It’s not Facebook, it’s me.

I broke up with Facebook.

I’ve considered it many, many times, but always talked myself out of it.  I’ve always been a late bloomer, and I was late to the Facebook party, too, when I set up an account less than two years ago.  Since then, I’ve used it to reconnect with old friends long lost, to meet a few new ones, and to feel a bit more connected to the world at large.

These are good things, and yet a couple of days ago, I found myself staring at my “friend” list and thinking about how thin to nonexistent my connection with most of the “friends” on it was.  On a whim, I started “unfriending” people with whom I had absolutely no interaction on the site or in real life.  Then I unfriended the ones whose posts I’d blocked from my newsfeed because I’d grown weary of their misogyny, homophobia, and other assorted hate-mongering.  It astonished me how quickly I got down to a handful of actual friends.  Actual friends are worth actually being with, as opposed to engaging-in-consensual-spying-on-each-other-via-a-computer-screen with, so I terminated my Facebook account.

Facebook was displeased, in the kind of desperate, passive-aggressive way that characterizes so many of the interactions on it.  It asked me if I really wanted to terminate my account, or just deactivate it for a while.  Sheesh, Facebook, “no” means “no,” not “later.”  It then informed me that it would hold on to my account for the next ten days in case I changed my mind.  I haven’t.  And I won’t.  I don’t miss it, and already I’m pleasantly amazed at how easily it’s slipped from my world.

I don’t want to come across as a hater.  A lot of people manage Facebook well, using it as the tool that it should be.  For me, the decision ultimately came down to the fact that, at the end of the day, Facebook was not adding net value to my life.  I was the one who felt like a tool.

I know I probably sound like the love-child of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch.  What’s not to love about connecting with lots of awesome people?  Someone who’s obsessed with connection should be all over that, right?  The problem, for me, was that when the connection didn’t feel shallow, it often felt malignant.

Perhaps I am a dinosaur, but I’m ill at ease in a universe of sound-bytes and branding.  The status update that says, “Just had the most awesome day EVER!” says nothing.  The one that says, “Politician Slimypants is the most evil hosebeast EVER and I hope he falls in a pit of leeches!!” says nothing.  The one that says, “Happy anniversary to the best husband EVER!!!” says nothing.  Behind all these rabid exclamations, of course, there is a story, but Facebook isn’t big on stories, despite its misleading name.  All too often, it feels more like a facepalm.  I’m a story girl, not a sound-byte girl.  Facebook and I were just not meant to be.

Then there’s the darker side of our ill-fated relationship, which at times felt downright sadomasochistic.  It went something like this:

Facebook:  Here is a picture of a new mother proudly taking her baby somewhere cool and interesting.  You should have done that when you had a baby.  You missed your chance.

Me:  I pretty much missed my first son’s entire infancy, thanks to postpartum depression.

Facebook (in the voice of Tom Cruise):  Whatever.  There’s no such thing.  Hey, check out this full-length selfie!  You could look like this, too, if you stopped eating food.

Me:  But I like food.

Facebook:  So how about some food porn?  All your friends eat at interesting restaurants when they’re not preparing gourmet cuisine and artfully photographing it at home.

Me:  Now I’m hungry.

Facebook:  Well, that wouldn’t be such a problem for you if you’d just run marathons like all the cool kids.

Me:  Maybe I should run marathons…..

Facebook:  Oooh, look at this one!  Here’s a picture of a gorgeous woman in a bikini who just gave birth to a beautiful baby, posing with her husband the supermodel on the deck of their yacht while taking a break from her fabulously fulfilling career as a ninja rock star who saves baby seals from the Evil Party!

Me:  I suck.

Yes, there are awesome people on Facebook, and many of them are people I love and admire.  But the time I spent interacting with those people was minuscule compared to the amount of time I wasted and the amount of self-doubt and self-criticism spawned by viewing through a microscope the tiny, decontextualized fragments of other people’s lives that are Facebook’s stock-in-trade.

I believe that there are people out there who can do the Facebook thing in a healthy way.  I believe there are people out there who can make it work for them rather than eating away at them in a thousand tiny ways, like drops of water eroding limestone over thousands of years.  But I know–because one of the great gifts of growing older is starting to get to know oneself, both the lovely bits and the ugly ones–that it’s not for  me.

In the few days since I deleted my account, I’ve spent less time online.  I’ve spent more time marveling at my own children instead of scrolling through pictures of other people’s.  I’ve spent more time thinking about stories I want to write, and less time thinking of how colossally annoying it is when fifty women simultaneously declare that they married THE. BEST. HUSBAND. AND. FATHER. EVER!!!  Girlfriends, if you have all married the single best man who ever lived, then do I have news for you, sister-wives.

