Transitioning into non-existence as I distance myself from Facebook
Without a Facebook profile one is practically nobody in today’s world, which is why I will take it easy as I happily transition into non-existence.
I find Facebook to be a great tool to share both useless and useful information, as well as interesting and banal information. But I am not exactly qualified to judge, as I have learned to be the compulsive Facebooker I am today by posting all my opinions, feelings, photos, videos, news stories and any other amount of bullshit that I have encountered during my Facebook existence. Sometimes putting me at odds with my “real world” acquaintances and experiences. Drama!
I used the word encounter, because I really believe it cannot be called experience. I am sure others might think otherwise, but since Facebook I have lost more and more contact with so-called friends and limited myself to liking, posting emoticons and sending fatuous birthday wishes, condolences or any kind of message that lack a personalized and loving demeanor of real life interactions. On the other hand I have been able to at least stay tuned to some friends’ lives, travels and careers which without Facebook would probably never happen.
Of course the amount of interaction one has with the “real world” friends in face to face encounters is not necessarily connected to having a Facebook account, but perhaps the amount of time one spends on it. In my experience Facebook gives us both the sense of belonging, the approval and praise we all need sometimes, the social support, and networking possibilities by just posting and waiting for the comments, likes and shares to come.
Before Facebook one would have to look for real humans in the “real world” in order to get the attention and sense of belonging Facebook provides us with today. In a way it is as if Facebook has given us the great ability to access all these wonderful benefits of a social network, without having to leave our own mental and physical little bubble. However, the way I see it is that all these perceived advantages come with an increased element of narcissism and laziness which I don’t remember being so present in the time before Facebook and smartphones. (Yes I remember how the old world used to be).
I still remember calling friends back in the no-Facebook and no-cellphone days to talk about things that happened during the day or week. We would listen eagerly to each other’s news, problems or ideas, and the conversation would flow. Sometimes a particular problem would be nagging one of us, but we would just give some advice, some loving words or disapproval and then move on with the conversation. Of course there was always a need to feel validated, but also a need to connect and share my experience with others. I find this to be the case as well with many Facebook posts (mine included), but way more complicated and less satisfying.
Once we post anything on Facebook, especially a rant or personal problem we are not just doing it to share with a close friend, but to get a large group of people to recognize our struggle or validate our views. There will be comments that will satisfy our narcissistic needs, telling us we have all the right to be upset, that we are strong and wonderful individuals, and that our problems and feelings matter and are real! But there will also be some that will make us lose face, and sometimes even lose our shit. I have been there! (Again I am not criticizing others, as much as I am criticizing myself).
Why do we lose our shit? Because this is no longer the private conversation in which the other party might have some empathy, or in which we will be able to perceive the other party’s empathy; and in which criticism will come from a context of trust and closeness. Here everyone else reads everything and anyone can chip in!
I have learned to not take Facebook comments seriously, but now I am learning that I should also not provoke pointless exchanges. Nor should I expect approval from Facebook friends who are for the most part acquaintances.
I believe Facebook has taken away empathy, and the ability to develop compassion and wisdom through interactions. In such a public light one is always trying to impress, and save one’s face, and the amount and speed of the information presented rarely allows for a personal connection and/or an understanding of the context in which people are experiencing or understanding what they are sharing. It is almost as claiming to be up-to-date with current world new by reading only the headlines and never reading the full stories and researching beyond.
But that is exactly the problem I am finding in my own way of using Facebook. I am only reading the headlines of friends’s rich and meaningful lives and wasting so much time going over stupid and time consuming posts, videos and photos that I have forgotten to ask what all these snippets and moments mean to them. I create completely pointless versions of friend’s, acquaintances, and ex’s lives by looking at their profiles, which turns out to be a much more confusing activity, than it is meaningful.
So… Dear friend: I saw you have a new house, you have a baby, you have a new boyfriend, you are married, you got a new job, you lost your grandmother, you moved to a new country. Are you happy? Are you satisfied? What do you want to do with your life? One can only get this information by having more personalized conversations, and Facebook is getting some of us conditioned to reduce our social life to posts, likes and comments and alienate ourselves from real, meaningful relationships.
If one can use it as a way to enhance real world relationships and share meaningful and beyond personal wisdom, I believe Facebook can be great. But how many of you actual Facebook friends have you had an in depth and meaningful conversation with in the last two months? In my case, not that many, and that is why I have decided to start my transition into “non-existence”. This is definitely me, using the dramatic language I’m known for, since I will most likely never leave Facebook all together. But starting today I will definitely limit my time on it, for I have found there are so many pleasures in life I am missing by spending endless hours going over cat videos, relationship status changes, ridiculous inspirational quotes, photos, re-shared opinions and new stories and no real interactions.
I plan to spend more time blogging and developing ideas in writing. I will continue to gather news stories from multiple sources, but without suffering when I see the ridiculous stories and sources people share so much on Facebook. I will once again discover the beauty and excitement of snail mail and emails to communicate with friends and family. I will leave my Skype on more often, Whatsapp my friends about my daily events, and make sure we talk at least once a month if not more (now that I will have time). I plan to use my Mailchimp to send updates of my life to groups of friends I have lost contact with. I will erase the Facebook app from my cellphone, and allow myself only a limited amount of time at a certain time of the day. I will spend more time doing things that make me feel fulfilled such as spending time with my husband, reading books, reading more scholarly articles and blogs, meditating, learning German, doing yoga and physically going out to meet people in this new great city I am living in.
I will regain my amazing social skills my friends know me for! After all I’m the loud mouth who always manages to break the ice and get people excited about projects and ideas. I will most likely discover that as I transition into a Facebook non-existence I will come to be a more socially involved and satisfied individual. Or at least I wish to be… I am not gone, I am just preparing myself to be more present.
***When I say these things, I am talking about my own experience, so don’t feel offended all of the sudden because you might or might no feel identified with what I say.