To Criticize Our Social World

I hate the internet. Wait, I don’t. But I might.

From Unsplash by William Iven

An Essay on Facebook.com

I.

Social media is superficial. It reflects a chosen few moments of our continuous lives — screenshots that can’t begin to reflect the whole picture.

I created my first account on Facebook, which has since become one of my least favorite platforms.

Currently, I have less than 150 Facebook friends, yet I still feel like I am connected to too many people. It’s even worse now that my feed has begun to reflect each of my friends’ likes and public comments.

Though it is awful, I appreciate this update for continually reminding me of the following truth. I don’t need to remain connected with every person I have met. In fact, no one needs to digitally connect with every person they meet. I find that if I encounter an interesting person and I know we won’t become further acquainted, I am more inclined to add them on LinkedIn than on Facebook. Why? My reason is simple: professional and personal contacts are not one in the same.

To provide context, if you and I attended the same elementary school, but we haven’t spoken since exchanging autographs at graduation, then we do not need to stay connected on a personal level. Even so, there is the chance that we might be valuable contacts in the professional world. Nevertheless, since we don’t play crucial parts in each others lives, chances are, you won’t miss my presence in your feed and I will not miss yours.

II.

There are people who believe that the user experience on Facebook improves as you gain friends. Small circles are effectively shunned.

Obviously anyone with under 100 friends is an outcast. They must be if they’ve been breathing for 20 years, without making 100 connects. Tragedy. Maybe they’ve spent the past 15 years off the grid? Even so, that’s abnormal.

To these people, I would like to say that at this point in my life, less than 100 friends on Facebook would be a dream. In high school, I had more friends than I currently do and I was miserable. Not necessarily because of the amount of friends I had, but because the quantity did not match the quality of the connections.

There was an unimaginable number of updates from people who were doing an unimaginable number of things. How does one do that many things? Add that to an overwhelming amount of irrelevant stories and shares of borderline offensive content, and you can begin to understand why I hated the platform.

One day, I realized the secret to happiness:

My friends make my feed. So, if I have less friends, then I’ll see less crap.

Wow.

Unfriend-ing binges became routine. Every few months, long after I had passed a point of dissatisfaction, I would remember that I could unfriend people who shared content I did not want to see. I have since learned about an “unfollow” option, which proves pointless, because if I’m not going to see what you share, then what is the point of remaining friends? You then become a number, which means nothing seeing as you don’t even appear in the crowd. Wouldn’t it be better to unfriend as originally intended? I vote yes.

Maybe someday I will have found 1,000 people with whom I feel the need to connect. They’ll either share my point of view and introduce me to new concepts, stories, and events of interest, or they’ll constructively challenge my mindset, which is just as great. Maybe some of them will have incredible lives and they’ll document them beautifully, so I can live vicariously through their accounts. My feed will be lovely, and my time on Facebook will no longer cease to exist.

III.

What should you takeaway from this essay? I don’t know. Feel free to tell me what you gathered from what I wrote.

Personally, my experiences on Facebook along with realizations from time spent in toxic relationships, has made me a hell of a lot better at cutting people out of my life. Not everyone has been conditioned to be receptive to, or to even understand, such a blunt approach. It took me years of learning to realize that I have the power to effect change in my life. Change is healthy and change is necessary for growth. To finish, I’ll add a quote from the great Stephen Chbosky, “Life doesn’t stop for anybody”. You shouldn’t either.

If you have gotten nothing from this essay, get this.

You don’t owe anyone your time or energy. Social media is made for your enjoyment. And your life is meant to be enjoyed, so if there are people in it who ruin that for you, do what you need to make a change.

People grow apart. There is no reason to hold on to a relationship founded by strangers. This being said, there is also no reason to be uncivil after separating from a friend. Smiling at strangers, or in this case old friends, will not kill you.


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