Losing Facebook, Gaining Friends

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In a fit of frustration earlier this month I temporarily disabled my Facebook page. The only person I told immediately was TOL editor, Gina; but word seemed to get around quickly to those close to me. My fiancé asked me about it that night, and my dad—who doesn’t even have a Facebook, emailed me to make sure it didn’t mean anything drastic or depressing.

I knew when I did it the drought wasn’t going to be permanent; I even checked that my stuff wasn’t going to be deleted before hitting the button. I didn’t yet know the duration of my departure from the land of status updates, witty quips, grammar Nazis, political contention, and the common activity known as “Facebook stalking”; but I knew it would be more than just the afternoon.  I needed a break.

After almost seven years of having a tab with Facebook open constantly, I had a realization: it wasn’t contributing to my happiness.

I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I think many of us have come to see our walls (or timelines, whatever; I’m not changing my social media vocabulary again) as a sort of status symbol: my clever post got 19 likes! I finally got over 1,000 friends! Look at how much fun my pictures show I have!

It is exhausting.

I also came to see that I knew so much insignificant information about people, maybe what music they like because of Spotify, who their significant other was, or that their cousin was having a baby girl; but I wasn’t getting to know anyone. A FBF (Facebook Friend) of mine, with whom I’ve spent approximately five minutes in person, had the status a little while ago that said something along the lines of: “People get a lot more lovable when you remember they have a story.” It got over thirty likes; I guess I wasn’t the only person with whom it resonated.

I had filled my life so full of these artificial little connections to people I half-know, that I was beginning to think of life, and relationships, in the terms of a social media network. I would compare myself to people, not as I know them to be, or even as people, but entities as presented by a website. Don Draper himself couldn’t do a better advertising job of shaping a persona as we are able to do through social media. I would become jealous of someone because of an old picture or judge a person for the missed your/you’re mistake in a comment. I had reduced people into compartments in my life: people from my small hometown, people from high school, college friends, acquaintances, connections that may become advantageous, those I’ve met in the liberty movement, etc. These people weren’t “friends” anymore; they were thumbnails on a screen. I was mistaking checking out someone’s wall to see what they’d been up to for pursuing a real relationship with them.

During the week I went without Facebook, I made an effort to reach out to my friends, whether it was having lunch with some girlfriends, texting some people I hadn’t talked to in a while, calling family members, or spending time with my fiancé without a screen in front of my face.

I found that I have so much free time in the evening when I’m not checking to see what everyone else is doing, and instead focus on what I enjoy, with the people I love. I finished a book, watched a movie, exercised, cooked healthy meals, and spent time being silly with my friends. Hell, I even knit two scarves.

After that week, I decided to go back on Facebook, mostly to promote my writing and post pictures so my family can see what I’m up to. But I’ve made a decision: from here forward, I will no longer mistake time in front of a screen for building real friendships with people, I will discontinue wasting my free time perusing what other people do in theirs, and I will stop letting the projected lives of others affect mine.

The world is out there, and I need to spend more time exploring it.

  • http://twitter.com/EatingMadeEasy Amelia Winslow

    What a fantastic article. I especially like your analysis of how we can shape our online lives to look however we want them too, and that it’s easy to become envious of people who seem so have the perfect job, kids, husband, or life in general. If I didn’t need FB for my business, I would follow your lead of disabling FB, but for good…simply to free up a lot more of my time!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrobertsonub James Robertson

    My immediate thoughts upon finishing this: “Yeah, right on! I should share this on Facebook!”