by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper, 9/2018

Social media, particularly Facebook, has been in the news these past months for various reasons. It’s very easy to get boggled by the sheer number of ways people communicate these days – Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, Tumblr, Facebook, the list goes on and on.

I thought I would share my recent experience with Facebook.

A few weeks ago, I stayed up into the wee hours and deleted the great majority of my content on Facebook going back many years. As I reviewed the history of everything I posted…

It just seemed so MEANINGLESS.

This past year, I realized I am using the word “Facebook” a LOT more in conversation. I mean, constantly. I’d become a little obsessed with it, often using free time to check in to see what any of my 200+ Facebook friends were up to. And I realized that just wasn’t good.

The other reason for the mass deletion of my Facebook history was that I became extremely annoyed and frustrated. A few people I know, some I am close to, were a little too obsessed with MY Facebook content.

Some began to critique and criticize things I commented on – and it started to feel very invasive. FULL CONFESSION, years ago I WAS known to post things like “Please pray for my Aunt Betty who is ill,” without asking Aunt Betty if that was OK – I do NOT do that anymore. I haven’t tagged anyone in years. I ASK people before I post a picture. And my comments are my own.

But certain folks just could not stop the critique and analysis. It became a regular thing when I bumped into certain people that what *I* posted on Facebook (or commented on) was a discussion topic.

I asked them more than once to get a life.

This went on for a while, and it was the same folks and the same critiques.

To give one example, a relative in another state repeatedly posted they were having a certain health issue. Repeatedly. I like this person. To me, it seemed a cry for help. I, and many of that person’s friends, commented that the person should seek some medical help. My post was kind, encouraging, and gentle.

I was taken to town for THAT comment. And I asked, why are you auditing my comments? Why do you even care? Don’t you have anything better to do?

My Facebook experience is for the most part posting images of my own New England photography, my irreverent take on silly topics, expressing how much I enjoyed something, celebrating Foxboro, cheering on the Patriots… I try not to get too controversial. If something is going on in the news that interests me, I post my thoughts on it. When I comment, I try to be encouraging, be kind, and for my friends with the same warped sense of humor I have, comment something equally absurd. As an example, whenever anyone asks what’s going on with the helicopters in town, I always say they are chasing UFOs. Because that’s me. And I like ME.

So, feeling a lot defeated and concluding that Facebook really doesn’t matter that much to my life, I audited my Facebook history for the last couple of years. And what I found was actually nice — shout outs to friends and families thanking them for various things, many posts about my bizarre outlook on life, such as a post about how daylight savings time would interfere with the Earth’s rotation and associated silliness. A lot of images are just pictures I’ve taken of the beauty of New England. I posted questions, asked for help with a few mechanical things, celebrated that I had a good time someplace, or just posted something nice. I congratulated Foxboro and its organizations a lot. I posted thoughts…

I didn’t see anything wrong. Nothing offensive. Absolutely nothing I wouldn’t want people to see or share, and nothing that I felt could hurt or embarrass me, let alone anyone else.

But my frustration and to be honest – anger — got the best of me, it was 3AM, and Facebook isn’t the mountain I want to die on, so I said the hell with it and took a metaphorical weed-whacker to my Facebook history. There is VERY little left. And I don’t regret it. Not one bit.

Because I said, ENOUGH.

I’m not done with Facebook; but my pouring a gallon of bleach into my account felt good, and these days I am more selective about what I post and when.

I love the Facebook environment. I love the pictures of the families on vacation. I told a friend of mine that I live vicariously through her vacations with her family to places I’ll probably never visit, like Stonehenge, or Norway, or a rocket silo in Arizona. I love these posts.

You went to a concert? Tell us about it! Did you get engaged? Married? Have a baby? Bought a house so the house? Did your child do something wonderful? I love those. What’s going on with you? Share.

I love reading that friends are enjoying each other’s company, that they are sitting down to a good meal together, around a campfire, I even enjoy the posts where people say they got their house cleaned, had a great day at work, and especially appreciate what people to reach out and say that they need prayers and good thoughts.

I love it when my relatives in Maryland check in; they’re all great people but I haven’t seen them in years; it’s awesome to see their new lives and their families.

Another friend is raising her four children with her husband – the posts are heartwarming and show so much love (and the craziness of child-raising).

And I don’t mind people who VENT or complain a lot, because I know many of them are just going through something rough, and it helps a lot to share.

So many people on Facebook are hurting – the overwhelmed new mother, the over-worked, underpaid single parent, the person still missing a loved one, a parent or friend letting us know a child who died of an overdose. I read people’s posts of their battles with their demons, with their own lives, and I try to post encouraging things, make them laugh or smile, and pray for them.

I have also seen fantastic discussion across various groups, and Facebook has allowed me to connect with like-minded people who enjoy my distractions — Superman, Star Trek, and some of my favorite TV shows when I was kid. It’s wonderful to talk to these people, share our love and shows, and sometimes even interact with some of the celebrities.

Facebook allows me to stay connected. During the last two power outages, I got all my town news and updates through Facebook.

Whew.

All that being said, it was somewhat cathartic to purge the majority of my Facebook history and start over. There seems to be a need in our culture to maintain such a strong social media presence across as many platforms as possible. And while that is very valuable for an organization, a company, a group of any kind, it really isn’t necessary for an individual to be active on 10 different platforms unless you are a celebrity or political figure.

(Although to be honest, there is a specific political figure in Washington DC who I would really wish would delete his Twitter account, but I digress).

I still like Facebook a lot, and will continue to use it for all the good reasons I cited above. But I tend to keep a lot of comments to myself these days. And I have made it clear that the critiques and audits of MY social media content will no longer be accepted so graciously.

I found I got lost in the minutia, the need to check constantly, the need to post something every day. Speaking only for myself, I just don’t see the point. Your experience might be different – that’s cool with me.

I’ll see you online. But not all the time!

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