Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The day I said goodbye to Facebook (again).


Monday morning I closed my Facebook account. Although I chickened out and clicked the This is temporary. I'll be back. option, I certainly hope it is anything but temporary.

I have always had a love-hate relationship (mostly the latter, actually) with the social media website. It feels very shallow and one-sided to me. There lacks a depth to the "friendships" and the interactions that take place within its walls. You can google types of Facebook users and get a variety of hilarious, yet totally accurate descriptions. Most of us have at least one of each. Only, I wasn't finding these traits so funny in real life. The FHML with no explanation, prompting dozens of oh no! what's wroooong? responses is just plain obnoxious. There. I said it. I could go on, but I'm guessing you already know what I'm talking about. (And yes, the first time I saw FHML I had to google it. I still don't speak text message.)

In the past I have always done one of two things: gotten completely fed up and closed my account (my first FB hiatus lasted a whole year), or just ignored it. I remove it from my drop down history and pretend it doesn't exist.

The problem lies in the fact that my only connection to certain friends and extended family is through social media. By deleting my account, I delete an entire relationship. But really, was it a relationship to begin with? Sure, I'd love to stay in touch with my dear friend from high school. We have history. She now has a family and I like to know she's doing well. She doesn't play games or get dramatic. She simply posts pics of her kiddos and husband and their various adventures. But to say that we are friends is a bit of a stretch. I've never met her kids and we will probably never cross paths outside of the internet. Is it better to hang onto that shred of a connection or let it go? Does keeping these rather vapid relationships in some way hold me back from forming new, more rewarding ones?

Or what about that group of girls that were a bit mean and gossipy at my old job? Some were my closest friends, others were, well, not. They appear to have formed a tight social circle and dropped the drama . . . after I left. That should be ancient history! And yet Facebook brings back a bit of a sore spot when I see them organizing a girls' night.

Overall I'd say I'm indifferent to Facebook. Five years ago I farmed and Farkle'd. Now it simply serves as a thin string tying me to people from my distant past; and people in my current life that I seldom see despite living within miles of each other.

So what prompted this recent shutdown and resolve to never turn back? Well, again it wasn't just one thing. First, I find that I begin to visit Facebook during times of high anxiety. Last week I had a lot on my emotional plate. The house, post-vacation readjustment . . . the list goes on. Instead of tackling my worries and overwhelming to-do list, I checked my news feed 50 times per day. I stalked a little. Nothing captured my attention, nor did I learn anything new and profound about anyone; it just gave me a reason to avoid life. Let me tell you, it felt pretty empty. Perhaps I was looking for a human connection where their simply wasn't one to find. Nothing meaningful, anyway.

Second, I got burned last week. I have a relative that lives in the Pacific Northwest. I had mentioned we'd be in the area months ago and said I'd reach out when we got there. Only, as often happens, things didn't follow the exact trajectory we'd hoped. I simply couldn't fit in a visit. Not wanting them to feel bad or ignored, I reached out via Facebook message. I apologized and explained. Coincidentally, Mario and I had decided to move to the Portland area just hours before. I also revealed that in the message and said that we could make up for the missed visit in the future. I never received a response to my rather heartfelt message. Oh well. Two days later I got a text from another relative asking if it was true we were moving. I'm quite close to this person and hadn't had a chance to tell her that I wouldn't be applying to the school in her area. I was pissed. My attempt to reach out had apparently made me fodder for gossip. And I felt the need to call and apologize to a dear relative I love and would never want to hurt or leave out of the loop. And now I harbor a bit of resentment toward a person I am related to but have yet to develop a solid relationship with. Perhaps being Facebook "friends" in the first place was a poor choice. We probably should have just exchanged emails and phone numbers.

The sad thing is, I wasn't totally surprised. Although completely turned off by the whole ordeal (I avoid drama and gossip like the plague at this point in my life), wasn't I opening myself up for it? Facebook, like many social media sites, creates an environment that makes it easy to behave in ways we wouldn't otherwise. Although less anonymous than other sites, it still allows the world to see one facet of our existence. And even that little glimpse can be molded in a way that makes a person feel better about x, y or z. We can present whatever front we desire to our "friends". I am all about honesty. I'm an imperfect mother, wife, and student. My house doesn't get dusted unless company is coming. My legs are super hairy right now. Other women can relate to imperfection and appreciate it the way I do; often because it's part of what makes life great.

It seems like Facebook carries one extreme or the other:
the everythingisperfectmykidsareperfectmyhusbandisperfectwehavesomuchmoneyandmylifeissomuchbetterthanyours group or the nothingevergoesrightitiseveryoneelsesfaultican'thandleanysortofadversityionlypostaboutbadthings group. Very few people fall in between. (I do.)

A big part of why we are moving is the lack of interpersonal relationships we've developed since living here. The past 6 years have been our loneliest. We are friendly, social people who love to interact. New England culture doesn't seem to nurture and support people like us. We have recently become friends with some of the parents from Jared's school, but we miss the friendliness of the west. We want real relationships like we've had in the past. We can still, all these years later, walk up to our neighbor's house in St. Louis, sit on their kitchen counter, and talk over a cup of coffee. Like we never left. I crave real relationships, and to be honest, I'd rather go without than have an empty, shallow internet-dictated connection to another person. Because quite frankly, a real friendship takes more than 90 characters to maintain.

3 comments:

  1. I've been lurking here awhile and really like your writing. I just had to say that I completely, totally agree with this post. I have the exact same issues with FB and am now down to logging in a couple times a day for about three minutes, just to make sure I don't miss any important news (some members of my family rely on FB to communicate and share news, which I don't necessarily appreciate). Otherwise, it just depresses me. The drama and the revisionist stuff particularly bring me down; I don't want to play along with people who like to pretend. I haven't posted a new status since May, and even that one was audience-customized like crazy just to avoid drama. I'm about to close my account too. I hope you'll share how it goes post-FB because if life is great after FB, I might do it soon too. :)

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  2. Facebook really stresses me out sometimes haha. Most days I want to shake people with the ridiculous stuff they post.

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  3. I really appreciate this post.

    I've been thinking of cutting out my FB account as well. But like you, I wondered about the "friendship" I have there. But really, are we even friends?

    The few that I do keep in touch with outside of FB are my closest friends (all 2 of them). Everyone else are either former co-workers or classmates. Keyword? Former. Not in the present.

    Lots to think about =)

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