"Don't you dare put them up on Facebook," said my sister after texting me pictures of my nephews and niece making silly faces at the camera. If I knew how to roll my eyes I would have, because it was the same thing she always said when she sent over pictures of the kids. Everyone was a predator.
Fact was that I was the progressive and cool one; sharing snapshots and insights into my life the new age way, while she was clearly stuck in the Stone Age. I didn't think she had a point, either (other than to inadvertently tick me off with her "maturity") -- until now, that is. Because as of early November, I no longer hail to the Fakebook following. That's right, I have committed the ultimate social suicide. Go ahead, try and search for my name. You won't find me. Sure, you'll find some woman who stole my identity, but she's blonde and I'm a flaming redhead.
This development didn't happen overnight. In fact, it's ironic how long it did take me to cut the Facebook part of my life out of my life. And although you may not see it that way, it has in fact become an integral part of your lives, as well. It's kind of like smoking pot. It doesn't seem that bad, because hell, everyone else is doing it and maybe it's even allowed. Yet, even though it can cause your brain to go a little fuzzy, you just can't seem to put down the joint. Of course marijuana can help manage the pain cancer patients endure and has been proven to provide relief and increase of appetite, but Facebook isn't chemotherapy. However, like a cancer, Facebook does enable us to create shallow facades and promote artificial relationships with each other and with ourselves.
My relationship with Facebook became like that of a bad ex-boyfriend. I couldn't help signing in after a while, if just to "check up." I did this knowing that it wasn't going to help me to get ahead in a way that really mattered. I didn't draw any sense of fulfillment from the forum, but I did learn that it can do the opposite for a person. And while many are literally checking up on their exes on Facebook, Facebook and I had shared a healthy relationship for years... until we didn't.
If I'm being completely honest, Facebook didn't make me happy. I found that while it was gratifying to share in good news and joy of others, the cons positively outweighed the pros. It became about getting the right amount of likes per quip and about overexercised witty banter. It made my brain hurt. And when I hit the little "x" on the upper right corner of the page, I wasn't left with feelings of contentment for my neighbor's photo food diaries. After a while, I found it hard to believe that it was doing any good at all, aside from offering others superficial support to help satisfy their own insecurities. Otherwise, why share at all? Now think carefully about why someone would upload multiple self portraits to be uploaded weekly, if not daily, to Facebook. The answer isn't a good one, now is it? For many users, Facebook may simply be an inherent need for self-validation.
"OMG you look GORGEOUS!"
"They're SO sweet! She's getting so big! I must visit."
"OMG you're Tiny! You're seriously disappearing on us, you're like anorexic now."
"You barely look pregnant!"
"Nice ride! Is that the new Merc you were telling me about?
Of course there were the albums of picturesque vacations and romantic picnics during summers in Montauk; pictures of new moms holding squirmy tiny human bodies looking like ET straight from the womb, and who now had by force created a cyber identity for themselves. There were images of fancy dinners or fresh pancakes on rainy Sunday mornings, men standing tall in newly tailored suits and of shiny new cars with men smirking inside of them with the windows rolled down. And then came Instagram. It has since become an entirely new platform of broadcasting: an airbrushed version of already airbrushed lives being lived; instantaneously posted to profiles and timelines after making the tough decision of whether to go with the Mayfair or Nashville settings for that new "candid" photo-op of the kids playing in the backyard.
Before many of you disregard my sentiments, I do know that Facebook isn't all bad. For instance, this past week, a friend, Chaim Levin, an abuse survivor and advocate, helped spread the word about a young woman who was sexually abused multiple times as a child, and he first shared her story via Facebook. The dean of the college where the victim attended classes threatened the young woman with expulsion for disclosing the part of her story that had really made her who into the person she is today. The dean later apologized and vowed to establish proper resources where survivors will be able to go to feel safe. Thankfully, Chaim was able to share her story with the world and his exposé served as a catalyst for change that will revolutionize the opinions of other students within that school.
But hey, stuff like that doesn't happen every day. Stuff like, "Necklace hubby bought me for anniversary #besthusbandintheworld" does. Now again, think carefully about why a woman would need to share photos of the gift her husband bought her to celebrate their special moment, a commemoration of their wedding day. Aside from being inappropriate, shouldn't something like that be kept personal?
The irony of "sharing" isn't lost on me. Because I've spent some time thinking about this, I have concluded that the reasoning behind uploading snapshots of our lives to Facebook is to ensure others that we are not only happy -- we are very happy. Look, my kids are adorable, my husband loves me all the time, and I'm a fantastic cook. Yet, when we draw attention to ourselves, we are only opening ourselves up for judgement. Hence, it's ironic. It's also not real.
When did we begin to lose touch with our own realities? When we began to convince ourselves that everything is okay, as soon as we've posted that photo of us smiling wide. More importantly, how many of those people we call our friends on Facebook do we actually share a non-artificial relationship with? Deactivate your Facebook account and see how many of them try to get in touch with you.
When we busy ourselves with pleasing others and waste our hours changing statuses and organizing albums, we lose out. Let us remember the moments we share in by really celebrating them. The pictures we take are not timeless, the memories culminated by those experiences are. Those are significant.
Days after I deactivated my account, friends from afar asked me why I had done such a thing; it was our means of communication, they said. One friend asked, "How will everyone be able to see what you're up to?!" I laughed and told her that that was the point. I value my privacy and since I've left Facebook; I'm finding out that I have a lot less friends than I thought I did.
We are no longer in a relationship, but we are cordial. Facebook is proving to be an amicable ex. Perhaps this piece will inspire others to "search" within themselves instead of searching within others.The grass is only as green as we allow it to be. Remember that a peaceful heart is evidence enough.
Oh, and one more thing. You may now proceed to share this all over Facebook. Thanks for signing on.