Monday, November 26, 2012

Why I Broke Up With Facebook

I deactivated my Facebook account over the weekend, and I feel sooooooooooooooooo gooooooooooood.

I have been flirting with the idea of breaking up with Facebook for several months. For a long time, I really enjoyed the website. I joined after several college friends convinced me that it was a great new way to stay in touch. And when I first joined, it was! I went to college in New Hampshire and my college friends are scattered throughout the country. We can't see each other as often as we'd like, but Facebook was a novel new way to share updates and photos.

But the college friends who convinced me to join Facebook no longer use the website themselves. A few of them formally deactivated their accounts; the rest have informally left Facebook by never posting anything.

I don't know when exactly it happened, but for me, Facebook largely became an obligation. There were still some good parts to Facebook - my brother and sister-in-law posting photos of their Peace Corps adventures; a friend posting a link to an interesting article I would have otherwise missed - but most status updates were boring and/or annoying. Sorry, John Doe, but I don't care that you went to Ikea this weekend and had a muffin for breakfast. Sorry, Jane Roe, but I don't need to see the 10,000th photo of you having an "amazing Saturday night" at a bar. I started blocking many friends' updates. (And yes, I myself am guilty of making frequent, stupid, boring, inane updates, and I assume plenty of people blocked me from their news feeds.)

I checked my list of Facebook friends and realized, that with just a few exceptions, almost all of my friends fell into one of two categories. First, there's my family and good friends (excluding my husband and father, who both refuse to join the Facebook cult family). Then, there's everyone else.

I care about my family and close friends. We are in touch as regularly as possible. We email, share photos through non-Facebook means, and holy crap, we sometimes even visit in person. We don't need Facebook to stay in touch. Admittedly, I don't have all of my cousins' email addresses, but I can easily get them. None of these people need Facebook in order to learn about the big events in my life (and none of these people need Facebook to learn about all the inane boring shit that makes up my daily routine).

Then, there's everyone else. These are the people who I am not in touch with except through Facebook. Most of these people were my friends at some point in the past but through the natural cycle of life, we drifted apart. (And some of these people, sigh, I never actually liked, but I felt bad rejecting their friend request.) It is sad when friends drift apart, but I cannot have an unlimited number of close friends. There just aren't enough hours in the day. 

I no longer saw a point to having a Facebook account... except I could use Facebook to announce my daughter's birth in a few months. But the thought of doing that left a bad taste in my mouth. I will email or send birth announcements to all of my friends and relatives who are legitimately interested in my daughter's birth. A status update on Facebook will just update some people who I am not really friends with anymore. Do I really need to get a bunch of "likes" from people I have not spoken to in several years? Will their "likes" somehow validate my daughter's birth? Of course not! The importance and magic of my firstborn's birth is completely independent from the reaction it gets on Facebook.

I started resenting Facebook because it's too impersonal and creates a bunch of artificial "friendships." But I also resented Facebook because at times, it can be way too personal. For example, when I first joined Facebook, I accepted a friend request from a junior high school classmate (we were never actually friends). This classmate and his wife regularly had domestic disputes on their Facebook walls. I can't tell you how many times I read a posting to the effect of "I'm sorry I threw the book at you last night, but if you had just said sorry, it would have never happened."

Needless to say, I defriended that "friend" but still, in my experience, Facebook is too often used as a substitute for real communications that should be kept private.  It's easier to write something on a Facebook wall than to pick up the phone or write a letter, but communication should not always be easy. I'm sorry, but just because you "liked" my Facebook status does not mean we have engaged in a meaningful social interaction.

Please do not think I am saying everyone should deactivate their Facebook accounts today. For several years, I truly enjoyed Facebook. When I'm in a different life stage, I may embrace Facebook again. But right now, in this phase of my life, Facebook feels wrong. I felt obligated to keep checking Facebook even though 99% of the time, Facebook just annoyed the crap out of me. Now that I've deactivated Facebook, it feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. And so far, none of my real friends have threatened to abandon me unless I reactivate my account. (My baby sister thinks I'm "lame," but let's face it, no matter what I do, she will always think I'm lame.)