You’d see tee shirts and bumper stickers, because that was what Facebook posts were then. That’s where you expressed yourself to the public, if you were just a normal person without a newspaper column or anything. And it was as baffling as organic food or veganism at the time, because not many people could imagine life without the idiot box. How else would you watch The Simpsons, or The X-Files, or O.J. Simpson?
I got rid of my own television for a while in 1998, shortly after my daughter was born. It was in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky hearings, and Clinton had just launched a missile attack on none other than Al-Qaeda, and so the television was rolling its eyes at him. Oh sure, try to deflect attention away from the pressing matter of suspiciously preserved sperm stains on a cocktail dress, by pretending you’re fighting terrorists. Old Slick Willy was at it again, wasn’t he?
I yanked the cord out of the wall and carried the television out to the back porch and called my pal Andy up, said hey you want a television? It was gone in an hour. When I went back inside, my wife looked up from her book and said, “Thank God.”
Then we lived for a couple of years without television, and it wasn’t hard. I’ll bet I read a hundred books.
The most difficult thing about it was the way people reacted to it, because we had a fairly specific mindset about it. We weren’t getting rid of it because ALL television was crappy. We were doing it because most television was crappy, and we’d found ourselves falling easily into the crappy stuff, if it was sitting right there in the house with us.
So we’d go over to a friend’s house on Sunday nights, catch The Simpsons and Futurama. We never once suggested that anyone else ought to kill their televisions, but just like being a vegetarian, you can bet your ass some people thought we were inviting a debate. What’s the point of getting rid of your television if you’re going to go over to someone else’s house and watch it, said the standard eye-rolling coffee house crowd.
Well gee, I’d say, maybe it’s one hour a week versus thirty. You don’t call that progress?
Puff, puff, puff. Hmm, I don’t know, Hipster. I don’t know.
Much like drinking, you really don’t want to tell anyone when you’ve decided to quit watching television, because then when you decide you’d like to start again, suddenly you’re a big Flip Flopper. Hey, Tom, you got rid of your television so that means you can NEVER HAVE ONE AGAIN! MMWWWWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA.
In my case, we didn’t bring back a physical television for several years, but we bought a computer which played DVDs, and at the time, Blockbuster had exactly one row of them, so we’d watch the occasional movie, and God forbid the coffee house crowd should find out about it. I hadn’t realized how elitist and threatening it was to get rid of your television until the squawking began every time I watched a DVD.
Anyway, eventually we got on Netflix, and then eventually we bought a television, and we were pretty thrilled with it. We watched the hell out of that television for a solid year, and it turned out to be a decent, cheap way to entertain the family, and then came DVRs and live-streaming online video and suddenly most of what we’d hated about television was easy to avoid.
Television was always abhorred as a vast wasteland, run by soulless advertisers, where people lost hours to mindless drivel, and for a long time that’s what it was. Right now in fact, there’s plenty of that going on, no doubt about it. But you can use your television however you want to use your television. You can block out everything by National Geographic if you want to.
These days if you want to kill a pervasive, advertising-driven waste of your time, then it’s much more sensible to kill your Facebook account, and sure enough, folks are doing it. You’ve seen them. Sometimes they’re dead serious about it – they announce it and then they’re gone.
Other times they announce it every three months or so, and then slink back sheepishly, hoping no one noticed. But it’s the same idea – Facebook is a vast, advertising-driven wasteland, too, and it’s really easy to spend an hour on it, and end up with even less to show for it than you would if you’d spent that hour watching Simon and Simon.
Here’s the way I’d recommend doing it. Just change you account email address to that of a trusted friend (they can make a new gmail box just for the occasion), then change your password to something random that you don’t know. Then the only way to log back on is if your friend decides you really want to, and then it just looks like you haven’t been on Facebook for a while.
That looks a lot cooler than swearing off of it and coming back – you just say, Oh, Facebook? Hmm, I forgot all about Facebook for a while, that’s true. See how you’re above it, now? The hipsters will love that, but I should warn you, they don’t like being called hipsters anymore. They go, pssshhhh when you say that, then it’s straight to Twitter.
Anyway, Facebook is not a waste of time to all of us – you ought to get a load of my sweet, two-digit royalty checks. Once you get a slice of that Facebook Cheddar, you’ll be singing a different tune, oh yes indeed you will.
So please don’t think I’m telling you what to do – it’s just a suggestion if you want to avoid the Hipster Wrath which one can so easily run afoul of, by deciding you want no part of something that everyone else thinks is cool. And then deciding later that it’s cool after all, and wanting it back.
In other words, you don’t want to put “Kill Your Facebook Account” as your Facebook status. That doesn’t make any sense at all, does it?