Goodbye, Facebook

I first signed up for Facebook in 2008 shortly after returning home from my 20-year high school reunion. At the time, I was emotionally transitioning out of my job in the U.S. Senate. Facebook represented a fun and easy way to remain in touch both with old friends from high school I didn’t call or email regularly and colleagues whose daily presence I wanted to keep in my life.

Then my family got on Facebook. After a brief period of not putting my kids’ cute faces on the internet, I embraced the convenience of posting their photos and the funny things they say so my siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins can keep up with their lives. All without my having to write a single letter or schedule a time to talk on the phone.

Like most users, my roster of “friends” ebbs and flows. Occasionally, I unfriend (thanks, Mark Zuckerberg, for adding this vocabulary word to the English lexicon) people who I don’t think would recognize me if we collided with hot coffee. But then I meet a new person, enjoy our brief conversation and five hours later, Facebook deems us official friends. The world feels brighter. Smaller. More accessible.

Facebook has been great for distributing my writing. (Shameless plug: you can sign up to get blog posts delivered to your inbox.) Facebook connected me to Latvian cousins living in Canada. Facebook makes it possible to ‘chat’ with friends abroad. But Facebook is no longer just a quick sharing of our current condition. I miss the days of status updates in the third person. Remember? Chelsea Henderson is listening to Hamilton. The Facebook of today is perfectly filtered and cropped photos of kids, meals, pets, projects, outfits, and sunsets. Facebook knows when we’re celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, changing jobs, drinking wine, entering or leaving relationships, having babies. Facebook is who we tell when we’re on vacation. With our humble brags, we invite a constant invasion of our privacy.

Facebook gave me a false sense of closeness while enabling me to drift farther apart from my core.

And over the last month, we’ve used the site to engage in new level of political debate, which is healthy. I don’t think it’s good to shroud yourself around only those who think exactly like you. So I sucked it up when people I don’t know wrote hate-filled comments on my public posts. (By the way, I’m what’s wrong with America.) I resisted the urge to write my own frothy responses because hate begets hate. But then news of the pervasiveness of fake news shared and re-shared on the site sent me over the edge.

I need a break.

Goodbye, Facebook. I’m taking a hiatus from now until the end of the year, at which time I will reassess. In the meantime, I vow to call friends and family more. I might write a letter. I look forward to filling up time usually sucked away by Facebook with reading, sleeping, writing, and preparing wonderful foods that I’m sorry you won’t see pictures of unless you come over to share a bite.

I look forward to this journey and encourage you: post less, connect more.

 

 

on quitting online dating

“You should get on Tinder,” a well-intentioned friend instructed me over lunch. I made a face at him.

“No,” he continued. “It’s not a hookup site for singles in their 40s. That’s just how the younger kids use it.”

I was dubious, but he added stories about two friends who’d found significant others through the app. Why not try it?

You’ve seen the pictorial evidence of the manliness awaiting me. Men with bloodied faces cuddling dogs smaller than my cats. Men in costume, men in the nude, car selfies, gym shots. And the written part of the test wasn’t much better. “Looking for my partner in crime” was maybe the most-used cliche.  Married dudes were rampant. Open marriages more common than I knew.

When I “connected” six weeks ago with a tall, built man of European descent who liked to travel, surf and do triathlons, I was mildly interested. Our initial conversation focused around our favorite beaches: Costa Rica for him, Hawaii for me. We talked about wines, old world versus new.

“Perhaps I can take you out for a drink,” he suggested over Tinder text. I canceled the initial plans because my work load was too heavy. He was persistent and followed up. We had our first date on Wednesday last week.

I’ve been more excited about doctor’s appointments, honestly. Our date was capping off a busy day. I put two seconds of thought into my outfit. But when he walked in the door of the restaurant, we had immediate chemistry. We didn’t stop talking all night. It was refreshing. He asked to see me again, so we went out Friday. Saw each other the next night. Had dinner again on Wednesday, one week after the first date. I will admit there was a sleepover.

Then Friday morning I received this text message: Chelsea, you are smart and sexy but not who I’m looking for right now.

Hmm. Something didn’t feel right. My thoughts drifted back to the night before when my best friend had asked to see a picture of him. I was loathe to log on to Tinder, so we did a google search. He had zero online footprint. I was too deep in afterglow to be concerned at the time, but with greater thought after his dismissive text, I clearly recalled a conversation he initiated about how annoying it is when strangers “link in” with you. I mentioned I rarely use Facebook, but he said it’s good for communicating with friends abroad. Yet, the name he’d given me had no LinkedIn profile, no Facebook page. No “our team” presence for the software company he said he worked for. I wish my spidey senses had kicked in when I noticed a piece of mail on his counter addressed to a name that wasn’t his. I even glanced at it a few times, but hey, I accidentally get mail for my neighbors sometimes. Now I wonder if the sparsely furnished and undecorated apartment he brought me too is even his. The name he shared obviously is not.

