The other day I announced on Facebook that I’d be deleting the account. The reactions were mixed. Some people were outright mad, others supportive, and most were confused and curious. Most people wanted to know “Why?” Well, it wasn’t the easiest thing to explain especially in such a short format but it’s a question worth examining because to me, Facebook is an interesting phenomenom that raises interesting issues.
This is not the first time I’d considered deleting my Facebook. I first considered it when ExMutant and I separated and I got nauseated by seeing him pop up all over photos with different girls, different friends, and partying it up. And yet you tell me you’re miserable, miss me, and want me back? I somehow remain unconvinced. But, I liked the network I’d built, and didn’t want to make an emotional and rash decision because of another person’s actions, especially a person I was extricating from my life as much as possible. So I kept it.
Then, Facebook had one privacy issue after another and I felt maybe this is the right time. I’ve had a hard time figuring out who I want on Facebook, who I don’t, and what to share. I didn’t like the idea of Facebook owning me and sharing me with people who are looking to take my hard-earned money. But, I also thought I was slightly paranoid and decided to take a wait and see attitude. Well I waited. And I saw. And then, something weird started happening to me that was seemingly unrelated.
Reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (review to come really soon) made me think a lot. It really got me asking myself a lot about myself. And I found that a few things I enjoy and value, Facebook deteriorates– specifically relationships and communication. At first glance and first experience, it appears Facebook strengthens these things and even makes them easier to develop. But, and maybe this is more my fault than Facebook’s, I have found that what it really makes easier is to create a false sense of relationship and communication.
Facebook encourages drive-by communication– brief, light, and superficial. Although there are people who do otherwise, I have found most people do not like it when you bare your soul on Facebook. And why should they? Soul-baring is something that should be reserved for the most intimate of your brethren. But, Facebook has made it so much easier to pronounce to your hundreds of “Friends” your latest frustration, injury, aggravation, embarrassment– with no time to think, “Is this really something I want people to know about?” So if you get used to applying the filter to what you stream on Facebook, you get into the habit of keeping everything fluffy. And there’s a mental block that tells you you don’t really have to reach out to your close friend because you posted on her status update that morning. What more do they want? For me, I knew there was something lacking in the Facebook experience when I found myself reluctant to share my blog and Twitter accounts there. I was hiding one online personality from another? With everything else I had in place, Facebook just seemed pointless.
Facebook does make it easier to begin, or renew, relationships. However, it is also just as effective as deteriorating existing ones if you let it. For me, I let it. The false contact you make on Facebook too easily replaces real contact. You saw your friend’s photos of their new baby online so the urgency to visit them in person is somewhat diminished. You wished your friend a Happy Birthday in a cute post and even attached a cute little cupcake, so you’re off the hook for calling her or sending her a card– or are you? For me, the answer is no.
In my quest to get back to me, to MutantSupermodelness, I have found myself getting back to basics. Rubin’s book recently made it even easier to consider just how to do this with her proposal to consider what you enjoyed doing as a 10 year old as a way of reconnecting with your true sources of enjoyment. Doing this has reinforced my inclination that I’m too connected online and too disconnected offline. I want to be the person who sends you a birthday card in the mail. I want to be the person who gets together with her friends. I like to read. I like to write. I like to make things. While the internet does provide me with a lot of modern versions of all of these things, I also find myself too easily absorbed by the online version and too neglectful of the offline version. I need to find a happy medium. Here are some of the steps I have taken, or will be taking soon, to do so:
- Disconnected data services from my phone. All it does now is call and text.
- Creating an enormous and comprehensive address book on Gmail using the information I am obtaining in my last days of Facebooking. This has been really fun for me to do and I’m excited about the possibilites open to me having this info.
- Deleting Facebook. Keeping my blog, Twitter, and Flickr. Created a Tumblr account. I want to keep my online and offline personalities separate. I enjoy having an online community but when I blur it with my offline community, things fall apart.
- Making a conscious effort to reach out to the people in my offline world I care deeply about. I have read so much on the importance of groups and getting together that to deny myself (and my children!) those opportunities to grow, just seems sort of irresponsible.
Of course, a lot of these things seemingly require more effort on my part so what remains to be seen is how well I can manage these relationships and relationship-building activities without heavy reliance on the internet. It’s important to note, I don’t plan on eliminating the internet as a tool to communicate. I think e-mail is excellent and practical, but even that has become replaced to a large extent by things like Facebook. But when it comes down to it, I just think these things are really important and especially at this juncture in my life I feel a need to remain more grounded.
“Back to basics” has become a sort of mantra I find myself repeating on an almost daily basis. I have often mentioned that I felt I lost a part of myself through the marriage I was in. Maybe this was because I was still young and not completely sure of what I was really about. Maybe I had a pretty good idea but was too frightened to exert it. Maybe it was a bit of a combination. After all, it’s hard to exert yourself when you’re not really sure what it is you’re pushing forward. But, I’m putting the puzzle pieces together and I’m liking the image that’s emerging. I feel more and more confident every day. I feel more assured of my path, my future, my potential. I like where I am, I like where I’m going. When I get confused, I ask myself what I would want my kids to do and find that’s a pretty good answer to my problem.