Thought Catalog

I Wish I Knew How To Quit You, Facebook

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I have a hard time accepting that anything is over. I want to imagine that, if I just work hard enough, some things can last forever — especially friendships. Maybe it’s a desire to control, but I find that the concession that a former pinky-swear level friend no longer has any real relation to my life is impossible to make. Even worse, the idea that it’s more than a mere drifting apart and an actual change of character that have rendered us incapable of enjoying one another’s company, seems like the acceptance of pure failure. How could I not make this work?

And Facebook only encourages this false sense of permanence in friendships — in fact, it has taken the very word “friend” behind a poorly-lit convenience store and beaten it into a coma. “Friend” has almost no meaning. I don’t know how many “friends” I have, but I certainly don’t have several hundred. And while, yes, technically I could just shut the thing down — when you move across the world from most of your friends and family, and you know that the Earth will fall off its axis and collide with the sun before they’d get on Skype regularly, it’s hard to just let them all go. Facebook is often the only way to keep in touch with a lot of the people who, when you were in close proximity, you truly loved.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all of those vague acquaintances you met one time and then added in some strange need to solidify the meeting — the Linked In connection of people without business cards — those people can go. Few things are more satisfying than going through your friends list and purging every last person whose relationship with you has been whittled down to a confused “Who the hell is that?” when they show up on your news feed. Those people feel good to get rid of because it reminds us that some connections are worth keeping, that we can quiet the noise in our lives if we need to, and if we take a long look at it, we know who the good ones are. Those that are easy to check off the list and get rid of, they hold no emotional weight. In fact, despite their huge distraction, they’re probably the least problematic thing about Facebook. (Though, speaking of those people, can we all just take a moment to acknowledge that special brand of acquaintance who will re-demand your friendship after what was a clear defriending? How is that not unbearably awkward for them? We already haven’t seen each other since the 6th grade, do you really want to drag this non-relationship into the tortured explanation of why I don’t want to see you clogging up my home page? Ick.)

Anyway, the friendships that really bother me are the ones that I can see rotting before my eyes, courtesy of a social media network. Sure, before the internet, we probably would have just stopped speaking, which isn’t the greatest of outcomes, either. But to see communication become stilted, awkward, even hostile, and the exchanges that used to come so fast and free feel like forced small talk between two strangers — that is downright ugly. To see the person that they are becoming from thousands of miles away, and no longer know how to relate to this person whatsoever, is like watching grains of sand slip through your fingers. The person that you were friends with is no longer here, and just because this profile bears the same name does not mean that you need to remain in contact with them.

But somehow making the move to get rid of someone who really was close, with whom you will still make occasional jabs at talking to, someone you may have even seen recently but who is changing quickly enough in their life now to be light years away from the last time you really spoke, is just too hard to do. It’s not just the deletion of social media fluff, of someone that never had bearing on your life and never will, it’s truly burning a bridge. To stop talking to this person altogether, to admit that even seeing their online presence is an odd combination of uncomfortable and unpleasant, is the stuff of real break-ups. And so we are tempted to keep them around because, well, an awkward non-friendship is better than cutting them out altogether. That would be a real death to the friendship, we might as well keep it on life support in a vegetative state.

I often think about quitting social media, but I remember my family and friends with whom I would otherwise not have the opportunity to often talk to, let alone see. I’m not made of international calling cards, and even if I lived in just a neighboring state, connecting with each others’ schedules can be trying. Facebook allows us to approach and interact with each other on a pace that makes things easy–perhaps too easy. Perhaps the facility of communication tricks us into thinking that someone is still a real friend, just because they’re under that heading on our computer screens. TC mark

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    • gaby

      Truest words EVER. Going through the same issue right now. Had to delete over 100 friends to make Facebook bearable to look at.
      I still hate it, but it’s the best way to share videos and keep in touch with those pesky once-but-now-non-friends … ugh.
      Great post :)

    • Michaelwg

      Awww, I’ll be your friend. My retainer is competitive.

    • Alexa

      Jesus Christ, article number 3892585 about how Facebook is evil but impossible to delete. 

      • http://twitter.com/Nadiaaa87 Nadia

        I think this is at least a bit of a fresh perspective and new angle on the “evils” of Facebook. 

    • Sophia

      I keep deactivating it in order to get more work done, but I just can’t bring myself to completely delete it. I feel like I’ll no longer be relevant, or hear about anything, or talk to many many people ever again. It’s a difficult thought to grapple with. But at the same time, where do we draw the line? What’s the age when everyone deletes? It hasn’t been established yet, and if I don’t do something soon, I’m going to end up 70 years old with an online record of my entire life and an awful lot of time wasted. Now THAT’S scary.

