If I were to describe my relationship with Facebook using its own lingo I would say: ‘its complicated’.
In fact, it’s safe to stay I went through the “Four Stages of Relationships” with it.
Let me explain….
Stage 1: Infatuation
When I first started Facebook back in 2006, I was obsessed with it. For all my sins back then I a) loved attention and b) loved being nosy. “People are clicking ‘like’ on my posts! They must love me!”. I was very quickly drawn into Facebook’s sweet allure. It was infatuation from the beginning.
Stage 2: Love
Soon I couldn’t live without Facebook. I was in love, checking it almost every other minute when I was on the computer. If I were working I would have it open in another browser window as I did not want to miss a single notification. Facebook and I were inseparable. Till death do us part.
Stage 3: Reality-Check
After a few years on Facebook, slowly but surely the reality of the website as a social medium started to hit me.
First, I realised how it had become a shallow, addictive game of seeing how many friends I could acquire and how many likes I could get with my posts. How could I make it seem to all my friends like I was having tons of fun and having the best life in the world? This involved posting lots of photographs of drunk outings with vacuous, obnoxious statements such as, “Best night in the world!!”.
But it wasn’t just me who did this – it was a lot of other people too. Facebook was a place where people created and read about fake lives. You don’t know how many times I said to a friend after seeing countless lovey-dovey couple photos, “You and your partner seem so happy!”, to only then get the reply, “Actually, we’re pretty miserable”. In short, with Facebook you were swimming in a fantasy world.
Second, my view of Facebook started to significantly change when I started to think about what the real motivations were behind everyone’s posts, including mine. I may sound cynical here, but this is how I started to see things:
What they do: Post on someone’s public wall.
What they really mean: “I want the whole world to see our messaging, because it makes it seem like we have the best friendship/relationship!”
What they do: Post a selfie with a completely unrelated caption (E.g. “Can’t wait to go to fair!”)
What they really mean: “Please comment on how pretty I am!”
What they do: Post an album
What they really mean: “Look at the fabulous life I’m having!”
Don’t get me wrong, I always used to say I don’t mind publically posting things because I have nothing to hide. To a certain extent, I feel the same way (otherwise I wouldn’t blog!). However, whilst I’m absolutely behind sharing experiences, there was something disconcerting about feeling the need to shout things out to everyone.
If you experience something wonderful and want to share it, great! Why not just share it with the people who you think will truly appreciate your experience? If you wanted to share photos with friends, why not just send them privately? Why also share it with hundreds of people who don’t care? The only reason I could think of was to use it as a tool to construct one’s artificial life on Facebook. All I started to hear in the recesses of my mind as I opened Facebook every day were squeals of “Look at me! Look at me!”.
It all started to get very depressing.
Stage 4: Break-up
I soon stopped posting albums. In 2014 I posted 29 albums. This year I posted three. I decreased my status updates from several times a day to once every few weeks.
It still wasn’t enough. I hated the fact that I was constantly checking Facebook even though I saw it to be the empty medium that it was. It was the default website I would go to when I was bored. I would then waste significant amounts of time scrolling through the lives of people who, to put it brutally, I didn’t really care about.
I strongly felt I could be doing better things with my life. I wanted out.
Of course, there is always fear before a break-up. With Facebook, it was the fear of losing contact with a large proportion of the friends I had. What if I suddenly wanted to get back in touch with someone, or vice versa? My heart sunk at the thought of losing contact with some people forever.
I then realised that out of the 1800 “friends” that I had, I only had true, meaningful relationships with around 100 (Dunbar’s number?!). Those people already had my contact details anyways. Instead of spreading myself out thin focusing on the 1800 I didn’t really care much for, why not invest all that energy into further cultivating the 100 that I deeply cared about?
As one person mentioned on Facebook when I announced I was leaving, Facebook makes people lazy. It fools people into thinking that they have relationships with others through simply looking at their status updates and photos, when that is nowhere close to the quality of friendship that is created through face-to-face interaction.
I also strongly felt like I had to embrace the birth and death cycle of life. Why the need to desperately hold on to people that you met 10 years ago? Some relationships are meant to die. This is not necessarily a bad thing – to close one door is to open another one.
So it was time for me to close the door on Facebook. I’m excited to see what new avenue this opens. I’m already feeling the benefits. Since I’m not habitually checking Facebook anymore I have a lot more spare time. This time I can use for productive things like writing this blog. Also, in quitting Facebook I’ve suddenly managed to get in touch with old friends who I hadn’t talked to for awhile.
In sum, I feel like it’s one of best things I’ve done this year.
Just like any real relationship, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, you learn a lot from it. Facebook revealed a lot of my insecurities – my need for attention, my need to portray myself in a way that didn’t truly reflect who I am and how lonely I was inside. It also exacerbated my terrible procrastination habits. But because it was a mirror reflecting what was already there, it allowed me to eventually stare at them in the face and do something about them. So for that, I’m very grateful.
Thank you Facebook, and goodbye 🙂