Six Weeks Without Facebook… sort of

I made my last post on Facebook about six weeks ago. However, I did not follow through with my plan to completely delete my account. I still “lurk” on Facebook, reading other’s posts, and very occasionally commenting on other’s posts.

As I prepared to delete my account, I realized a couple of important things:

There is information that I get only via Facebook
Many people have moved to use Facebook for event planning, or to announce life events. I don’t want to make myself a burden to close friends who then have to contact me separately (should it occur to them) to let me know of such things.
There are conversations I want to be a part of (and there are conversations I don’t want to be a part of)
People seek advice, ask for resources, and generally engage their community via Facebook. These are the conversations I want to be a part of.
I was grateful for the timing of my “departure” from Facebook. The recent conflict in Israel/Gaza tied me in emotional knots, and I was glad to not feel any obligation to post about it, or respond to others via Facebook. Were I still actively posting, I would have felt that obligation, and I undoubtedly would have gotten into “discussions” that would have stressed me out. These are the conversations that are best had in person, where both parties can easily remember the humanity and emotions of the person with whom they are conversing.
Facebook is, for better or for worse, a networking tool, and is necessary as I am searching for work.
I am looking for a new job, and every job I have found up to this point in my life, I have found because of a friend or family member. It is foolish to shut down the most comprehensive tool I have for letting my personal network know that I am looking for work. As I look for a full time job, I am also hoping to pick up freelance and contract based work. Facebook is by far the best tool to allow me to do this.
Facebook allows me to maintain in person friendships
There are people I have seen in person who I would never have connected with were it not for Facebook. As long as this continues to be true, Facebook will have real value to me.

So, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and iPad. I carefully consider every comment I make on another’s post. I have begun to go through and delete the posts about my children. I am in the process of moving the pictures, funny comments, and stories into the kids’ baby books, which is a better place for them anyway. I message people directly when I have something I want to say to them, usually on a topic they have posted about.

I realize that this isn’t a complete solution for all of the issues I raised in my previous posts about my concerns with Facebook. But for now, I feel comfortable with this change. I will be posting on a limited basis, mostly for networking purposes.

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Reflecting on a Resolution

Last year I was featured on the PRI/ NPR show Studio360 over the course of the year. I had made a resolution to do more woodworking for my family and my home, and they were following my progress.

While I didn’t complete as many projects as I had hoped at the beginning of the year (pregnancy has a wonderful ability to sap one’s desire to work with power tools in the hot sun), I learned a lot about woodworking, and about myself.

I’ve been picking my tools up some more this summer, working to finish the screened porch, and hoping to build an herb planter by the end of the summer. I had thought initially that I simply wanted to finish the porch, to get it done, and ready to be enjoyed. But I found that when I approached the work with this attitude, this desire to just get it done and over with, I enjoyed it far less. I like the process, I like the craftsmanship. I like the learning.

I am still a perfectionist, and when I realize that I haven’t done something right, I want to tear it apart and fix it. I have been learning when that is really necessary, and when an imperfection can be left to exist in itself.

One of my favorite things that came out of doing the project (and being held accountable) was that I am now so much more comfortable with my tools and my ingenuity. I am excited to identify a problem, and understand that I have the skills and the wherewithal to solve it. As an example, I needed to create supports for my tomatoes. Rather than going out and purchasing tomato cages, I used some scraps from the porch project and built a frame around the tomato planter. This “found” solution may not last many years (but then, I didn’t think my raised beds would last more than one season, and they’re still going strong three years later), but it did the trick for this year, it didn’t cost me anything, and it reinforced my ability to create for myself.

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Gardening with Kids – First Harvest

Behold our first harvest.

Two varieties of heirloom tomatoes, a yellow squash, three cucumbers, and blackberries

Two varieties of heirloom tomatoes, a yellow squash, three cucumbers, and blackberries

We were out of town for nearly three weeks. I was nervous about the garden. Would those I trusted to water show up when necessary? Would all of my tomatoes rot on the vine while I was a thousand miles away? Yes and yes. Thankfully not all of my tomatoes rotted on the vine, only three, and the tomatoes that remained, while slightly overripe, are phenomenal.

One of my favorite things about returning to our garden yesterday was showing JB how to pick the blackberries. Last year, we did berry picking at a couple of local orchards. JB was less than enthusiastic, he’d eat a couple of berries, decide he didn’t like them, and then proceed to run up and down the aisles of fruit plants. I didn’t really expect any more than that from a then eighteen month old, but we went with a number of his friends all of whom maintained a longer attention span for the activity.

This year was different. I don’t know if it is that he’s older, or that the berries are in our backyard, or that he’s been invested in our garden for a couple of months now, but he was much more engaged. I showed him how to pick only the black berries (not the pink or red ones), and he filled a small container. He proceeded to eat a number of them right off the vine, and said he liked them (in the past he has not liked blackberries). I explained that we needed to let the pink and red berries wait on the bush until they turned black, and that we would feed them sun and water to help them grow. He repeated this sequence back to me a number of times.

