Sunday, July 3, 2011

Taking A Break From Facebook

It seems as though just about everyone has a facebook page.  If you don’t have a facebook page then you’re out of the loop, so to speak.  People look at you funny when you tell them you’re not on facebook.  “What do you mean you’re not on facebook? I thought everyone was on facebook?  How will we be able to be friends?  How will I be able to invite you to my parties?”  It’s sort of like the way people look at you when you tell them you don’t watch television.  To briefly digress, I haven’t watched it in quite sometime now and honestly wouldn’t know any of the television or movie stars if they walked past me on the street. 

In my circles of ‘friends’ I can only think of two people who don’t have a facebook page.  Just about every company out there wants you to ‘Like’ them on facebook.  The site has literally begun to take over the world.  It’s a mass marketers dream come true.  Where else can you reach 500 million people at once?  Yes, facebook has 500 million users these days.  They hold personal information and demographics of 500 million people in this world.  Is that not scary information in itself?

A few days ago I decided to deactivate my facebook account for a bit.  No more 'pokes', 'friend requests', 'game requests', 'private messages', 'wall posts', 'status updates' or 'event invites'.  I’d been thinking about it for a while and making note of how it affects me both in positive and negative ways.  I’ve also noticed how it affects those around me and it seems like there are way more negatives then there are positives associated with being on the site.  My decision to deactivate my account has stemmed from quite a few reasons. 

For instance, just yesterday I was talking to someone about taking a break from the site when she said that she’s only on there to see photos of her nieces and nephews and other family members.  I suddenly felt very sad for her.  When did we stop sharing photos with each other via email or snail mail?   Personal interactions with family members and friends have fallen to the way side because people are too ‘busy’ with work and stuff yet we find time to upload photos to facebook?  It just doesn’t make much sense to me. 

I’m not saying I haven’t been guilty of it myself.  I’ve just finally realized the affect it's had on me and felt the disconnection.  The site has become sort of a substitute for relationships.  It seems like facebook has changed my way of thinking and I have forgotten that there are other ways to communicate.  In all honesty, I used to think that if I posted it on facebook then all of my friends would know at once what’s happening and in a way that’s true but it’s not true of everyone and it’s awfully impersonal.  I miss those days when friends would email me, call me or sit and have coffee with me to catch up on our lives.  I miss doing the same with them.

Also, the anxiety and stress that I get from being on facebook just isn’t worth it.  I felt a need to check the news feed constantly.  I couldn’t miss anything.  It was like I was somehow obligated to keep up with my friend’s status updates because, well, they were my friends.  Then, when people “unfriended” me it would be a hit to my self-esteem and I not only wanted to know who “unfriended” me but why.  Was it something I said, did, didn’t do?  At one point someone blocked me and when I discovered that fact, after the drama of asking some other friends if they could still see them, I was upset about it for days. 

What if I wanted to ‘unfriend’ someone?  This in itself created anxiety because I didn’t want to start any drama and was it really important because it was facebook, for crying out loud!  It’s just a web site.  It’s not real life.  It’s a virtual life.  If I knew that person in real life would we be friends or would we just be acquaintances?  If we were acquaintances would I share all of this information with them?  Do they think they know me after looking at my facebook page?  Do I think I know them after looking at there’s? 

Holy crap.  When did the definition of ‘friend’ get lost, too?

Then there’s the way it creates more anxiety around intimate relationships.  Aside from the fact that everyone instantly knows when you’ve committed to someone or have just broken up with someone you have to deal with either remaining ‘friends’ on facebook or ‘unfriending’ each other.

When my last girlfriend broke up with me we were friends on facebook for a little while after the break up.  We hid each other but ended up going to each other’s page just to see what was happening.  I felt like a stalker when I went to her page.  Like I was peeking in on a private conversation, one that didn’t include me.  I fully admit that I was looking for answers that, at the time, I felt I deserved.  Looking back on it now, it was all crazy making and incredibly unhealthy.  How easy it was for me to go there with that access and sort of disconnect. 

Finally she ended up “unfriending” me so we could both get on with our lives.  It is called healing.  I do believe that sometimes you need that distance when a relationship ends.  As hard as it is to have, specially when you’re the one being broken up with, it’s important that you have it.  It’s what we used to do before the days of facebook.  Remember those days?

Then there’s the anxiety created when I see photos of friends hanging out somewhere where I wasn’t invited and I wonder why I wasn’t invited and are we still friends and if we’re still friends then why am I not there in those photos and on, and on, and on.  Envy, jealousy, feeling left out or feeling like the fool are not feelings I want to encounter and deal with that often.  I don’t even want to admit that I feel them but I do.  I know there’s more to the story that I’m not seeing but all I see are photos of friends hanging out and having a good time without me and that’s where my mind goes instantly.  It’s crazy making, I tell you!

So, I decided that it was time to take a break from the crazy making.  When something that is my choice to do takes up that much of my time, energy and emotions in a negative way then I also have the choice to stop doing it.  To step back from it and regain my own ideas and work on deepening the friendships that I have with those who really do want to be friends with me and visa versa. 

I'll most likely be blogging about my life after facebook, in case you're curious.  I'm interested in seeing how different it will be and whether or not I'll miss it.  It's been two and a half days since I deactivated my account and so far, I feel much more at peace.   I've gotten much more reading and writing done, as well. I think this will be a good thing for me and my creativity.


