Why I’m Not on Facebook

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Photo Credit: Matt Harnack / Facebook

It’s 9:30 AM here on the East Coast as trading begins on Wall Street, and Facebook will have their Initial Public Offering (IPO) with an announced share price of $38.  The shares sold today are expected to bring in $16 billion, for a total market capitalization of north of $100 billion.  (As mentioned over at USA TODAY, that makes Facebook worth more than Disney, Ford or Kraft Foods.)  With all the hype that typically surrounds such large numbers, all eyes are on Facebook today.

As someone with an interest in technology, the stock market and current events, my eyes are on Facebook today too.  Just not literally.  While I’ll likely visit a number of web sites today, most carrying news on Facebook’s IPO, I won’t actually be going to Facebook.com.  I won’t be checking in with my friends or family there, nor will I be ‘liking’ anything.  For you see, I don’t have an account on Facebook.

Now I haven’t always been a Facebook abstainer.  While I resisted the bandwagon for a while, I did have an account for what probably amounted to the latter half of 2007 and the early months of 2008.  I started building out connections, though not with the same ease that I was connecting with current and former business colleagues over at LinkedIn.  Often I found myself just connecting with my LinkedIn connections a second time on Facebook for no particular purpose.  And of course I connected to my handful of old friends, my sister, and members of my extended family.

And that’s where the trouble began.  Unless you were living under a rock in 2008, you’ll recall that many news cycles were taken up by a rather energetic presidential campaign here in the United States.  Oh, and John McCain ran too.  I was for the guy who won, all the way from his declaring his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois, on February 10, 2007, through Election Night in Chicago’s Grant Park on November 4, 2008.  And I began posting links to positive articles and commentary covering then-Senator Obama on my Facebook Wall.

Now my mother’s side of the family all feel like we hail from Indiana, even though my sister and I technically spent our very earliest years in Vermont and Virginia.  Indiana is generally considered a ‘red state,’ and for good reason.  I suppose that’s a roundabout way of saying that many in my family consider themselves lifelong conservatives.  You probably know where this is going.

As I began linking to pro-Obama news content on my Facebook wall, a member of my extended family suddenly began, well, arguing against it.  I wouldn’t say ‘debating,’ as that implies a discussion on the merits.  This was more a free flow of emotion against a position that she considered unthinkable.  Now it was certainly within her rights to freely express her opinion.  At the same time, this wasn’t the type of public display that I’d prefer my current, former and prospective colleagues think of, should they happen to think of me at all.  So I un-friended my cousin.  And that marked the beginning of the end for me on Facebook.

I was also very much “keeping my options open” in the job market at the time, though I suppose the modern-day reality is that nearly all of us have one toe in the job market at all times.  With the economy the way it is, maybe we’re lucky if we only have a toe in the job market.  In addition to the political dialogue mentioned earlier, some of my other Facebook content and interactions weren’t the kind of thing that I’d readily volunteer to a recruiter.  There was nothing bad, of course, but not everything was vetted for a certain level of expected maturity.  I began to feel like my Facebook presence was at best a non-asset, and at worst a liability.

And finally, there’s this.  A decade earlier than my Facebook experience, our pop culture of the time included the long-running hit series Seinfeld.  A Season 7 episode, The Pool Guy, featured character George Costanza’s consternation at the idea of his girlfriend becoming friends with his friends.  He memorably exclaimed that “Worlds are colliding!” as his separate and distinct identities of Relationship George and Independent George began to merge.  Perhaps I suffer from some of the same social immaturities that George did, but surely I’m not the only one who can relate to wanting to maintain boundaries in certain parts of our lives.  While my short stint on Facebook never created the social discomfort of any sort of worlds colliding, I was always cognizant of that potential down the road.

So I cancelled my Facebook account, and I haven’t looked back.  It’s not like I’m living in a cave.  I maintain this blog and one other at Unit3D.us, where I’m relatively forthcoming with my personality.  I keep my LinkedIn profile reasonably up to date, though it could probably use a refresher.  And my business contact info is freely accessible to anyone on Plaxo.  As I post in any of these contexts, I’m fully aware that this information is accessible to anyone that wants it.  That helps me throttle the message.  (I suppose I just risked a cousin’s ire with my earlier comments today, but I choose to assume that we all mature over time.)  All in all, I’m content with a fairly simple public Internet presence that I control.  And I don’t need Facebook for that.


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