On Saturday, after a particularly dark day for me, I decided to remove the Facebook app from my phone. For months I’ve been thinking about quitting the site, and I’ve just gotten fed up enough with it that I am finally letting go. I haven’t deleted my account, but I’m tired of Facebook taking up hours of my day as I scroll mindlessly, or get sucked down a rabbit hole of nasty comment reading.
I’ve been on Facebook since it’s beginnings. Since December 2004 to be exact. That’s 11 years of status updates and photos. My entire adult life is cataloged in my feed. I know who’s been married, who’s been divorced; I know who’s had babies and who’s buried their child; I know what you had for dinner last Tuesday and and where you spent your last holiday. Even knowing all of these things, I don’t really know anyone. There is not one person besides my husband that I have sat down and talked about life with. No one knows my feelings or insecurities. No one knows my triumphs and goals. I’ve got many acquaintances but literally not one great friend that I can call for anything at any time of the day. There are a few reasons why I finally pulled the trigger. The first is that I’m lonely. I’ve never been good at making friends, or communicating with people in general. Facebook gives it’s users a sense of belonging and friendship when all we’re really doing is information stalking. When’s the last time I physically saw or spoke to any of my Facebook friends? Aside from about 40, many I haven’t seen in years, and even more are people I would actually avoid if I saw them in public. But yet we’re Facebook friends and I know all about that secret gift you bought your kid at Costco last week. In fact I even know your kids names and maybe what side of town you live on. Overall, it’s sad and disheartening. I have no real need to reach out and talk to people because they answer all of my questions in one fell swoop of information whoring. No need to ask what you’re up to today, clearly you went to the Badger game and then had beer and wings at the bar with the 10 people you tagged in your group selfie. And here I sit, at home alone, living vicariously through other people’s photos and statue updates. This is what my social life has become. Does it get more depressing? Well yes, yes it does!
I’m not the only person this type of social media is affecting. Studies are coming out saying that spending time on social media actually makes people more sad and depressed. We see the truncated lives of people on our news feed and think, “Wow they have such a great life. I have so much envy right now.” We move on to the next picture of someone sunning on the beach, or having dinner with friends, and the more we see other people’s happiness the more we start feeling our own loneliness. Well, I’ll say it again, in case anyone actually reads this…I’m lonely and I need friends. Real friends, not Facebook ones. The other side to this problem is that I’m not very good at making friends. I work alone, I have no social hobbies and I don’t have kids to inject me into the PTA or sports crowds. Nope, just me and my dog sitting here tonight feeling pretty cold.
Lack of human interaction isn’t the only thing that’s got me bristling about social media. When people have a keyboard at their disposal and the anonymity of the internet to cover their face, they can be the meanest sons of bitches you ever thought possible. People will type hatred and condemnation. They will spew cold-hearted cruel things about whatever suits their moments fancy. Just tonight I got caught up in reading comments about Wisconsin not letting in refugees and the amount of hatred and fear mongering in those comments was sinking my heart into my toes. You can really get a good grasp on how selfish and wretched people can be by spending a few minutes looking at comments on political or religious posts. Now I’m not going to say I don’t also get fired up if someone is going after my ideologies, but the lack of empathy in the U.S. today for our own citizens and neighbors is disgusting. No where does that come out in my life like it does on Facebook. Thankfully most people I follow aren’t like that but remember that everything you ‘like’ or comment on is seen by every one of your ‘friends’. You can really start to see people’s true colors by what they say on social media.
The final reason for quitting is that Facebook has been a time sucker for me for years. YEARS. I can spend hours at a time on the stupid site getting upset and feeling lonely and worthless. Instead I could have been practicing my French or reading a novel, or heck, writing a novel. I’ve started two novels now, did you know that? They never get anywhere because there’s much more mind-numbing crap for me to peruse online that takes way less effort. I’ve also got some children’s stories to edit and some home projects to tackle. I’ve got real friends to get back in touch with and real things to do. I have trips to plan and food to cook. I have a dog to love and a husband to argue with. These are the things that will make my life rich and beautiful. Staring at pictures of other people’s lives won’t get me anywhere.
I’l be keeping the account and allotting myself a short time each day to catch up on a few things like events and my work page, but otherwise, after only 2 days without Facebook at my fingertips, I feel different. This weekend I got things done I’ve been putting off for weeks. I was productive and it felt so good to accomplish things. Today at work over lunch I wrote about a book I finished reading. I blogged instead of getting sucked into nothingness. Tonight I blog again, putting my heart out here. After this will be some yoga and another spot of reading.
For months I’ve been feeling like I’d lost my groove. My world was so small and sad and loneliness was crouching ever closer. I think I’ve maybe found part of the problem. I’ve isolated myself from the rest of the world and only been looking from the outside. Hopefully I can move forward and break my addiction with social media, with the need for attention and acceptance. The navel gazing has been strong today but I think it will start rounding out and all will settle into place eventually for me. Now comes some work: text messages, dinner plans, rekindling lost conversations. I’ve got to put in some effort to get back into a populated existence. Here goes nothing.