With the sounds of a delicate piano piece playing in the background, I sit here in the orange glow of my dimly-lit room, drinking tea, unfollowing everyone that I know on Facebook.
James ▒▒▒▒▒? Yeah, I actually don’t really care about what he’s up to.
Elaine ▒▒▒▒▒? Honestly, never heard of her.
Charlie ▒▒▒▒▒, a guy I haven’t talked to in three years just posted to a group I’m not a part of about a birthday party I’m not invited to and couldn’t attend even if I was?
The first few unfollows are a bit uneven. Drill down to a contextual menu, click “Unfollow.” You’re asked to confirm. A flicker of doubt injects pause–maybe it would be nice to keep tabs on this guy?
I reach a steady cadence. My mouse seamlessly glides to the targets. I’m now comfortable enough with the procedure that I’ve also worked my left hand into the choreography. It taps the “Enter” button before my browser even finishes painting the confirmation modal.
Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow, unfollow.
But Facebook does not intend to make this easy. It begins mounting a resistance, clawing desperately back at me.
“Are you sure you want to unfollow Edward?”
“Ok, but look at these pictures of Katie with her dog! Aren’t they coo? Awww, look at that puppy!”
“Well look at Stephanie! She’s going to Disneyland! You should wish her well, like these 39 other real friends of hers! C'mon!”
“Fine. What about your ex? Are you telling me you don’t want to keep tabs on your ex?”
“You fool. Look here. Lookie here, we’ve got Eric. Your best friend. Go ahead. Unfollow him. I dare you.”
I pause. I mean if I keep a dozen people in my newsfeed, that would be pretty manageable, right?
“Totally. Keep a few dozen people in the feed, the people that really matter to you. You need to stay in the loop. Just the couple hundred that really matter.”
No. I’m going all or nothing.
What began as a tactical exercise to fundamentally change the way I used the most ubiquitous tool amongst my generation shifted unexpectedly into what I could really only describe as a meditative experience. An individual from my past briefly enters my consciousness as my crosshairs roll down to their latest post. Click, click, tap and they’re gone. An instance of calm as another instrument is silenced amidst the cacophony of noise.
With its command of my social domain, Facebook would probably like to drag me out into a public square and denounce me as a terrible friend and a social recluse. In fact, I would be surprised if they haven’t already spent ample resources researching subtle ways to pressure or humiliate their users. Involvement is paramount to their business. Anything they can do to keep me involved–through enforcements both positive and negative–must be explored, and the engine at their disposal is my social network.
Tonight, I feel victorious. But this is probably not the end of the battle.