It was a Tuesday. I was seated comfortably on Angela’s chesterfield sofa. Angela, who I’d met during college, hosted weekly get-togethers for “the girls.” Each of us would bring something to contribute to the group: vodka, chips and guac, cupcakes, etc. We’d gather around the television to watch “our shows,” which Angela had DVRed throughout the week. Although our shows were prerecorded, we’d never fast forward through the commercials because they provided us with time to gossip, catch-up and inevitably back out of the conversation, hang our heads to check our Facebook accounts via iPhones. It was the normal thing to do; it was acceptable among us and sometimes one of us would even exclaim something along the lines of: “Oh my God, did you see Nick’s status update?!” We all got along wonderfully, and I looked forward to our weekly get-togethers.
This night was different. I was the first to arrive, followed by three of the other girls. Angela and I greeted them as they walked in and took their seats. We waited for Nicole, another friend from college who was always fashionably late, and finally a knock at the door told us she had arrived. When she walked in, she smiled and said hello to everyone. Except me. I assumed I had been included in her greeting although she hadn’t made eye contact, and thought nothing more of it. Angela pressed “play” on the remote.
As the night wore on and the six of us talked and laughed, I noticed Nicole was still avoiding eye contact and conversation with me. When she got up to make everyone dirty martinis, she returned with five and resumed her seat. She had made everyone a drink except for me. Something was up. At the next commercial, I pulled her into the kitchen.
“Are you mad at me?” I asked. She sighed and moved her hand up to push the hair behind her ears. On her left ring finger, I noticed a rock. “Holy shit, you got engaged?”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Yeah, and you didn’t even say anything to me about it on Facebook. It happened last Wednesday. Six days, and I haven’t heard a thing from you.” I was floored. I hadn’t even been on Facebook to see it, I explained. And then I tried to reason that she hadn’t called me or even texted. But she was obviously hurt.
When I got home, I deleted my account. As I did it, I sang the “no drama, no no no no drama” from Black Eyed Peas “My Humps” in my head. Or, at least I remember it that way.
I was late to hop on the Facebook train, signing up in 2008. By then most people I knew already had an account. But I remember its presence as early as 2005, when my older cousins had accounts by invitation. Prior to creating one for myself, I used MySpace, and probably would’ve kept doing so if my friends had kept their accounts on that platform. One by one, though, they drifted across hyperspace, and eventually I felt I had no choice but to join them.
I was never a heavy Facebook user, though. I’d check it daily, but I wasn’t proactive about it. I didn’t seek people out, I didn’t stalk my exes, and I rarely posted status updates or new photo albums. It felt like a negative environment, whether it was or wasn’t a faux environment, with my friends arguing back and forth about politics, or posting indirect but aggressive statuses about each other. Occasionally, an old friend from grammar school or removed cousin would add me as a friend, in which case we’d send a few quick messages, agree to hang out, exchange numbers and never talk again. Still, the little green dot next to their names made me feel close to them, connected somehow. I imagine I felt the same as Gatsby, staring across the water at the green light on Daisy’s dock — he wanted her attention but he’d have to put on an elaborate show for everyone to get it.
After I deleted my account, I received a call from my mother. “Beth wants to know why you deleted her,” she said. Beth was my mom’s friend who lived in South Dakota, who was my Facebook friend but who, I assumed, had absolutely zero interest in my life. In retrospect, I think my mom was actually wondering whether I had deleted her, and if so, why. She seemed disappointed when I told her I had deleted my account entirely. To this day, when I see her, she asks whether I want to “lurk anyone” by logging into her account. The answer is always no.
Then my sister called. She yelled into the receiver. “What do you mean you deleted your Facebook?! Are you insane? These are the best years of your life and now you’ll have no record of them. It’s going to be so cool to look back at everything that’s passed. You’re dumb. You should really think about signing up again, before the world forgets you.” She hung up.
I’ve been Facebook-less for three years, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on creating a record of my life. Sure, Facebook can be useful, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using it, but it shouldn’t be used as a crutch for real socialization. It’s hard to get to know someone organically when you have his entire history for the last six years unfolding before you on the monitor. I feel like I’m living life better than I was, more consciously and in the moment. When we try so hard to document everything as it happens, we take away from the happening itself. It’s seeing someone at a concert looking at her digital camera, electing to watch through a screen instead of in person.
And frankly, I don’t need to remember the date of an important happening. That’s just data. I’d rather remember the smell of the air, the color of the sky, and the way I felt.