One of the things I noted when I left Facebook was that I ended up outsourcing my social labor to my wife. Sarah Jeong wrote a great piece for The Verge about her experiences without Facebook, and found similar gaps in the Facebook-less life.
The real problem only began to present itself much later. I missed big personal news from people I knew. I missed dance parties and house parties and casual get-togethers. I was the last to find out about births and the last to see baby pictures. Classmates got engaged and married and I didn’t find out until after my hiatus.
The epitome of this phenomenon was when I sat down to interview my friend Dia Kayyali, an activist organizing against Facebook’s real names policy. “You’re coming to my birthday party, right?” they said, as we were leaving the cafe where I had interviewed them.
I froze in my tracks. “What party?”
“Oh,” said Dia. “I forgot you’re off Facebook.”
Please read the whole piece. The subtitle is “Facebook is an emotional labor machine, and if you want to leave it, you’re going to have to start doing a lot of work.” It’s a great look at why a thoughtful person would still use Facebook, despite it’s drawbacks.
I believe that distributed and remote workers need to take responsibility for social plans. Maintaining social ties is literally a matter of life and death. I am out of sight and out of mind and not the center of anyone else’s world.
How do you keep up with folks without Facebook? One way I’ve found is Monica, an “Open source personal CRM.”
You can use Monica to log when you do something with a friend, and get reminders when you haven’t talked to someone in a while. Want to go out for lunch or a beer? Take a look at who you haven’t seen in a while. Since it’s open source, if you don’t trust them with your data you can run it yourself.
The drawbacks are that you need to maintain the data yourself (instead of Facebook) and that it focuses a little too much on phone calls.
If that’s too much, another trick I’ve used is to create a Trello board with the months of the year on it. Put a card for each friend in the column for your last contact (however you define that) and you can see at a glance who you should catch up with.
I’m not perfect about keeping up. If you are reading this and realize we haven’t hung out in a while, please invite me out. I’ll say no because in May I’m going to London for a work trip and moving to Ann Arbor, but we’ll catch up after the dust settles. And I’ll be sure to log it in Monica.