Why I Am Not on Facebook

I got off Facebook a little over a year ago. I’d had an account since 2006, and while I had tried the occasional deactivation and the periodic purging of the gorged “friend” list, I realized I was quite the addict. Not addicted, as many of my friends joke, to finding out what other people had going on in their lives or to keeping up with old connections–no, in a weird way I was addicted to myself in the form of my Facebook profile. I would sign in at least once an hour just to see if anyone had noticed me. Had someone posted on my Wall? Liked my status? Sent me a message? Tagged me in a photo? And if they had not, I inevitably logged out feeling a little low. Maybe no one loved me, after all. I mean, they couldn’t even be bothered to acknowledge my electronic existence via social networking site. Never mind that I just checked the stupid page an hour ago.

So I finally took a step back and reassessed the situation one September afternoon in 2010. I had to acknowledge, first of all, the absurdity of the whole thing. I was seriously allowing this electronic reality to color my perception of myself and my relationships. Not just my casual acquaintances, but my real relationships as well; you know, the ones you should believe in and hold on to because those people still really love you even when they’re not blinking at your Facebook profile and clicking “Like” under your latest status update. I could feel the resentment welling up within me when my best friends wrote nice things on other people’s Walls, but not mine; or when my sisters tagged all their friends in photos but couldn’t be bothered to give me even a thumbs up.

And then of course there were the hundreds of casual acquaintances who had either accepted or requested my friendship, whose very presence in my “friend” list added to that haunting feeling of loneliness, because they couldn’t be expected to give a flip–really–about anything going on in my life since they weren’t actually part of it. Yet I resented their not caring; their names and faces were showing up in alphabetical order under the heading “Friend” in my profile, so for goodness sake, couldn’t they live up to the label?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, but equally (maybe more) painful were the close friends who had begun to relegate me to contact via Facebook. Instead of a phone call or a letter or an email, I’d get a comment on my Facebook Wall: “Hey love! Haven’t seen you in a while. Let’s catch up soon.” Party invitations were superseded by mass Facebook invites. Yes, I even got invited to an old school friend’s wedding via Facebook.

Somehow, Facebook set about equalizing all my relationships, and it did so by reducing them all to their lowest common denominator: me. My friends on my page, commenting on my Wall or status updates, sending me messages, tagging me in photos… Excuse this public examination of conscience, but Facebook allowed me to place myself up front and center to myself, and to demand that everyone else in my life do the same, to some extent–at least pay attention to me.

Anyway, after some serious soul searching I took the plunge and deactivated my account. After a few weeks (once the headaches and random dizzy spells had worn off), I figured out how to delete the account permanently. I haven’t looked back. To this day I experience a little burst of pride when some new acquaintance tells me, “I’ll look you up on Facebook,” and I can reply, “Oh, I’m not on Facebook. But let me give you my number…” If I ever hear from that person again, we’re already much farther along the road to becoming actual friends, since they’ve had to make the real effort to reach out to me. And vice versa!

And I’m sitting here a little over a year after Facebook, daily overcome by the knowledge that I am loved. That bears repeating: I am loved…and I know it. Granted, my list of friends has shortened considerably. Were I to sit down and write out the names of all my friends, I’m sure it wouldn’t quite tally to the 600 + I had at one point while on Facebook. But I spent way too much time and energy on Facebook desperately needing to be affirmed and loved, and constantly finding myself hurt because so many of my “friends” simply weren’t close enough to me to actually love me. Now, while my contact with others is less frequent, it’s always far more meaningful. And I’m more confident in my belief that, even if people aren’t contacting me or spending time with me or even thinking of me in this moment, the people who matter most still love me. There’s a lot of peace in that conviction.

What’s more, my relationships are no longer reducible to me. I’m forced to remember and acknowledge the existence of the other person in all his (or her) fullness, and not as just another profile page, thumbs-up sign, or comment on my Wall.

