Disconnected

It’s been a month since I deleted my Facebook account. I don’t miss it. I’m still active on Twitter, still lurk on Reddit, still talk to people on Signal and on Slack. It would take a significant effort to go fully dark, and it’s not a change I’m willing to make.

When I heard that this morning was the first day of F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference, I paid attention. I wanted to hear that Facebook was committed to providing a service that took its users’ privacy seriously. That didn’t happen. Apart from the announcement of a function that will allow users to clear their stored app and website history from Facebook, nothing suggested a commitment to user privacy and data security. Oh, but Facebook is going to add a dating service to compete with Tinder. I am skeptical that it will go well.

The most jarring thing about leaving Facebook has been the absence of people. It doesn’t take long to realize just how much of one’s social circle relies on one service, and how it enables passive awareness of what’s going on with your friends. (I’m sorry, but I really only know a few birthdays.) I spoke with a friend recently, who suggested that a mutual acquaintance was going through some rough times and was struggling. I was surprised by this; I had no idea anything was wrong. Of course I didn’t know, I thought.

Maintaining relationships takes effort. Facebook can reduce a lot of that effort and, in its absence, I have to do a better job of reaching out to people. It’s a lot easier to mash that “Like” button than it is to really listen to someone talk about something that brought them joy, or a struggle they’ve recently conquered. It’s not something I could do consistently, day-in and day-out, for everyone. Still, I think it’s worth trying. Relationships are important. Connection is important. We are important.

 

Superheroes & Philosophy

I was bulled in high school. This is only relevant because of what it taught me later in life. The kids who bullied me were assholes at the time, and I hope that they’ve grown into happier, kinder people since. (Though I wouldn’t be sad if they stubbed their collective toes every time somebody reads this post.)

As a victim of bullying, I became defensive about the things I liked. Anything I exposed about myself became something someone could use to hurt me. It meant that I hid my enthusiasm and assumed that I’d be judged harshly for it. I developed a layer of pretentiousness as a defense mechanism, and I carried it into college, where I decided I would become a philosopher.

Then I met John.

John and I took Applied Philosophy together, though we were not friends at the time. During one class, our professor asked us whether we would rather live in a world where everyone meant to do us well, but with negative outcomes, or in a world where everyone meant to do us harm, but with positive outcomes. I don’t remember my answer, but I remember John’s quite well. He replied that he’d happily live in the latter of the two worlds and added, “I could live in Castle Greyskull.”

I probably sneered at him as I retorted: “John, there are no superheroes in philosophy.” (What a jerk, right?)

At the time, I didn’t take John seriously. While it was obvious that he was very intelligent, I didn’t understand him at all. He seemed entirely comfortable being exactly himself. He loved professional wrestling, and Anime, and had a big laugh. John radiated happiness, and self-acceptance. John carried himself in such a way as to be completely devoid of shame, and twenty-something philosophy major me just couldn’t get it.

During lunches and dinners, as I passed by the table where John sat with his friends, he would heckle me. “What about Wolverine, Nick? Is there a Wolverine in philosophy? What about Godzilla?” (Damn right there’s a Godzilla in philosophy.) It didn’t take long for me to relent my pretentious position, and John and I became fast friends.

I like telling this story about John because, for all the reasons that I love him, one of the biggest is how fully and completely John accepts himself and loves himself. He embraces joy openly, loves people for who they are, and is as generous and as friendly a human being as you could ever hope to meet. People talk about the difference between biological family and chosen family, and I definitely claim John as my brother. I love him about as much as I love anyone. He has inspired me to become a better version of myself. It’s a hell of a gift.