Since I broke up with Facebook, my real relationships feel even more precious and rare.  I’ve had more meaningful contact with friends and family whose lives previously slipped past my awareness as a jumble of one-liners in a newsfeed.  And, at a distance now from the rarefied atmosphere of a world in which admiration is distilled into clicks of a “like” button, I like myself a lot better.

If you liked this post, please go hug an actual human being.

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20 thoughts on “It’s not Facebook, it’s me.

  1. I’ve often thought of getting rid of Facebook too. Tried it once but found I missed my seeing pictures of friends and family and missed out on some last minute invites posted there. It can do and makes me feel all the things you say at times. I’ll miss you on there but I totally get it and am glad I can still keep up with you and the fam here.

    1. I’m glad I can still follow your blog, too! I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I know I’ll miss out on some things, but I’m excited for what I’m not going to miss now that I feel more present in my own life. It’s a double-edged sword, this Facebook thing, isn’t it?

  2. You know the saying the grass is greener? I’ve sat back and looked at pictures and what not and gotten jealous, depressed even angry at these ppl because their lives look so amazing and I’m still living at home with my parents and husband raising my 3 year old. Life is what you make it. I’m more than positive you know that which means you also know its not about the big picture, but how many times you clicked to capture it. If Facebook takes away from how you feel as a person and mother then I’m glad you broke free of its clutches. I’ll be keeping in touch 🙂

    1. Thanks for staying in touch! I’d rather focus on the people who really mean something to me, like my writer-friends of course, than the constant newsfeed of bragging. I’m a skeptic–I’m pretty sure that nobody’s life is as good as it looks online, but the constant superficiality of it just wears on me after a while. Besides, it’s fun to be one of those weirdos who thumbs her nose at technology while writing a blog post. 😉

  3. I totally get what you are saying about Facebook. I am far too private a person to post much myself. On the other hand, your facebook was an easy way to leave messages about how much I appreciated a particular blog, how much I enjoy your wit and wisdom and, yes, feistiness. So from now on, I will leave my fan letters here!

  4. Sometimes I wish I would detach from those crazy people on Facebook who have to post every time their child uses the potty or every time they leave the house, get in the car, and go somewhere insignificant. Oh, and I’m just dying to know what they’re cooking for dinner every freakin’ night! It does get somewhat tiresome and repetitive. I do, however, enjoy the contact with my dear friends from college who I just met up with this past weekend because our class was in reunion. (By the way, we missed seeing you and yours) Point being, we arranged it all through Facebook! I think I probably spend too much time on there looking at meaningless and repetitive comments but I do it anyway. I just have to make sure that it doesn’t take the time away from my family or responsibilities. I’m sure I’ll be on there less and less with a new job that I’m starting on Monday at MCV. Thank you for giving me an eye-opener as to how dumb some of my own posts may be! I love your realism and your honesty. I also hope you will keep blogging because I do enjoy your unique point of view on many issues. Take care and keep writing!!!

    1. Thanks, Sarah. I’m really happy to have reconnected with you, and sorry to miss the reunion. Alas, the apocalypse is upon us and I am now a soccer mom–the final match of the season was the same time as the reunion. One of these years…..Anyway, I think many people do the Facebook thing well, and I don’t mean to bash it. I realized that with my obsessive personality and the sheer amount of time I spend staring at a computer screen writing novels and blog posts, I needed to do something to cut the screentime. I know I’ll probably feel a bit out of the loop at times, like I did before I got on FB in the first place, but I have noticed already that I’m a much nicer person. So I definitely don’t mean to criticize others’ use of it–just to be honest about how it works (or doesn’t) for me.

    1. Mysterious note on Facebook? Weird….Anyway, we will keep in touch, lovely EB. You are a rockstar, and I was way too excited to find you on the interwebs after all these years to lose the connection. 🙂

    2. Okay, I’m a doofball…I can’t figure out how to email you through WordPress. Maybe it’s best I not be on Facebook….I might make the internet explode….

  5. Okay…the bikini/yacht/ninja rock star comment is obviously me. I would hope that next time you would do a better job of disguising your references to me in your blog posts.
    Perhaps you and yours can have dinner with me and my model boyfriend on our yacht. In our bikinis. I’ll post pics on Facebook.

    1. Only if you promise to also post copious post-baby pictures in which you display your rock-hard abs and obscene wealth, while raving about how motherhood has made you skinnier than EVER. Have your people call my people. We’ll do lunch. 😉

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