I left Facebook last week. Not in the “deactivation” sense where you can rise from the dead merely by logging back in. I set a match to my account, watched my carefully crafted online presence burn down, and left for good. There were a number of reasons motivating my flight. My decision was based in part on privacy concerns. I also wasted untold numbers of hours obsessively checking my page and reading banal comments on the baby photos of people I went to high school with and will never see again. People who I would have to work hard to care less about.
Atossa Abrahamian’s incisive essay on the permanence of our online presence, most insidiously it’s unerasable nature, left me feeling even better about my decision.
Abrahamian notes that in the exchange of ideas between human beings, the ability to reinvent oneself, to change one’s mind, to disagree with or propose an idea without having to fear being forever linked to that opinion or idea is something that is being lost on the internet.
“But ideas are not by nature static; to think and to discuss is to invariably change one’s mind. When mercurial acts of spontaneous thinking and feeling move online, they become not just a matter of starting a conversation and nursing a spark of thought between people, but a matter of brand-building, networking, even dating. Online, ideas are permanent; they have no room to change or grow. In The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere Habermas argued that individuals need an element of inconsequence in order for ideas to “become emancipated from the bonds of economic dependence.” But at present, ideas are currency, and their exchange a calculated and Machiavellian act.”
Before I pat myself too heartily on the back I’ll acknowledge that I still have this blog. I haven’t erased my online presence by a long shot, nor have I stopped adding to my public papertrail. I at least feel good about this first step.