At The Verge, Sarah Jeong unlocks a way of talking about Facebook that’s spot on, and so often missed—it’s become a replacement for the hard and valuable emotional labour that previous generations were required to do in so many other ways. It took something hard and boring, and made even the thought of it entirely disappear. However we let it happen, saying we should delete it is akin to saying we should delete how we live. It’s a good idea, but it’s not a solution. Where we might find that solution, she suggests and we think we agree, is in the conversation happening a layer deeper, and less trackable, as we hop between various less trackable messaging apps.
Facebook had replaced much of the emotional labor of social networking that consumed previous generations. We have forgotten (or perhaps never noticed) how many hours our parents spent keeping their address books up to date, knocking on doors to make sure everyone in the neighborhood was invited to the weekend BBQ, doing the rounds of phone calls with relatives, clipping out interesting newspaper articles and mailing them to a friend, putting together the cards for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and more. We don’t think about what it’s like to carefully file business cards alphabetically in a Rolodex. People spent a lot of time on these sorts of things, once, because the less of that work you did, the less of a social network you had.