    • http://stepandfall.blogspot.com/ Lu Han

      I don’t have facebook. I can’t really relate to any of this 

    • http://raymondthimmes.com/ Raymond Thimmes

      I have no real friends. Fuck. 

      Also, I’m grappling with the classic “I deactivated… 2 hours pass… reactivate! Did I miss anything!?”

      I wish they would make it a more permanent deletion. Like when myspace let you delete completely. You had more reason to stay away because of all the work that would go into rebuilding your friends list.

      You really did articulate the problem well. I am appreciative that I’m not the only person out there that can’t stand their addiction to this friendship limbo that we call social media. You also touch on a very real point that it’s heartbreaking to think about that person you talked to every day in tenth grade has gone through 7 or 8 years of their life without seeing you even once. You scroll through their timeline and see countless images of parties or boys or girls or graduations or new cars or new jobs or new whatever and you feel so empty. Like that connection you had with that person 7 years ago in one forty minute daily class in high school meant nothing. Because it does mean nothing. But you’ve spent years looking back at them, whoever they are, online and not making any new experiences for yourself. They have no idea who you are and they don’t care. Just like you really don’t care… or is that just me? Maybe it’s like a tier system where there are levels of interest in YOU that is evident in your friends list… like, tiers to friend commitment or memory. I don’t know. This subject is so depressing. Yet you write so eloquently about it.

      I deactivated again this week. And since, I’ve found myself tweeting way more… scary. Oh and making run on sentences in a comment box on and article about the very thing I’m doing right now.

    • Anonymous

       But international calling cards are so ridiculously cheap!!

      0.5cents a minute. That means for a dollar, you could talk for more than 3 hours. Aren’t you making big girl dollars now?

    • Lauren

      As someone who deleted their facebook about two years ago, I feel I should to shed some much needed light on the situation.

      I was also hesitant in deleting mine for the same reasons – that despite the “friends” you never actually talk to, you think you need facebook to stay in contact with people you actually care about. And I think its interesting that you say facebook makes contact possibly too easy.
      But what it comes down to, is that we don’t give ourselves enough credit. People make the effort to stay in contact with loved ones. Without facebook I can still skype and call and text and even write letters to friends and family all around the world. Its so much more personal because you know exactly what level of effort was put into contacting you.

      I became aware of this most when it came to my birthday, and I tragically thought to myself that no one was going to wish me a happy birthday because without facebook that won’t be able to tell when it is. But I got flooded with texts and emails about my special day, so there you go!!

      Look, I’m sick of people bitching about facebook. Please delete it already and realise the truth that humans actually aren’t all lazy antisocial shits and human contact is not only possible but BETTER without it.

      Or just quit bitching and go back to happily tagging pictures of you and your drunken boozehag friends.

    • ANNA

      EARL SWEATSHIRT IS BACK, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

    • bee

      I haven’t deleted my facebook, but I don’t go on it anymore.  It makes me too anxious.  It’s so awkward after high school – the whole point of college is to leave behind who you ‘were’ so you can become who you ‘are’.  But with facebook, you have all of your highschool ‘friends’ juding every move you make and making claims like “that’s SO not like her. what a poser. etc.” 
      So I’ve just let it sit there, and people have seemed to accept that I’m just never on.  Yet they judge me for that.. What kind of friends are those?  And besides, whenever we’re having our random ‘heart-to-hearts’, I always hear them bitching about facebook. 
      AND the way I connect with all of my closest friends has always been through the phone.. Facebook didn’t change that.  It just made me stay in contact with people I wanted to move on from. 

    • Björn

      If you’re afraid to lose contact, e-mail or call. Seriously. I deleted my account a while ago, and I still keep in touch with my real friends. You don’t need the rest, and they don’t need you.

    • http://bloggingforsanity.com Jaime

      “Perhaps the facility of communication tricks us into thinking that
      someone is still a real friend, just because they’re under that heading
      on our computer screens.”

      What’s the most ridiculous to me is when these people you don’t really know or even like all that much (you know, the ones that hated you in high school but want to be friends in FB for nostalgia’s sake) get upset over you deleting them from your friends list.  Newsflash, people.  I’m not a bitch because I don’t friend everyone I’ve ever met.  I’m only interested in keeping up with certain people and I’m honest about it.  If that offends you, you need a new hobby.  Desperately.

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