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.