On May 18, I posted to Facebook that I had just finished a two week hiatus, and would be spending more time away. It’s now been two months instead of just one, and I’ve come to some conclusions that I’d like to share.
So, why’d you do it?
Facebook is a highlight reel of life. It’s really easy to look at one’s feed and feel like everyone is out there living a wonderful, enchanted life full of fun, parties, babies, and happiness. If that is juxtaposed against someone’s life that may not be so great, it adds for a pretty damn depressing time. I was going through that, and I needed to change it. Admittedly, I’ve had a hard time dealing with the loss of my Grandmother two years ago, and it’s taken a fair amount of time to really deal with that. The absence of her being gone tied combined with seeing other people’s highlight reel just made for a bad combination. As such, I needed to get away.
I think it’s important to point out, though, that highlight reels are just that, and while Sunday morning may be loaded with pictures of a wonderful Saturday night, that’s not reality. Everybody goes through hard times, and many don’t share that on Facebook. I know that I am much more open when happy, and close off when I’m not. No one should judge the state of their life against others, as we are all on our own paths, and that goes double for the lives others choose to put on Facebook.
And what did you learn?
Staying completely off Facebook is unrealistic. Too many of the people I want to stay in touch with use Facebook as a communications medium. While abstaining from the website and mobile app, I did install Messenger on my iPhone to respond to a few messages that popped up over the last few weeks. But I found that people were regularly mentioning things on Facebook, and I felt disconnected from people I previously felt connected to. While I tried to augment that feeling with texts or calls, there are some folks that orbit in a ring where I want to know what they’re doing, I want them to know what I’m doing, but we don’t necessarily do the phone thing. Maybe that doesn’t make them “friends” in that sense, but there was a lonely feeling that I want gone.
Great. Now what?
Now I return. I am going to scan through my friends list and prune it down. My goal is to get the list down to those people I felt I missed, and not others. I won’t be playing around with muting people – either they stay or go. I guess I should pre-apologize here, but as of this writing I haven’t started manipulating, so I can’t say who has made the cut.
I am not going to immediately reinstall Facebook on my phone. I will start using the web interface, but I don’t need Facebook available at a moments notice, filling my downtimes with highlight reels. Messenger will stay on the phone, though, as that is still a de facto communication channel these days.
Overall, I will post less. That had been the trend I was on anyway, so it should be easy. I will also do more to share the bad and the good. For me, that will be cathartic, but it also falls in line with the idea of only keeping around the people I actually want to share my life with. And, if it encourages others to do so as well, great. Facebook would be a better, more realistic place if it wasn’t just the good. Like the song goes, you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.
Sure! I still don’t care for how pervasive Facebook is in the world. I get that they want to be the next AOL, but that’s bad for the Internet. When you use Facebook to log in to other websites, they start to build a persona of you and where you go on the Internet. This often comes with them also getting access to pieces of your data. Individually that’s not terrible, but with the power to coalesce this data, they become large and dangerous. Some people think Facebook is now too big to go away, but they also said that about MySpace, and Pan Am Airlines, and a dozen other major players in a dozen industries. Who knows where the next big movement will come from? The nice thing about the Internet is that it’s the great, big equalizer. Content created from the largest companies can be indistinguishable from that of a teenager in her parents’ basement. This is a double-edged sword, but it’s a powerful one.
Overall, I’m glad I did this. Being a digital worker, I spend most of my life online, and I’m proud of myself for being able to so completely disconnect from something that was such a big part of my life – and had such an unexpected impact on it. Like the saying goes, everything in moderation. I’ve now swung to both sides of Facebook, and will find a place in the middle that suits me.
Until the next thing comes along, anyway.