I am a social creature, and therefore, I like facebook. Everyone knows that. I like knowing what other people are up to, and living vicariously through friends’ adventures. So it came as quite a surprise to many people when I deleted my facebook account.
With all of facebook’s new lax privacy laws, I had been contemplating deleting mine, even though I had done well in hiding myself from most people who don’t know me. I was finding myself spending too much time, zoning out, flipping through photos of people I didn’t care too much about, or people I cared too much about. Facebook was becoming claustrophoic: a classmate from high school who I was not friends with and with whom I had no real friends in common with friended me. I looked through his photos, and saw people who I pretty much generally disliked in high school, and had, frankly, forgotten they existed. I contemplated what to do with his friend request, and finally rejected him. I reasoned I moved 3000 miles away for a reason, I didn’t need those people following me into my new life. But the final straw came when facebook statuses, a very public forum, were being used by someone with whom a private relationship had just ended, to try to reach me and hurt me. I could have just removed the culprit from my newsfeed, but I knew myself, and I knew I would just go to his page and find the statuses. I needed a break. So in a spontaneous, perhaps irrational, sweep of the mouse, I deleted my facebook in the middle of a Thursday afternoon. And in the few weeks since, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a twenty-something in the city without a facebook account.
Facebook has been a part of my life since I came to DC. In the summer of 2005, having just graduated from high school, my friends and I anxiously awaited one piece of mail from the universities we had chosen: a letter giving us our college email address. This email address was the key needed to unlock the world of facebook (back in the day, you see, you needed a “.edu” address to create a facebook account. Oh how times have changed!).
Soon, we had created profiles and began connecting with people we hadn’t met yet but would be attending college with. By the time I got to orientation, I already knew faces and names of students who were active in our class, even though we hadn’t gotten to college yet. I was able to learn a bit about my soon-to-be roommate, and talk to people who would be in my orientation group, and on my floor. Facebook seemed a fabulous tool to connect people at a time when we all really needed friends, or at least a familiar face.
In college, facebook was essential to finding out about events happening around campus, the cute boy in class, or your neighbor’s weekend escapades. It was also a convenient way to see glimpses into the lives of friends from home such as their friends’ and weekend hangouts. Once we began going abroad, scattering throughout the world for semesters and years, facebook was essential to keeping in touch. Needless to say, I frequented the site.
So the Night-Of-Deletion I went to yoga and dinner after work, and came home to an empty apartment. I went to check my email, and immediately began to open a tab for facebook, until I remembered that wasn’t possible.
I suddenly realized I had..a TON of free time. Later that night I had a dream involving facebook. I felt kind of pathetic.
Over the next few days I realized how much facebook infiltrated the way I think (as if the dream that first Thursday night wasn’t clear enough). When I took some pictures, I thought about what I would call the album on facebook; when I heard a catchy phrase I thought I would add it to my profile; when friends and I were talking about funny experiences (or people), I referred them to my facebook page for reference, until I realized it wasn’t there.
Just like Joni Mitchell says, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone,” I realized some of the benefits, and downsides, of facebook when I was without it. I was bothered by how knowledgeable I was about people who weren’t a part of my life when I had facebook. I was bothered by stories I was hyper-conscious to, like a friend learning about her friend’s suicide from facebook. I felt removed from many things, such as being unaware of a good friend’s going-away-party, or of my inability to see a photo of my cousin’s newborn child. Photos of fun times I liked to look at to reminisce were suddenly out of my reach. I noticed that many companies now don’t advertise their websites, only their facebook. And the amount of times I heard myself say, “facebook it,” became absurd.
One expression often used about facebook is it “represents real life.” Yet, I realized when I was without it, that so often people misrepresent themselves, or embellish the truth, for public consumption. Many times friends and I have put up certain kinds of photos to try to make someone else jealous, or have been conscious of what we wear to a certain event, knowing photos will be online of that evening. I remembered when I studied abroad, before the program began, I chose a photo for my profile picture of a crazy night out, so people I met would think I was fun. And while it probably didn’t make a difference in who I did or did not befriend, something inside of me told me I should do it.
My generation’s entire lives are documented on this online portal. I look at pages of friends who have children, and I realize the children’s lives are documented too. Soon, the fact that President Obama claimed to have once done cocaine will be a minor issue in what dirt is available on political candidates or job seekers.
Many of my friends who I speak to on a regular basis were surprised when I deleted my account, some were even angry. This seemed silly to me, as we had other ways of communicating. But I wonder if many others even noticed I was gone. Afterall, I have something like 1100 friends on my page. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens when I return.
Yes, that’s right, I do plan on returning. For all the downsides of facebook, I’ve decided, at least for now, that facebook is essential to communicating with friends I have overseas (the sooner return than anticipated is I will be traveling to South Africa next month, and would like to be able to connect with old friends before I go). I like being able to see pictures in a central place my friends take with me. And sometimes, it’s nice to see what people from another part of my life are up to. Sometimes we refer to this as “facebook stalking,” but stalking has a negative connotation, and I guess it’s not negative if people have willingly put this information online for the public. This hiatus from facebook has reminded me that I do like my books and googlereader better than facebook in down time, but just like junk food, a minimalist attitude can be fun, enjoyable, and healthy. I can’t change society’s addiction to facebook, and I can’t change that, despite its lax privacy rules, it’s still the best way to remain in-the-know. But I can choose how much I decide to engage, and I’m looking forward to engaging again, but a lot less than before.
I kind of feel like I’ve been on a diet, and I’m about to eat my first slice of pizza in a while. I’m nervous, but excited, to return to the world of facebook. How will it feel?
I’ll be sure to let you know.
Monday, July 5, 2010
As Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Uruguay advance to the World Cup finals, I thought I'd show you some of my favorite videos (in no particular order) that I've come across this last month. Let me know if you know of others you like! (For the email subscribers, if the videos don't load, click here).
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|World Cup 2010: Into Africa - Goal Diggers|