I dodged a bullet. I thought I was protecting myself by texting my friends his full name and address, but he still could have been a serial killer or a rapist. Luckily, he was just a jerk, out for one thing. I deleted my Tinder profile.

I had thought nothing was harder than being set up on a date by a mutual friend with a vested interest in the outcome, but I’m reconsidering that position. From this day forward, I’m only dating men who come with a personal reference.

friends

Facebook has forever altered the true meaning of the word “friend.” After all, I’m friends with people I haven’t seen in more than 20 years. I’m friends with people I barely know. Well, not anymore since I combed through my so-called friend list yesterday and weeded out 100 people whom I’m pretty sure I’d pass on the street without recognizing. These are people I haven’t had a real conversation with in years, if ever, and people whose posts I frankly never read.

I admit at times I could be a Facebook friend glutton, which is why I had friends from high school who never spoke ten words to me when we were actually there together, but lately I’ve been feeling a little dirty about the size of my Facebook universe. While the pages of the chelsea chronicles are open for all to read, and I certainly am not shy about bearing my soul here, you choose to read my musings. While I personally might find my own Facebook posts entertaining, it’s presumptuous for me to think that just because we once shared an English teacher, a zip code or drinks at a bar that you want my daily thoughts popping up in your stream. Or that I want to read yours.

Facebook serves a purpose for sure, one that I appreciate. After all, it helped me reconnect with my long lost cousin, Larisa. I have grown closer through the wires with people like Angie in Chicago. It’s also a great tool for cyber-stalking. And it’s nice to have a mechanism for keeping in touch with those friends and family members whom time or distance make routine communication challenging. But do I follow my best friends’ posts religiously on Facebook? Not really. I know what’s happening in their lives without social media.

I also have in my life people dear to me whose profiles you won’t see on my page. Our meaningful connections transcend the interwebs.

Recently, I’ve considered closing my Facebook account altogether. Until yesterday, I had close to 640 friends. I am chagrined that I still have have in the 530s, but I feel better about the depth of the connection I have to the remaining friends on my list.

stop pinning and start writing

I never thought it would happen, but in the last 48 hours I have turned into a Pinterest monster. Finally.

Admittedly, I have come late to every social media craze. I resisted Facebook initially, but then I realized I could write really amusing updates. A blog? I barely ever read any before I started my own last year. I figured out Polyvore so that my blog readers would have something visual to connect to some of my posts, but I was going to draw the line at Twitter. Then one bored day, I bit the bullet. The Twittersphere is still somewhat of a mystery to me, but the friends I have made from this universe compel me to stick with it (plus it has great cyber-stalking capabilities).

I don’t remember when I was first invited to join Pinterest, but I do remember it was my friend Janna who said “you will love this.” However, like all interweb-related crazes, I took one look and was scared. Too complicated. Too time consuming. And what’s the point?

Then on Thursday night, as I was making my internet window shopping rounds searching for a dress for Kaitlan’s wedding, I started thinking, wouldn’t it be great to have a clearinghouse where I could keep track of all the looks and clothes and shoes I desire. Three hours later, I had finally given the scores of Pinterest followers I already had amassed something to actually look at. Friends were re-pinning my pins, liking my pins, commenting on my pins… all fuel for my Pinter-ego.

Friday morning, instead of making pancakes for my kids or heading straight out the door for the strep culture that would register positive when I finally went to the minute clinic later in the day, I pinned more. I organized my pins. I put thought into what categories I would like to pin. Pinterest is going to be the home of a humongous Chelsea wish list with economy-improving capabilities. After all, it’s fantasy. I don’t know how often I will pin recipes, inspirational quotes or arts and crafts, but if you want to know what dresses I covet or what lipstick I like to wear, look no further.

After 24 hours of being a Pinterest-aholic, I lamented to a real blogger, DC Celine (one of the dear friends I thank Twitter for) that Pinterest was going to be the death of my neglected blog. She had the brilliant idea of writing about Pinterest to break the writer’s block that has plagued me. She encouraged me to read her post on pinning and crib her idea.

I am proud to say that my writing took a different direction, but I’m happy for her inspiration. If I could pin her as a friend, I would.

But then that would be Facebook.