Facebook has it’s advantages. It’s a great tool for keeping in touch with family and friends who can be dispersed among vast geographic regions. Everything is right there, from first day of school pictures, to announcements of work promotions, rants from folks having a bad day, etc. For me, it was a tool to remove the feeling of isolation I would feel after a hard day at work, coming home to my little apartment, far from any close friendships and no family to speak of in a range less than 1,000 miles. Seems like I’d be the model candidate to really engage, and find some serious value in tools like Facebook. I needed it, right?
Except that every time I’d open the app on my phone, and see everyone elses’ lives moving in their different directions, positive or negative, I felt somehow more empty than I had before. Even more isolated. I don’t know why this was, but I was fighting depression due to other circumstances in my life, and while I hoped that facebook could help me escape those feelings, it really only helped to amplify them. I’m not a psychologist and I don’t know why this is. I would open facebook the moment I woke up in the morning, and throughout the day, the feed would be running on a tab at my work computer. During breaks, I’d use my phone to update my status, or watch whatever video piqued my interest (that may not have been work-appropriate) or read a lengthy post that would have been frowned upon during work hours. In the evening, I’d open the app several more times, before dinner (while waiting on food to cook, or be served, depending on the situation), after dinner, while postponing the necessary clean up, and then again as I was falling asleep. I ensured that I’d never miss a single post by any friends. I would interact with them (not just a habitual fb stalker), and engage in relatively meaningful, relevant debates on current world events. Yet I always just felt so empty.
When I really sat back and took account of the time I spent, it was shocking. Time spent in other people’s lives meant that I wasn’t living in my own. Reading the ignorance in some people’s comments, or the pseudo courage that people would express under the anonymity of the internet, disappointed me.
So, it’s been nearly a week now. No Facebook. If the above isn’t enough explanation, below are the more specific (although primary) reasons behind my needing to ‘go dark’.
1. My life needs my attention. I’m a single mother, working full-time, with a child in school in the NY state public school system. If that doesn’t say enough, add to that:
I live in a studio apartment
I have no relatives nearby, and no close friends, so when I say I’m a full-time single mother, I MEAN IT. I don’t get girls nights, and my daughter, currently, doesn’t get the ‘dad time’ we all wish she did.
With everything going on, I don’t have time to seek approval for my decisions, and I certainly don’t need to be judged for them. More passively, I don’t need to see and somehow ‘compare’ myself to other moms and then shame myself, even inadvertently. Of course, there are always going to be separate life-events that just add to the stress that I’ve already been handling. A new job, an overseas move… Murphy’s law has always applied to me. I think I’ve done fairly well to keep moving forward despite an inordinate amount of setbacks. No one has the ability to comfort me, or provide assistance. So, there’s really no utility in ‘venting’ because ultimately, it’s still just me. Compassion only feels superficial to me and I always get a sense of further distance when people offer words of encouragement… because it doesn’t seem genuine.
2. I (and others) rely too heavily on meaningless facebook communications to have real, meaningful, considerate time with friends. My birthday was a little over a month ago. I got a lot of the routine “Happy Birthday” posts because (to at least some extent) facebook’s guilt reminder that “YOU HAVE A FRIEND CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY!!” But, I felt a little down that as isolated as I’d been feeling, my birthday would have maybe sparked one, maybe two or three phone calls that day from friends or family. I actually have a HUGE family. Well over 60 first cousins, and all of my friends are in different states. All I have locally, are an ex-boyfriend (relationship is on a pseudo-friend level) and some work “friends”.
By 9pm, I had received one phone call. ONE. For everyone else, I warranted only a “HBD” post on my wall. My poor friend from Idaho called me and I fell apart on the phone, “it means SO MUCH that you called me!” Nope, my own parents hadn’t called. Or texted. Nada. Oh, eventually they called, it was 10:30pm and they did a conference call with me to say happy birthday. Not that I’m not grateful, but it felt obligatory/forced.
3. I’ve caught myself getting unreasonably agitated at the ignorance of facebook rants/comments. Specifically about social/political issues. Spreading lies and misinformation will ALWAYS happen, it has happened throughout the history of the world, pre-internet, pre-technology, and it will continue into perpetuity. The concerning part is people’s unwillingness to do their own research, and instead, just jump on the emotionally-charged bandwagon that seems to be the most popular of their own personal social circle. It’s disgusting and frustrating and I just don’t want to see it anymore.
4. Facebook makes you live with your bad decisions for the rest of your (and everyone else’s) lives. I’ve made some stupid/emotional facebook posts that I’m not proud of. It’s probably that way for most people, and some are less apologetic about it than others, and some are more guarded/careful in posting things. I don’t want to open up further possibilities for this. With all of the stress in my life, ranting about it on Facebook really won’t fix it, it won’t make me (really) feel better; it just gives me a false sense of comeraderie– or, at least I think that’s the idea. And then it’s there. Forever. My daughter will be able to read all of my drunk facebook posts to her grandchildren. How lovely. In contrast, I have very few images/photographs of my grandmother– even less of my great-grandmother, but that just means that I cherish the few that I have very much– not only because there are so few photographs, but that no one else has the ones that I have. I also have an astounding amount of reverence for these people. Hearing their stories and experiences have shaped these people into examples to look up to. Did they never make bad decisions? Of course not. They’re human, and most certainly probably did things they aren’t completely proud of, but I have an unscathed perspective, which allows me to preserve their memory, in ways that may be difficult for future generations to do in my memory.
5. Forget over sharing… over POSTING is also a problem. I know that I went to Washington DC back in the spring of 2009. I know that I did it. I remember taking all of those pictures. Somehow, they got deleted before I could upload them. Damn.
MY MEMORY OF DC IS OF TAKING PICTURES.
It is *NOT* about how I felt being there, or the people I met, or the experience. I remember worrying (because I was alone) who I could ask to snap a photo of me in front of the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and Washington Monument. I carried my camera in my hand the ENTIRE time. My *memory* is what I can recall of what I saw through the lens, which, essentially is exactly what someone could have experienced having just seen the photos. The photos that mysteriously were somehow lost/deleted before I could upload them. This is a problem. Go to any monument and look around. NO ONE is viewing the event. They’re viewing their cameras, which are viewing the event, and, just for the record, a photograph (even a good one) will never replace the experience of actually BEING somewhere. I took another trip to DC a few months ago, and watched the changing of the guards at Arlington Cemetery. So many people filmed the ceremony. Very few, mostly the wheelchair-bound veterans, were really taking in the experience. I didn’t take any photographs or video and kept my phone in my purse and turned off, and I couldn’t help (maybe it’s the veteran in me) but feel a little bit disappointed in folks who were treating the whole thing like they were watching their kids in the school play. It somehow devalued the reverence of the moment.
Will I re-open my facebook account? Perhaps. Considering that I will soon embark on a move to the other side of the world, keeping in some form of contact with my parents, and friends, as well as helping to foster some semblance of normalcy helping my daughter to keep in contact with HER friends and family, means that I’ll probably, at some point, go back to using it. But hopefully, I’ll keep this period sans-facebook as a cleansing, sobering reminder of how much better it is to be present in my world, despite the goings on of the facebook world.