Imagine a time without Facebook, approximately nine years ago… This has been my life in a nutshell for the past two-and-a-half weeks. In the past few days, friends have finally started noticing as they try to invite me to events and realize they can’t. The first question I usually get is: “Did you deactivate your Facebook account?” Followed by confused why’s, and whether or not it’s permanent. The answer, by the way, is yes and yes. Since quitting Facebook, I have felt a lot more liberated and at ease, something I haven’t felt in a very long time.
In this day and age you are, to an extent, ostracized if you are not on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. You are disconnected from society. I’m not quite sure if antisocial is the antithesis of social, but it’s safe to say you’re not social. I am even more aware and sensitive to this, as someone who majored in Sociology. In my Social Networks class we learned about the six degrees of separation and even ran statistical reports from personal, real life data to confirm that we really are separated from a complete stranger by only six degrees (often less!). To feel out of touch is not an easy task in a society that revolves around social media and social networking, social this and social that.
I can’t say that I was ever addicted to the social networking site, in the way that most people are these days, constantly connected to Facebook mobile and glued to their smart phones. However, I will admit that I have been (and am still slightly guilty of) over-sharing on social media. If it were to be any one of my friends, it would be me live blogging status updates, tweeting about weird randos I encounter and my WTF moments, checking into every establishment on Foursquare, and Instagramming and #Hashtagging frivolous details of my day-to-day life. But that isn’t even the root of the problem. The root of the problem inflicted by social media is the constant thirst for connection, attention, and validation. Non-stop. Never-ending. 24/7.
You desire connection? So do I. But real, human connection does not come from sitting at home alone and hiding behind a computer screen, or looking down at your iPhone during what could be an interesting dinner conversation. I don’t want to resort to playing phone roulette every time I want to share a decent conversation with friends. Rather, I yearn for belonging, in the sense that I get you and you get me. I want to actually be friends with you in real life, in which I find out things about you from you, rather than from your Facebook profile. I hope this is not asking for too much, but I would like to be able to carry on a relationship with you in private, not under the distorted microcosm of the virtual world on Facebook, where everyone who’s anyone can see our wall-to-wall interaction. I’d rather text, email, call, and meet up in person with you to connect on a deeper and less superficial level. And most importantly, I’d rather have a handful of close friends I trust and can depend on, than 1,000 loosely defined Facebook “friends.”
I want attentiveness, not to be confused with attention. And let me tell you, many people confuse the two. Social media breeds self-absorbed, attention-seeking mongers, but face-to-face interaction allows for old-fashioned attentiveness. Pardon, I want your full-fledged attention and your two ears, so I can hear your valuable input and partake in a meaningful, two-way conversation with you. I wish for you to take a few minutes and compliment me in person and really truly mean it, rather than waste one millisecond without much thought to ‘like’ my picture. Give me two thumbs up in person as your seal of approval, because it means a whole lot more and it’s something you can’t even do on Facebook.
The culmination of it all is validation. It’s that fine line between doing what suits you as an individual and garnering support and praise from others. Humans are extremely social creatures, and we need to know that what we’re doing is socially acceptable. But are you really satisfied with the validation that comes from that red notification bubble on Facebook? Is that validation at all? And does it even mean anything coming from some person you went to high school with some odd years ago? You never even talked to them in high school, and x years later, you avoid eye contact when you bump into them at Costco. If this is what it means to feel validated and accepted in modern society, then I’ll pass.
I already live under a microscope of sorts at work, at church, and at home. There are different selves I have to maintain, standards I have to uphold, and expectations I have to live up to. This is not a complaint, but a plain and simple fact of adult life. I don’t want to live under yet another microscope, much less one that is exorbitantly more judgmental and volatile. Ultimately, I quit Facebook because I wanted my social media consumption and contribution to be limited to that which is meaningful… And I will continue to do so because it relieves me from social and individual pressures and allows me to be more social. Oh, the irony.