Yes, he lost interest, but after twenty minutes instead of five. And, since we were in our own back yard, he was able to move on to playing with the hose and the water table while I continued my garden. Honestly, picking fruit at the orchard is a fun activity, and perhaps we’ll go for apples in the fall, but while we have a bountiful blackberry patch in our own yard, I doubt we’ll be returning to pick berries any time soon.

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Deleting Facebook – The Privacy of the Matter

Digital simplification isn’t the only reason I am planning to delete my Facebook account, in fact it’s only about half of the reason. The other half has to do with privacy.

Mark Zuckerberg has stated on multiple occasions that he does not believe in individual privacy. Facebook is also high in the running to become people’s only digital identity.

Yesterday I started thinking about the parts of my life that FB touches that I don’t even consider on a daily basis. If/When I delete FB, my Spotify account will stop working. Various websites that I’ve signed up for and used my FB ID out of convenience will no longer recognize me. All of these raise the barriers to actually deleting my account, and I expect that’s why FB actually retains my account so that I can reactivate it within a certain amount of time. They expect that as I begin to navigate the Internet without the convenience of my single sign on, I will come back, reactivating my account.

And maybe I will.

Or maybe I will remind myself that just because something is a right, does not mean it is convenient. It’s kind of amazing to consider that in the past two decades as a society, we’ve done a complete 180 in terms of our attitudes about privacy. We’ve gone from personal privacy being the norm to it being an inconvenience, even a detriment… Perhaps the fact that I am deleting my FB account will hurt my ability to get a job.

Last week I started using the new Amazon Prime Music service. It’s not as fully populated with tunes as Spotify, and it’s certainly not as easy to use. But Spotify was a little clunky when I first started using it. Spotify is aggressively connected with FB. I actually have no idea what information is being communicated between the two services. Sure, I know what I’ve given Spotify access to based on that little window that popped up three years ago when I first connected the two accounts. But Facebook and Spotify have both changed since then. Obviously Spotify sends FB information about what I am listening to and when. But if Spotify had access to my location information (which I have not granted), would it be sending my location information to FB? Would FB be able to create a digital map of where I am and when? Of my travel/commute/shopping patterns? I don’t know. And that concerns me.

I have tried to find out. I’ve looked at Facebook’s privacy policy for apps, games and websites
I’ve looked at the developer oriented explanation of how FB access tokens work (essentially, the code for making a FB login work)
I’ve google searched “what information does Spotify give to Facebook”, I’ve read Spotify forums.

If someone out there knows the answer, I’d love to hear it.

Obviously this is a microcosm of the larger point I am trying to make. I don’t know what information FB gathers about me beyond the wealth of information I am already willingly sharing. What do they know about me from other sources? What are they doing with that information?

One of the concerns levied against FB most consistently is that they change their policies with little, if any notice or notification. They may or may not be gathering information about me from apps/sites that have use my FB log in. But even if they aren’t doing it today, there’s nothing to say that they aren’t going to start doing it tomorrow. And if they are gathering the information but not doing anything with it at this point… well, what about when they do decide to sell it to an ad firm, a huge company, what about if/when the government comes knocking?

In the meantime, just as I don’t want to make all of my investments in the same place, I will diversify my personal information. Amazon will have some of it, Google will have some of it, FB will have some of it, Apple will have quite a lot of it. But hopefully I will be creating a digital footprint whereby my information is spread across numerous companies, rather than all in one place. Hopefully, if law enforcement comes looking for my information, they’ll have to get more than one warrant.

There is so much at play here, and so much at risk. Because my Facebook is not just about me, it’s about my family. I’ve written before about my desire to allow my kids to formulate their own digital identities , and as long as I am writing about them on FB, I am shaping those identities on their behalves.

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Digital Simplification

Over the weekend I watched the movie “Tiny”, about a thirty something man who decides to build a tiny house to live in.

For all of my adult life, I have been enamored of the idea of living small. Of using less space than I think is necessary. Of having fewer things. I succeeded briefly when I lived in a 200 square foot apartment in DC, and it is one of my very favorite times in my life. I want to get back to that feeling. To me, it’s about simplification, removing the distractions, and focusing on what’s valuable.

I’ve been irritated by myself recently, my phone is always in my hands, I can’t wait to post the next cute thing one of my kids does, I can’t wait to see the likes, the comments. I love the connection, the discussion, the community that develops around the way I share on FB, and the way others share with me. But I don’t like the *person* I am while it is happening.

JB wakes up every morning, and within minutes, the first thing he says is “Can I play my game?” He wants our phones, our iPads, he wants to play with the screen. And that makes me feel ashamed. He is a GREAT kid. He loves his sister, he plays with his toys, he is social, plays with friends, and happily runs around outside. But the first thing he wants in the morning is a screen.

The first thing I do every morning? Swipe to open up Facebook.

This is not who I want to be. This is not the role model I want to create for my children.

Without FB, perhaps I would be playing *with* my children, instead of taking cute pictures of them playing.

At the end of this week I will be deleting my Facebook account.

There are so many reasons to do it. Later this week I’ll get in to the privacy reasons, which are just as important to me.

Deleting FB will be a loss, there’s no doubt about that. I will miss the connections, the relationships that may go un-rekindled. But in a way, I feel like the poem:
Ban’s burnt down —
now
I can see the moon
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