Mark this down: On February 8, 2012, a day like any other day here in Philadelphia, the most dysfunctional city in America, I, Matthew Charles Scheck, being of sound mind and body, quit Facebook. Basically I de-friended all 270 of my Facebook friends as well, people from every era of my life dating back to my oldest and dearest friends from kindergarten, plus all my junior and senior high school classmates, Army buddies, and of course quite a few of my current friends. Oh, and of course, since I come from a huge clan, I also de-friended a large contingent of my family.
I’ve been a computer geek since 1988 when I bought my first IBM clone microcomputer, and I have always been the first person I know to embrace the technology, software, global interconnectability of the Internet, and the subsequent Internet lifestyle (blogging, dating, social networking, etc.) that the computer age has afforded all of us. I have earned a handsome living these last twenty years bringing computers and computer automation to the commercial world. In the early 90s I brought the computer age to a Midwestern manufacturing company, automating its plants and centralizing much of its daily operation with a wide area network that was years ahead of its time. I was on the ground floor of the dotcom revolution 13 years ago as one of the primary engineers working for Barnes & Noble in its quest to compete online with Amazon. Nowadays, with my Apple MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPad, I am wired 24/7 to the Internet. I am, with all due honesty and humility, one of the early architects of this computer age and certainly one of its biggest fans and users.
I loved Facebook from the moment I joined it. It afford me the ability to reconnect with countless dozens of people with whom I’d lost touch many years ago, and in many cases I made new friends with people from my past I only knew in passing if at all, but who grew up with me and were in the periphery of my life back in the day, but now have become good friends. One has become my dearest friend in my current life. I cherish the fact I have reconnected with so many amazing people from my past, from all the many different places I have lived over these last 48 years; I think in this regard Facebook is one of the greatest tools the Internet has ever provided. Moreover, Facebook has been a good way to keep in touch with my huge extended family, as I have never been particularly good at keeping in touch with people, due to being the selfish and childless, free-wheeling bachelor I’ve been my entire adult life.
So why did I quit? As many of my Facebook friend would attest, I embraced the Facebook culture with as much gusto and enthusiasm as anyone. I’ve posted hundreds of photographs from my entire life. I have chronicled on the Facebook wall a great amount of my work travel life with dispatches from all of my destinations. My most unique niche has been to post music from the past and write little mini reviews not only about the music, but also with commentary about where I was when I first heard it and how it affected my life. I am sure some of my Facebook friends enjoyed my music commentary, while others may have found it tediously verbose and perhaps a little pompous, but for me it was an exhilarating way to express the joie de vivre, enthusiasm, and unbridled intellectual diligence I’ve had all these years of my life for culture, living, and self-expression. Moreover I loved the daily interaction with so many disparate people from so many different eras of my life. Chatting and interacting on Facebook isn’t quite as personal and substantive as sitting at a cafe with friends and engaging in conversation, but, then again, I love the fact I can connect with people I adore who live too far away for any kind of personal interaction and yet I crave their company any way I can get it.
Once again, why did I quit something I appeared to love so much and enthusiastically?
The answer is simple—and yet complex. I adore many of the people who are my Facebook friends. I cherish that I reconnected with so many dear friends and acquaintances from my past. The problem, however, was that I was spending far too much time tending to my online friendships and very little to my real-time ones. Plus I was ignoring far too many of my intellectual pursuits to spend time online farting around on Facebook. It had become an obsessive, and unhealthily so, habit.
So that’s it. What I regained by quitting was my anonymity and my time. And, a month into my Facebook defection, the results have been quite positive: I’ve read more books and magazines, run four miles every day, and spent more time with my real-time friends. Do I miss Facebook? Curiously, no. I do miss my friends. They can find me through this blog if they want. I will be writing on here with greater frequency.
So I might not be back for a while.