Two months ago, I was sitting in front of my computer one evening when I finally lifted my eyes away from the screen. I had logged onto Facebook to space out and relax 'for a few minutes', yet somehow nearly 20 had already passed. I looked over at my husband cooking and listening to music in the kitchen, and all I could think was, "I could have been talking with him these past 20 minutes." Instead, I'd spent that time 'catching up' with real-life strangers and fulfilling self-imposed social obligations.
I wanted out.
I was tired of feeling like I had to keep up with so many people I didn't really know in life off the Internet, and I was tired of logging on to see how much action any of my posts or pictures had received. I don't let other people's opinions run my life and determine my actions in real life, so why do I bow to the social pressure on Facebook? I felt like a hypocrite -- something I never wanted to become.
Something had to change. The solution seemed simple: log out. No one was making me keep up a Facebook profile; there was no law requiring me to have one; and I knew the world would still keep turning if my profile fell silent. At least, I figured it would. I decided to give it a try.
It's now been nearly three months of near-silence on Facebook, and I've learned a few surprising things:
1. Facebook was melting my brain!
I was becoming a zombie without even realizing it. It wasn't until I stopped posting that I realized just how often throughout the day, while in the midst of an experience, I was already formulating how I would describe it to my Facebook friends in a concise and witty comment. I nearly choked on my tongue when I realized this. It took a few weeks of consciously un-training my brain, reminding myself that I could think freely again and not have to worry about what anyone else would think about my thoughts, because if I wasn't posting them on the Internet for all to see, no one has to know.
2. I have far fewer good friends than I realized. And I'm stoked about it. Honestly, once the number of Facebook 'friends' gets in the hundreds, it's just overwhelming. How can you possibly keep track of that many people and still connect on the deep, personal, sincere level that friends supposedly do? You can't. I'm of the belief that it's far more valuable and fulfilling to have a few friends -- true in every sense of the word -- than hundreds of acquaintances. Following several weeks of my abrupt end of Facebook posting, only a handful of people I don't actually see on a regular basis contacted me to see what was up and to make sure I was okay. This was a very good reality check.
3. The word 'like' means nothing -- nothing! -- anymore.
The 'like' button probably had good intentions at the beginning of Facebook's existence, but it has rapidly lost all meaning. It is no longer used by the masses to indicate that a post was particularly touching, interesting, funny, or meaningful. It has become an obligation -- a way to prove that you saw a post and care enough to acknowledge it. People are 'liking' damn near everything, often because they don't want to come off as passive-aggressively slighting someone by not liking a post. This is akin to people impulsively answering "I'm good," whenever asked how they are doing. There often isn't even any thought behind the answer -- it's just an automatic response. It's meaningless.
4.Time away from the screen is so much more satisfying.
It makes sense, really. Of course I get more satisfaction out of playing with my daughters, talking with my husband, or even reading a real, paper book or washing the floor than I do from scrolling through a feed reading about what other people are doing.
5. Not everything needs to be captured.
Just like caged animals, the spirit of a memory sometimes loses something very important when it is captured. It's natural to want to 'catch' a beautiful moment in time so you can bring up the picture or post later and hope to stir up the same emotions, yet so many moments in life are magical for that one moment only. They are gifts from nature, rewards of life, and meant only to live in your memory -- not to be photographed and shared with hundreds who weren't there.
I'll admit, it was hard to log off of Facebook and adjust back to my life being only for myself and those whom I communicated with outside of social media. At first, I worried that I'd be out of the loop and about whom would actually keep in contact with me without the world watching. Each day, however, it got a little clearer that I had made a good decision. Distancing myself from Facebook has provided me with the clarity and time necessary to focus on my family, friendships, job, and my journey to remain a genuine, sincere, and loving person with real human connections in spite of today's exponentially expanding technology turning people away from each other and toward another screen.
Facebook, I don't hate you, but I don't miss you either. We had a nice run, and I learned a thing or two from my time with you, but I think it's time we broke up. I'm in love with the world instead.
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