I had to break it off. We had a decent run and shared a lot of memories, but the sea of minutiae overwhelmed me, and I lost interest. I wanted to see other people. It was time to deactivate my Facebook account. Though they tried to keep me by dangling old wall posts and pictures of “friends” I didn’t recognize, I was done.
My online saturation point coincides with the 15th anniversary of BlackBook magazine. To mark the occasion, it seemed fi tting to deactivate my account on the world’s largest social media site. It was my gift to myself, one that would allow me to spend less time online and to stop handing over free content to Facebook shareholders.
In our 15th Anniversary Issue, we’re toasting the amazing contributors, eye-catching visuals, and incredible behind-the-scenes access we’ve provided to our loyal readers during this decidedly rocky time for print journalism. The pendulum is about to swing back. The luxuriousness of engrossing oneself in a gorgeously printed, tactile magazine is a part of life we should never give up—and sitting in front of one’s laptop, or texting away while tossing off navel-gazing fi ller to “friends” is, simply put, not really living.
As we’ve done consistently with our editorial content, we’re going to go out on a limb: We’re wagering that, contrary to all the technology-fueled exuberance, people are about to recognize the shortcomings of the digital experience and the futility of creating free content for social media outlets. For one, as much as we love them, our Blackberrys, iPhones, and Androids—and the social media to which they give us real-time access—are in many ways killing our nightlife. “Plans” are a dinosaur, replaced by promises to “text me later.” Look around the hottest clubs and you’ll see tastemakers hunched over and banging away on their keyboards searching for something better—they’re there in body but not in mind.
We tried an experiment the other night at a dinner with friends at Sean MacPherson’s buzzing Crow’s Nest enclave out in Montauk. We turned off our iPhones and Blackberrys, committing to not even glance at them until we’d left the restaurant. No quick checks on the bathroom line, nor while half the table was out having a smoke. It was disturbingly hard to go cold turkey—even with the smell of beach bonfires in the air. The result of our all-too-brief technology blackout was that we actually focused on each other and had a terrific, fully engaged time. We were living our lives in the beautiful, physical, analog present—a true experience we’ll remember, even without any TwitPics to prove it happened.
If I’m not constantly checking my phone, I’m probably not going to be one of the fi rst to know when major news breaks. Just 15 years ago, as the first issue of BlackBook was going to press, you might even have waited until the next morning to read about it in The New York Times—and when you did, you’d experience an accurate, balanced, editorial account of the events. We’ve forsaken reliability for the cheap thrill of instant gratification. That’s a lot to give up in exchange for a news alert pinging in your pocket.
I predict that The Social Network will have marked the zenith of Facebook as a brand. Those who are providing content for media sites (social or otherwise) are going to expect to get paid for it. Until then, the beneficiaries of our free labor don’t let you go easily: Facebook shows you all your “friends” who will “miss you” if you leave. I’m not arguing that Facebook will go the way of Friendster—or of 27th Street in New York, for that matter—but I believe it’s one of the first signs that we’ll look back on the 2010s as the Decade of Disengagement, or, at best, the beginning of a return to a healthy balance between our actual and digital lives. Advertisers are recognizing that experiential marketing is the place to be to make a true impact. Taking the time to enjoy the print experience, complete with sumptuous pictures and thoughtful profiles from world-class photographers, editors, and writers, is on its way back. Here’s to another 15 years.