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.