One day I was pedaling home from the NPR and I saw Scrum, a buddy. “Hey, man, I tried to message you on Facebag but couldn’t find you anymore.”
“Yeah,” Scrum said. “I deleted my account.”
“Every time I got on there it depressed the shit out of me. Everyone has a perfect life except me, it seems.”
“Oh, that’s just PR bullshit. People only put up what they want you to see. You know, happy stuff. They still get cancer and get fired and take Prozac like everyone else.”
“At least they can fake it. Anyway, I’m a lot happier now. Back to my old self. Best thing I ever did.”
Facebag, of course, has its problems, one of which is its moniker, “social media.” When I was a kid there was one phone in the house, we got our news from newspapers, and the only way you could socialize was by being around other humans. Talking to the cat never qualified as social. Instead, it often meant having to talk to Mrs. Wint, our nosy neighbor, who would run over to the house every time someone got divorced, pregnant, busted for smoking weed, kicked out of school, or caught screwing a non-spouse.
Social, in other words, meant having to suffer through her bad breath, stupid ideas, repetitive stories, receding gums, and un-bra’ed, floppy breasts in order to get to the good stuff. It was like shelling pecans. You had to peel away the bad part with quite a bit of effort to get to the meat.
Social is the one thing that Facebag is not because you don’t have to endure the physical irritants of your “friends” that you would have to put up with if you really were face-to-face, instead of screen-to-screen. When they bore you, or share their racist rants, you simply hide their feed. Most unsocial of all, you and only you get to pick the moment of interaction. In the old days you pretty much had to deal with Mrs. Wint whenever you ran into her, which was all the time. If you were social, you stopped to talk. If not, you waved and kept going. Quickly.
How many people do you know on Facebag who, when you run into them, are completely different from their profile? The friendly Facebagger who’s an obnoxious ass. The tough-talking badass who’s a pussycat. In the old days, Mrs. Wint was always Mrs. Wint.
Like quitting big-hopped beer, I’ve never been able to stay away from Facebag. The two times I deleted my account, I returned within months. With the help of Scrum’s sage advice, though, I’ve been able to make some very positive changes. I log in when I get up and spend no more than five minutes on it. I don’t endlessly scroll through my feed. I never click “like,” and rarely comment on anything. I post occasional things about gun violence to satisfy my twin needs of tweaking my gun-nut friends and doing a bit of Internet advocacy. At the end of each month I go back and delete most of the stuff from the previous month. I subscribe to a Sunday newspaper and read books instead of cat postings and self-congratulatory photos of third place at the Olde Bumfucke Crit and Shamefest.
But most of all, I’ve tried to get out of my shell and socialize on Facebike. Facebike is that two-wheeled thing that leans up against the wall in my bedroom. It lets me get next to friends, or behind their sweaty butts, and chat with them. Yesterday Derek and Aaron and I rode out to Latigo, and a good portion of it involved an old-fashioned political argument.
Remember those? When people exchanged heated opinions in person and then somehow had to come off the passion of the moment and the differing ideas and still be friends afterwards? When you couldn’t just end an argument the Facebag way — comparing someone to Hitler and deleting all their comments? Besides, after a hundred hard miles, who wants to argue anyway? And how can you argue when you’re begging for their last gel?
Facebag is still one of the world’s greatest bulletin boards, and that’s how I use it now. But when’s the last time you called someone “social” who spends hours a day staring at a bulletin board?
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