Let me just start by saying I went from the Queen of Facebook to quitting it absolutely. The longer I have been off of Facebook, the more absolutely horrifying I find what it has done to our gauge of what is acceptable in our relationships/personal disclosure. The fact that people even have to distinguish or discuss quitting Facebook should scare you enough; are we really so dependent on not several, but ONE social networking site that we actually cannot imagine our lives without it? I went from getting an impressive amount of Facebook encouragement (i.e. likes, comments, ad nauseum) to not missing it at all. If you, scarily enough, have ever even had to debate quitting Facebook, let me outline for you why and how you can quit it for good and not miss it one bit.
- Facebook has caused us to forget how to ACTUALLY communicate with people, especially the ones we love the most. We have opted for posting general outputs of information about our daily lives, happenings, achievements instead of actually connecting with our best friends, family, etc.. Upon quitting Facebook, when I received an exciting job offer to teach English at a local college, I had to *gasp* actually call, email, and text people instead of just posting a status. A group of very close friends who I studied abroad with made me realize that I didn’t know some of my dearest friends’ actual email addresses, because we always Facebook messaged. I have their emails, and our bond is just as strong over email. I have their REAL contact information, and when I have something to tell people, I actually tell THEM- not the entire world.
- On that exact same note, Facebook has made us believe it is acceptable to share our news, happenings, life achievements with EVERYONE and expect them to care. Be honest, how rotten would you feel if you posted a status about a new accomplishment and no one “liked” it? You would feel discouraged, which is ridiculous because in real life, we don’t A.) tell everyone we see about every detail (good or bad!) about our life B.) expect them to congratulate us for things they shouldn’t, due to social norms, know in the first place. It is actually insane if you think about it. Walking down the halls at work, do you tell every single person, “HEY I GOT OFFERED A NEW JOB” “HEY I GOT OFFERED A NEW JOB”? No, because that is weird and violates social norms. Facebook makes us think it is okay to share everything and normal to expect praise from people we may or may not have seen in years.
- Facebook puts our life on display for everyone. Seems like something you should already know, but really- take a minute to THINK about that. If you ran into an old classmate in a grocery store, would you immediately proceed to tell them about all of your schooling, show them every photo of your children, or every gory detail of your relationships upon first reuniting with them? NO. But if someone you haven’t seen in years “friends” you, that is what they are given access to. Our inability to reject friend requests from only our actual friends and family that we want to have this information (even though I BET you don’t actually call/email/text them with this information instead of posting it on FB) makes this even weirder. Why do we allow these weird things to happen?
- We do not consider what happens on Facebook as real life, but it IS. Whether you want to admit it or not, the information, photos, and feelings you share on Facebook are just as real as showing that person you ran into in the grocery store an entire photo album. We are so exposed, and so weirdly okay with it because we think it is “just Facebook,” which then leads us to the weird place of not seeing our ACTUAL lives as reality. We stop viewing everything we post on Facebook as reality, even though it IS, which is actually more disturbing than being so exposed. If I take a photo of my sweet puppy, and proceed to post it on FB, I then focus on the positive response I get from Facebook (i.e. “what a cute puppy!”, all the “likes”) instead of viewing the photo as something special, a moment of time captured of her age at this time, something that only I have seen that I can then share with people who actually care about this dog. Facebook is causing us and our awareness of the present to exist only in Facebook terms.
- Facebook robs us of intimacy in our relationships. Whether it be with friends or significant others, our relationships are defined and publicized by Facebook in a way that robs them of any special quality. I have a photo of two of my girlfriends/former roommates that I lived with in graduate school, both of whom live far away from me, and I was really happy when I looked at it recently knowing I had emailed with one of them. We were just catching up, but I was so glad to know how she was doing. If I had used Facebook to contact her, not only would I be accessing her in a way that every person can access her on Facebook, i.e. writing on her wall, but our relationship, our conversation would be visible to everyone. Facebook has made the art of private conversation non-existent. I don’t need the world to know that I keep in touch with my friends. I also don’t need the world to approve and validate my relationship with my boyfriend by making it “Facebook official.” Facebook shines a spotlight in a way that makes our actually special relationships seem just like everyone else’s.
- Facebook creates the illusion that we are infinite. It is odd that in a culture that is so “Carpe Diem,” so “YOLO” (forgive me), we rely so heavily on a social network that makes us appear infinite. There are young children whose entire lives are being cataloged on the internet by Facebook, but no one seems to have an issue with it. When people die, their Facebook pages still exist. Facebook takes away the gravity and reality of mortality. We are not a website that will go on forever. Which in turn leads me to…
- Facebook robs us of our ability and capacity to grieve. We now equate posting on someone who has died’s wall as being representative of our grief, when really, in simulating the same act we might have committed while that person was live, publicizing our relationship with that person, and probably receiving “likes” for our hopefully heart-felt grief, the seriousness and finality of death is not there to be understood. Facebook allows us to write on someone’s wall or comment on their pictures even after they have died, not allowing us to realize their actual absence in the physical world. SCARY.
- Facebook stalking is much worse than real stalking. The ability to look at photos from throughout a persons’ life, read their thoughts, view their entire history is scarier than any real stalker who can only surmise facts from watching someone. I don’t understand why Facebook stalking is regarded as funny. The fact that total strangers have access to so much of our life story is surreal, and actually belittles the details and importance of our real lives. Again, we are on display and we are OKAY with it.
- Facebook has made us dependent on positive reinforcement from strangers. You’re lying to yourself if you can’t admit that anything posted on Facebook is intended to get attention. We post where we go, who we are with, how awesome what we are doing is- not because we are in the moment, enjoying our lives, relationships, and activities, but because we want to be validated. I can’t think of anything worse.
- We are unable to quit. The more I think about it, the more this sole face stares me in the face. People cannot quit Facebook. They cannot remember life without it, without chronicling every day, thought, or feeling. Our perception of reality is skewed enough in the world, but I truly believe Facebook and our reliance on it for communication, relationships, and validation is frightening. If it is just a website, why can’t so many people NOT use it?
If you disagree with me and think that I am totally wrong, then quit. Get your friends’ REAL email addresses. Send mail. Call people. Be happy within yourself at life’s every day marvels and realize that sharing them on the internet, that hollow place where our connections are shallow and without blood in their veins. Learn to love real moments, and know that they are no less real by just being between you and one person. When you have news, make a special attempt to share it with people who actually love you. Don’t let their love get lost in a sea of fake “likes” and comments. Free yourself and your mind from the illusion of life as it appears on Facebook. I promise, once you do, you’ll see everything differently. The holidays are the perfect time to renegotiate how you share what matters to the people who matter most.