I actually sat down to write a post about friendship, and ended up writing an entire post on Facebook. I guess I’ll write more on friendship later. For now, for all of you who’ve asked me (or just wondered) why I’m not on Facebook: as Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

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10 thoughts on “Why I Am Not on Facebook

  1. Nice posting. I know another (introvert) friend of mine who has had a similar issue with wanting to see people “like” her posts, etc. Being an extrovert, I don’t quite get it. It’s become just another form of communication/cyber-community (if there can be such a thing, which is another question) in the post-modern age. The thing that bothers me most about it, actually, is the control of information. It disturbs me that in, presumably, ONE database sits all this data about different people–especially, about ME! So, kind of the opposite . . . I’m trying to pare down my online presence on FB, taking down photo albums, etc., because I don’t want them to have it!!

    • Good point! I should probably add as a caveat that I don’t advocate getting off Facebook for everyone specifically because different personality types react to it differently. My experience, while perhaps shared by others, was not, of course, a universal thing, and I definitely realize that.

      • Just thought of something, will you have to change your name on WordPress when/if you get into a serious relationship?

        One thing I did change about my ‘Facebook’ presense is that I no longer update it with regularity. I’m ‘on there’ for convenience, but I don’t make it more than a medium to exchange information (photos, thank you’s, invitations). I decided not to update my relationship status again (a couple of years ago) because it was so ridiculous to have people find out that I was dating, or breaking up, with significant people in my life over a souless medium. I don’t understand those who do ‘live on Facebook.’ I probably never will.

  2. I really have a lot of respect for the Facebook users who are able to keep it all in perspective! I should also add to this post: my worst character flaw being that I’m an “all or nothing” sort, I definitely couldn’t leave Facebook as a background thing in my life (like a glorified address book). It’s just too distracting. Especially when your job keeps you in front of a computer all day.

    And I haven’t really thought that far ahead on the blog name. Really, I’ll still be technically “single” by the standards of this blog (not committed to a particular vocation) until I’m married. At which point, should it come to that, I won’t be keeping this blog anymore… 😉

  3. “To this day I experience a little burst of pride when some new acquaintance tells me, “I’ll look you up on Facebook,” and I can reply, “Oh, I’m not on Facebook. But let me give you my number…” If I ever hear from that person again, we’re already much farther along the road to becoming actual friends, since they’ve had to make the real effort to reach out to me.”

    Can I give you a thumbs up on this part, especially? It feels very schizophrenic or hypocritical to “Like” a post like this….:)

    (Disclosure – I have Facebook, but don’t give a darn, except maybe about the ability to share photos – for which I’ll prob just use Google Plus going forward….which feels to me very different from Facebook, probably because of the lack of features on the “Plus” page proper. It’s just supposed to be a social backdrop to (or black bar atop) all of Google’s other products–a little bit truer to life, in that sense. But yes, the medium is inherently impersonal, who are we kidding. But enough disclosure already–now we’re getting into advertising, which might be out of place! :P)

    Ironic that I’m “commenting using [my] Facebook account”. It’s quick and easy. Maybe that’s the vice herein descried. Hm.

  4. I can relate to your story in almost all its details. I quit facebook about two years ago now, for just about the same reasons as yours. (Except that I also had the problem of spending too much time looking at other people’s profiles, as well as at my own.

  5. Great post, I totally agree with everything you say. I quit yesterday and today was a great day because I was no longer ‘forced’ to sign in every few hours and spending time on reading updates from people (a.k.a. ‘friends’ on Facebook), that I hardly know. There were even people there who I only through business calls and had never seen in person (!). I quit and so it will be. Whoever is really interested in me, can ring me up or drop me a private line through good old email.

    • Thanks for reading! For the record, this doesn’t mean I think Facebook is evil, not at all. I just realized at that point in my life, it wasn’t the right place for me. I’ve actually returned to Facebook in the past year (after 2 years off), but with pretty strict limits on my profile, number and quality of friends, and even my own access and use. It can be a useful tool…but it definitely should not be more than that.

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