Remember Richard Nixon and the famous tapes? Remember Bernstein and Woodward, the Watergate burglars, John Mitchell and Haldeman?

How about the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when President Nixon fired Archibald Cox and the whole world seemed to be exploding?

A character who survived all of that was once asked, “Do you miss those days?”

“No,” he said, ” I miss the clarity.”

Clarity. My dictionary defines the word as “the quality of being coherent and intelligible.”

Yes. I miss that.


OK, strange things are in the air. And I have become the prince of paranoia. Too much of “The Americans” and “Homeland”? Can one be too careful?

Facebook. I remember, dear friends, when you joined Facebook and made me join with you.

“It’ll be fun,” you said. It seemed the cool thing to do. OMG, you were right. It was fun.

Yes, it was a time suck. We spent more and more time sliding up and down the page, “liking” stuff, making comments.

We didn’t know then — many still don’t — that somewhere along the way, no one is sure exactly when, someone was jotting all those “likes” down and putting them together like a picture puzzle to get a better look at us.

But we ignored the warnings, pushed aside the Cassandras, and spent endless hours watching cookies, sharing recipes for stews and soups.


And the puppies, OMG, those puppies, and the kittens. Suddenly it seemed as though everybody on Facebook had a dozen kittens. Who doesn’t love kittens?

Breaking news: Last week, something ugly, something dark with a name that sounds like a dusty book from that back section of the college library, something called Cambridge Analytica, reared its ugly head above the surrounding miasma of Playboy bunnies, porn mistresses and mendacity.

This group, we learned, had hacked into our personal accounts and squeezed in between the menus, kittens and birthday announcements to track polls, voter records and “online activity.” Egad!

While we were sharing baby pictures and recipes, the trolls of Cambridge Analytica were busy creating “personality models.”

While we were sharing our vacation photos and shots of our deceased pets, these nefarious night crawlers were harvesting selected info, not just about us, but our friends, their education, where they lived, what pages on Facebook they liked, even their “relationship status.” Wow!

OK. Enough is enough. How much more do we need to know? I decided to dump it all, get off, get back to serious work.


“What about the wedding pictures?” my cousins asked.

“You’ll never know,” they cried, “when Jason’s or Bridgett’s or Lisa’s birthdays arrive, and the graduations?”

Enter Ann Brenoff, of HuffPost’s “Money,” in her article, “What You Need to Know About Deleting Your Facebook Account.”

I thought I could just go cold turkey and quit. Not so fast, Facebook said. Just sign here, answer the list of questions, and we’ll get back to you in a couple of weeks, maybe months. Say what?

Boy! Breaking up with Rosemary DeBranco was hard to do; no, that was really hard.

OK. You say you want off and you want off now. It turns out you have three choices:


l. Deactivation. Forget it. Check it out, and you quickly learn that you don’t have the time.

2. Deletion. Another two weeks, maybe more. You won’t like the hoops you have to jump through. Skip it.

3. This is the one Ann Brenoff thinks is the smartest, and so do I.

It’s simple, she says. You just ignore it. You just let it sit there, a quiet icon, a piece of furniture, like a waffle iron or microwave oven. You simply abandon your account, and just stop signing on to Facebook. Withdrawal? Oh boy, of course.

But soon, your head will clear, the fog will lift, the ironing will get done, the book finished, the casserole baked. Even your vision will improve.

Clarity. Yes, clarity.

Excuse me while I see how many likes I got on this.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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