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Why I Don’t Facebook

If we haven't been in touch since the first Bush administration, let's keep it that way.

Here are a couple of recurring questions I’ve been facing for the past few years that don’t seem to be going away anytime soon: “Are you on Facebook? Why aren’t you on Facebook?”

This is one answer: I’m afraid of what I might write in the “What’s on your mind?” box on a bad day. A day that might go a little something like this:  

3:15 p.m. My son comes home from school selling coupon books, recycled gift wrap and a copy of his holiday concert DVD –which is apparently just as essential as a Grateful Dead bootleg circa 1977.

4:15 p.m. The neighborhood Girl Scout cartel descends on our doorstep (seriously, we must have at least 30 on our block who arrive in rapid succession with hopeful smiles and blank order forms) tempting me with their color-coded cookie charts that make me realize I need bifocals and a home equity loan to negotiate this.

4:45 p.m. The mechanic calls to say that rather than stop at just the requested oil change, he’s gone ahead and replaced the air filter, cabin filter, wiper blades, two tires and my Vanilla-roma freshener tree, rendering the bill equal to the car’s current Blue Book value.

4:49 p.m. I detail all this in that innocent-seeming little rectangular box and send an expletive-filled tirade into cyberspace aimed at a PTO president, the little girls in green and the coveralled man I can no longer trust with my beloved mini-van—a status update that will preclude me from ever working, teaching Sunday school or seeing my nephew again.

That’s just one reason. Also, no one needs to know that I have a deep, abiding love for the ABC series ‘Nashville,’ or that one of my life goals is to die without ever eating at a Taco Bell. (Nothing against the place, but I’ve made it 42 years, I feel like I can safely accomplish it. This is in my wheelhouse.)

Or, one day when I don’t feel like writing or folding laundry and I’ve eaten my way through the 40 boxes of Thin Mints and Tagalongs I bought to avoid breaking the Scouts’ entrepreneurial spirits, (and let’s face it, because I couldn’t see how much they cost) I will take to the Internet and let the world know my top five favorite dog names should I ever get one.

Don’t get me wrong; I can see what the fuss is about. Who doesn’t want to slip down that rabbit hole to see what their high school sweetheart looks like now while simultaneously learning that their kindergarten teacher has discovered the antidote for removing pizza grease from Irish linen? 

Of course, the ‘Nashville’-viewing side of me is dying to know more about my ex-boyfriend’s indictment but the yoga-practicing side says, “Let it go. Namaste.” 

And, yes, I want the name of your reliable plumber, but not if I have to wade through countless animal videos and inspirational quotes to find it. 

Speaking of animals, with so many different friends and acquaintances, aren’t you always at risk of offending someone?

For example, I could easily see myself taking a photo of a freshly-grilled steak, stunning enough to make even the most aloof Peter Luger’s waiter swoon, with a caption “Best. Steak. Ever." But isn’t that like shouting, “In your face, cat rescuers!” to my animal-loving, vegetarian friends?

Here’s another reason I don’t Facebook. (Yes, I think it’s a verb now, like its distant cousin Google.) I don’t want to be tagged in a photo I never knew was taken in which I resemble an aging Tom Petty.

And what about the whole concept of “Facebook Friends” where people you wouldn’t have coffee with now know your whole family is mourning the death of a hamster, which may or may not be responsible for your child’s recent bedwetting setback? As my real-life friend says, “If I see you coming at the mall and I jump behind a plus-sized mannequin to avoid you, we probably shouldn’t be ‘Facebook Friends.’”

I recently attended my 20-year college reunion and I was genuinely thrilled to see some old friends—probably because I literally hadn’t seen some in 20 years. I hadn’t seen photos of them preparing for yard sales; I hadn’t seen them posed with obscenely-large melons or inflatable, light-up reindeer at their local Costco. And I didn’t secretly hate them because I had no idea they’d spent Hurricane Sandy in St. Martin while I worked in my car and tried to think of ways to siphon gasoline out of my neighbor’s SUV.

Last week, amid the heat wave, I went to the grocery store, which was swarming with senior citizens—many of whom were engaged in the age-old debate: tuna in oil vs. tuna in water. I will admit, I did feel compelled to discretely pull out my iPhone and take a photo while they clogged the aisles, inspecting cans for dents as if they had all the time in the world.

“Don’t the elderly have any respect for a #@$! heat-advisory? Stay home, old people!” is how I’d have captioned that photo. 

But that’s not nice and my 70-year-old Facebooking godfather—probably en route to a D’Agastino’s in search of more Earl Grey tea bags—doesn’t need to read that.  And we’d be “friends” of course because that’s another thing—you’ve got to keep those numbers up, right? And I’d be “friends” with his friends and he’d be “friends” with my friends and so on and so on.

It can be isolating not being on Facebook. Many’s the time a friend has said, “Did you see so-and-so’s new baby? Oh, no, ‘cause you’re not on Facebook.” They then look at me with smug disdain as if I were still using a rotary phone or cutting my own hair. But this, and not knowing that your sister-in-law’s co-worker just won $8 on a scratch-off she bought on her lunch hour, are all part of the price I pay.

Technically, I am on Facebook because I had to be for my job and I do have some friends. And to the 17 brave souls who soldier through our unrequited “friend”ship, thank you, but don’t expect much and, more importantly, you’re better off without me.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jim LaRegina July 24, 2013 at 10:09 AM
Well, Ms. Alterman, that makes two of us. Like you, I don't want to rain on those in the Facebook Parade but last November I did my Facebook Massacre, un-friending everyone but my wife and daughter. These days I read the web site for certain announcements, but that's it. Not the stay-in-touch type, I was only Facebook friends with those who sent the friend request to me, hence having fewer than 40 Facebook friends at the height of my activity on the web site. Some were people with whom I graduated high school (class of 1978) and, frankly, freshman through senior year l I had little or no interaction with a number of them and had contact with none since graduation day, which made me realize I was too quick to accept some of these friend requests. Few of my Facebook friends had ever replied to anything I posted even though I often commented on the fabulous days they were having. Finally, I let the un-friending begin!

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