I read a really interesting article yesterday that sort of shook me to my core.
I have also decided to quit Facebook. I can hardly say this was a long time coming. I did love Facebook for a long time. It started as a great platform to network with friends in college. I remember making a Facebook the day NIU assigned me my student email address. Remember the days of Facebook being for college students? I was so excited to be enrolled, and part of the reason included a golden ticket to the land of Facebook. “Now I could REALLY be a college student!” I thought.
I spent years updating my profile to reflect my most recent interests and activities. I posted pictures from vacations, updated job titles and descriptions, wrote on my friends’ walls, shared funny and thought-provoking links and articles. I stayed in touch with distant relatives. I was “Single,” then “In a relationship,” then “Single” again. I tracked peoples’ lives, some of whom I hadn’t talked to in years, through their pages thinking that it was pretty cool that I knew what they were up to even though I didn’t talk to them anymore. “Hey, did you see so-and-so is engaged?” I would gossip to a friend. “Yeah, I saw that on Facebook! Can you believe it?”
Recently, though, Facebook has become like a stressful job. The other day I found myself agonizing over the fact that I didn’t have a recent enough picture up as my profile picture. “This picture of me jumping into the pool doesn’t accurately depict me as I am RIGHT now,” I worried. I scrambled through the digital realms, scouring for a photograph that would be apt enough to convey who I was in this very moment. It was some sort of stupid, silly, inconsequential and completely unnecessary crisis. I sifted through my work experience and noticed that my life is broken down into what college I attended and where I earned a paycheck. But was that all I really did for work? What about the work I didn’t get paid for in life? I didn’t see listed “Liter box cleaner,” clearly attesting to my nature of an animal lover. What about the time I spent collecting vinyl records? That wasn’t listed. What about the time I spent concepting for a friend’s production company? I don’t get paid and it’s not “resume” material, but I consider it life-enriching work.
It has gotten to the point where I try to avoid being home because I know I will waste my time pressing the “refresh” button on my browser so as to have a fresh view of Facebook’s newsfeed. It started to feel more like watching a continuous steam of commercials than social networking. The cycle was getting vicious. Instead of logging on to keep in touch, send a quick message and be done with it, I’d sit and try to make more out of it than it was. I would use it for positive purposes, but I also noticed that it became a nasty time-suck: something I was using as more of a crutch for boredom than a tool of connectivity.
So that is why I have decided to leave Facebook, possibly indefinitely. There are other reasons, as well. Perhaps one of the most-compelling arguments from the article states:
“I knew that at heart, Facebook was about editing myself, presenting a perfect, beautiful person to the world while omitting all the dark, difficult bits, the poetics that, at their core, made me who I was.”
Isn’t that true? It’s true of life, as well. I have been contemplating that statement, and as a writer, being truthful and unafraid to say what’s real is of monumental importance. As a writer, and a person in general, you need to accept the dark and ugly parts of life, as well as the fun and exciting. Facebook feels like, at best, an attempt to grasp onto something unattainable: perfection. You spend your time wondering what would make a good Facebook post. Will it be clever enough? How many likes will you get? Is your picture the prettiest you? Will that guy you’re digging on message you? Can you put on perfect “Face” for the world? It seems appropriate that the organization is called “FACEbook.”
I realize, of course, that’s unfair to use Facebook as the scapegoat for this phenomenon that exists in real life as well. Don’t we all comb our hair, brush our teeth, get dressed and step out into the world in hopes of making a good impression, or at least to feel good about our personas? We all own mirrors, and we all worry, at some point or another, if we’re saying the right things, wondering if we overstepped boundaries, even questioning our sanity at some points. This is the dichotomy that is life. Facebook is just an extension of that and to me, an unnecessary one, and one that could be eliminated relatively easily.
I have decided to try to simplify my life. I am committed to living a life that feels REAL to me. I am tired of keeping up with a newsfeed that in reality, I could care less about. I’d rather be penning my first novel. I’d rather be reading. I’d rather paint and create. I’d rather not sit backseat to others’ conquests.
This situation will present a unique challenge to my friends. While I will be absent from a forum in which almost everyone I know participates in, it will be interesting to see how we stay in touch. I do, of course, plan on maintaining an online presence. I will spend my free time updating and working on this blog. I will keep my twitter active (because I find it less time consuming and more intellectually challenging/rewarding). I’m hoping for more phone calls, personal visits, text messages, hand-written letters. I’m also looking forward to some of the quiet time. Time spent perusing Facebook statuses will now be spent planning for my future and personal reflection. I am excited to take my life in this direction. I know it’s the right thing to do, for me of course.
If you ever decide to quit Facebook, I would applaud you. Let’s get in touch and see what you think of the page right before you deactivate your account. Seems a bit like….some sort of scary, last-ditch attempt in emotional desperation, a technique most often used in times of strife like breakups. In any case, this blog will remain an active place of my personal accomplishments, goals, travels and musings, just without all the clutter of a Facebook page. Sounds like just what I had in mind!