, when we do these real things, we don't tell anyone about them.
God knows. And that's more than enough.