Last Saturday night, I got off of Facebook. It wasn't Facebook's fault; it was mine, though by the end of this, I may equivocate just enough to implicate Facebook a slight bit.
Here's what has been happening:
I'm not really a Facebook regular. If I'm bored, I'll get on every few days just to see what's there, maybe update my status if I think I have something that's kind of funny. I'll click on the "News Feed" and sometimes ride it pretty far, commenting here or there, "liking" when people seem like they need a "Like." Or "liking" when people expect a "Like," as some people do.
But as I have become more and more deeply entrenched in this political campaign, that has changed. If you saw what I posted in the last several months, you know how that is true. More and more links to articles that exposed Romney as the shallow, insincere, and untruthful candidate that I believe he is. Snotty little comments, when there weren't articles. Moral outrage.
It only got worse when Paul Ryan came on board as the vice-presidential nominee. His inability to be honest about anything, it seemed, just set me off from the start. Yes, I am well-aware that all politicians struggle with the truth, at the very least manipulating statistics to mean whatever they want.
But there was something about Ryan that punched every button I had. Last weekend's "marathan scandal" only exacerbated the situation. Though I've never run a marathon, my wife has run several, and so I've lived with them. I know the training, the sacrifice, the discipline, the toll that they take. I know the pride that marathon runners take in their times, regardless of those times, because it is the finishing of the race that is the first badge of honor. Everything beyond that is gravy.
And I also know that no runner that I know doesn't know his or her times absolutely. From the last workout yesterday to the third marathon 4 years ago, a runner always knows his or her times. So for Ryan to confuse his time with his brother's faster time was not only a bald-face lie told for no purpose, to me, it also spoke to the character of the man, and it did not speak well. I knew everything I needed to know about him right then.
But, back to Facebook. And so, as I went through my routine of scrolling through the "News Feed," I became more like a guerilla than a passive reader. If there was an attack on gays or Obama or women or or an untruth being stated, I could not let it go untouched. I had to weigh in on all of them. Which was not good. While I felt superior when writing my sentences, I felt bad as soon as they posted. After all, they were people whom I had friended or who had friended me.
I clicked on one guy's page who "Likes" Paul Ryan and went after Ryan, particularly for the marathon/character thing.
A little while later, I got a message back telling me that what I had done was "inappropriate" and that was "not what Facebook was for." I was irate. I fired back, "Oh, yeah? Well, what is Facebook for then?" and launched into another political diatribe. I got a longer answer in return that really dressed me down in some detail and with brutal honesty.
And he was right. I knew as soon as I read it that he was right. I immediately quit Facebook, realizing what I had become, went to bed, woke up a few hours later, reactivated my account, wrote him an apology, and then quit Facebook again. And that's where I am now.
Am I secretly advocating that you should leave Facebook? Not at all. For some people, it is the best part of their day and it has opened paths of life for them that did not exist.
But I will say this: Facebook brought out the worst in me, and while that worst has always been there and continues to be there, I have no doubt that Facebook makes it easier for that worst part of me to surface. And I see it in what others write on there, too. Facebook does not lead us to be our best selves; it allows us to manufacture a self, if we want. It allows us to pry, innocently or otherwise. It encourages us, by its very nature of creating an avatar using only a list of friends (but not too many or too few friends), some photographs (but not too many) and some random comments or references to where a person is at that moment, to pass judgement on each other. Some are strong enough for that; I don't think I was.
But it also isn't really something you can quit. Even if you disable your account, as I have done, you are only an email address and a password away from picking up right where you left off. It's like a dormant volcano. I guess I am, too.