  1. I'm curious about how this goes, so I'll be reading along. I've had a different experience, using Facebook as a way to announce performances but (except in the case of old college friends I wouldn't otherwise be in contact with) not so much a personal connection site.

    I do wonder, now that you mention it, what it would be like to end the buzz though... hmm... I do have my own website for my work...

    Yeah, keep writing about this. I'm interested.

  2. Ending the 'buzz' has really been a definite positive. I think it's good to do that sometimes in order to sort of reconnect with yourself, mostly, and the world around you. I haven't done it in quite a while and I have to say, I'm really enjoying it.

    I'll keep you posted!

  3. That's excellent. The other thing I was considering was how it might affect my focus when it comes to my own writing on my blogs.

    Technically, I wouldn't have to deactivate my FB account, I could just not go there. Hahahahahaha

  4. I have to say, I already feel the difference, even though it's only been a couple of days. My focus is much greater when writing, hence the reason for posting twice today. (:

    It sounds like you wouldn't have to deactivate yours, no. Maybe just take a break from it for a week and see how it goes. I felt I needed to deactivate so that it wouldn't seem like I'm not answering people when they invite me to things or send me messages or what not. Most of the people I know here use the site quite a bit.

  5. I keep wanting to do something like this. Kudos on the tv thing, too. I definitely feel like I would be more at peace without all the "connection," as ironic as that sounds.

    I remember when e-mail was considered impersonal. I remember when we were bemoaning the loss of the letter. Remember letters? Remember stamps?


    Yeah, congratulations to you on this. My ears really pricked up at the result it seems to have on your writing.

  6. Disconnecting is a good idea sometimes. Specially when the 'buzz' in your head just won't quiet down. I highly recommend it. I don't miss tv at all, to be honest. None of the shows really interest me and the news just angers me. It's all so biased anyway.

    I remember when e-mail was impersonal, as well. I still bemoan the loss of the letters! Just a few weeks ago I asked everyone on my facebook if they wanted to exchange letters and after getting about 10 responses I sent them all out. Handwritten and stamped just like old times. It was fun. Haven't seen any responses yet, though. I think you have to give those things more time, perhaps.

    Thanks! Even after posting both of the blog posts yesterday I picked up my paper journal and wrote there, too! Words just seem to be flowing and I'm quite enjoying it, to say the least!

    Thanks for reading!

  7. Facebook is a tool for communication, just like word processing. I choose to use it very sparingly. I really don't like the obligatory feeling that comes with FB... at least for me. Like you said, the need to keep up with the news feeds and status updates causes anxiety and stress. Ugh. No thanks.

    I haven't deactivated my account because it's a reliable way to contact some of my friends. Really, I don't think they even check their email anymore. But, I'm trying to use FB for my purposes rather than being sucked into it. It's a challenge~!

  8. a-frigging-men! I dont have a facebook page either, and I dissolved my myspace page ages ago. it was due to all the things you mention, as well as TIME. I mean, how much time gets wasted looking at other people's random and largely irrelevant information? Now, if someone wants me to know something and stay in my life, they need to get hold of me. And I like that.

  9. e, I bet it is! I thought about sort of regulating myself to just checking it one day a week but the stress of that obligatory feeling that I'd have to read EVERYTHING for that week was incredibly overwhelming.

    victoria, exactly! I love that I have all of that time back. Just yesterday I sat outside at lunch and simply enjoyed the breeze while listening to it move through the leaves in the tree next to me. That's ALL I DID during my lunch break and it was divine.

  10. After running across this post during a random google search regarding The pros and cons of FB, I chose to not deactivate mine again but to clear everything from it other than a picture and my contact information in case I couldn't get it to all my friends/extended family. I opened this blog so that they could somewhat catch up with my life and my mind without giving up too much of my privacy which I feel FB does. I also didnt want to look at every detail of their lives anymore, so I killed out all the feeds.So far I can say that I feel amazing about my choice, and I remember what it was like to live my life without constantly feeling a need to check in on everyone else

    1. It is pretty freeing. These days I'm using it again but I do my best to stay aware of how much I use it and all of the anxieties about it that I talked about in this post are gone. I write more letters now and talk to friends via text or messages plus I just get some of that good ole' "face time" in by having coffee or having them over for dinner. That's where I put all of that energy these days. Connected communication is a beautiful thing.

      Good for you for making this choice for yourself!

  11. not many 19 yr olds feel like you and i do on this, but i was thinking the other day about how many of my close friends here in town all seemed to be doing "awesome things" with "everyone" and that i was actually mad while on facebook because i wasn't there and in the pics. thats when the light clicked for me. i'm at a day offline, and i already feel better. i made the conscious decision to put more effort into REAL friendships and relationships rather than trying to have an "impressive" FB account. I came across your post right as i hit the break point, and you summed up my feelings perfectly. it would be literally game changing if more kids my age saw the light. i'm excited for this. i'm shooting for a week. but knowing me, a week will become 2, which becomes a month... look at it this way, i ought to have a HECK of a lot of notifications when i get on next! hahah

    1. It certainly would be a game changer! I'm excited for you! Enjoy real life! Most excellent!

      I was just thinking about how different Facebook feels for me since taking the break that I did. I switched from seeing it as something greater then it is to just seeing it as another communication tool. It's most definitely not a substitute for real friendships or relationships.

      Enjoy your break!