Okay, I finally did it. After years of complaining about social networking and my discomfort with the way it affects my life, I have finally deactivated my Facebook account.
Deactivating my account means that I can go back any time and all will be as it was before. I’m probably going to reactivate it at some point because of the picture-sharing and because I was kind of a shit about leaving. I should have said “goodbye facebook – here’s my email for anyone interested” as my last status or something. Instead, I just woke up on Thursday morning thinking “You know what? I’ve thought of doing it for years and there’s always a reason why I don’t do it. So I’m just going to.”
My last status update was “Blueberries are good, but they are no substitute for chocolate. Sigh.”
That in itself speaks volumes for what I dislike about facebook. I was really lonely on Wednesday – no class, no real human interaction that day, so suddenly, I felt like the world should know that I was eating blueberries, but craving chocolate. The world does not need to know that. Even worse is the fact that when somebody “liked” my status, I was actually happy about it. “Oh! Someone thinks that was clever, or they know where I’m coming from!”
How much more tragic can it get?
I like the ability to put my photos up for my family and friends to see, especially as I’ve moved around so much in recent times, and am so far away from everyone. I also really enjoy being able to see the pictures my loved ones post, so I can know what they’re doing.
The problem comes in when friendship becomes passive. There are lots of people who I know a lot about, who I haven’t talked to in years. One guy just took a trip to Ireland with his friends. Another one has a music project on kickstarter. Someone else has a boyfriend. Someone went to someone else’s wedding. People get engaged. They break up. They frolic in the hurricane. So it goes – I know so much about all these people.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not ‘friends’ with that many people who I don’t talk to regularly – When I left, I had a little over 200 friends, which is small when you consider that I have 22 first cousins, most of whom I am friends with, along with their significant others. Plenty of aunts and uncles as well. Even my grandparents! Then there’s the people I’ve lived with. The people I’ve worked with. I’ve lived in 5 cities in one year and worked 4 jobs in that same time span. I’ve accumulated friends from all over.
There’s a seriously strange politic behind ‘unfriending’ people. Originally, I would only do it if I felt creepy looking at their profile, or hadn’t spoken to them in at least two years. This means that I’m not friends with anyone from high school anymore, basically. When/if I show up at my 10 year reunion, people will actually be confused as to where I’ve been.
Lately, I apply the same strategy, but more rigidly – If I have not spoken to or seen you in a year, depending on how close we actually were, I will probably unfriend you. Similarly, I will not accept your friend request unless we’re actually friends.
I don’t find this absurd at all. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you as a person, but rather that I feel weird accessing information about your life, and having you able to access information about my life.
I find this logical. However, I’ve been called out for ‘unfriending’ people who I thought I would never see again. They take it incredibly personally. Which means they noticed that I unfriended them. Which means they looked at my profile. (I’ve never noticed being unfriended by someone else before…) Which means that I was right – it is weird to have that kind of passive access to details of my personal life!
Someone I’m friends with on facebook over the past 3 years knows certain details about me. They know details of my family holidays. They know about my sisters, my parents, my dogs. They know about my friends. My boyfriends. They know about my jobs. They know about this blog.
And I don’t put that information out there in obvious ways, for the most part. (An exception is linking this blog in my status.)
People passively know this information about me. As part of their daily facebooking. And that’s always struck me as weird.
The other thing is that I will freely admit to spending way too much time on the internet and on Facebook. I just moved to another country and live alone. My closest friends are whole time zones away, as is my family. I have made some friends here, but not close friends – obviously. So I spend a lot of time alone. On the internet. Updating my status so that people know I am eating blueberries. Or facebook stalking people. “Oh, I haven’t talked to this person in ages. I wonder what she’s up to…”
I hope, really and truly hope, that if I just cut myself off from facebook for a month at least, I will be able to break this habit. That it will force me to be better at reaching out to people, not relying on a passive mode of friendship. That if I go back, I won’t obsessively update my status with mundane things. That I might stop thinking about posting on facebook – what kind of comments will this photo get? Will someone like my inane blueberries comment? Maybe when I go back, there will be an ever more stringent friend ‘purge’.
Either way, I think good things will come of it. I might just end up posting here more! Maybe I’m full of shit and won’t even last a week.
I only hope no one takes it personally. I’ve gotten such weird looks from people when I’ve said “I don’t have a facebook”. It’s really disconcerting. “But.. why not?” As though it’s some sort of social obligation, and I’m being anti-social by leaving. So strange.