I decided six weeks ago that I was going to stop using Facebook every day. There was something about it lately that whenever I would go on there I would come away feeling anxious and sad.
I couldn’t put a finger on what it was, exactly, that was doing it, but I figured if I felt better in its absence, it might give me a bit of insight into what, exactly, had gotten to be so dissatisfying about it.
I loved Facebook when it first came out. I was in grad school and was already notoriously bad about keeping in touch with the people who had been important to me but were now geographically far away. But Facebook made it so I could know what’s going on in my friend’s lives, and they could know what’s going on in mine. And we could comment and like stuff and generally remind each other that we exist and that we care about each other.
And that was fucking great.
I’ve always kept Facebook curated to people that I know very well, know kinda in real life, or that I’m meaningfully connected to in some way. That’s my private space, where I feel safe to write what I wanted to write. It’s always been that way for me.
So what the hell changed?
I started dipping back in after a few weeks to check for event invites or other things that have become facebook-only over the years, and also to kind of see how I would react to it.
At first I wondered if I had succumbed to that phenomena that all those articles written about image crafting and putting your best face forward on social media outlined. Was I feeling dysphoria in seeing my friends’ perfect lives. Was that it?
Fuck no, turns out. I find that the folks I’m friends with on there don’t do that kind of thing all that often, and when they’re on there being cute-gross and love-y and stoked, I’m happy for them because I know about the awful shit they go through too. Because they’re the kind of people that share both sides of themselves.
So that wasn’t it.
So what the hell was it then?
When I would go back on, I started scrolling down a bit past the notifications bar to see whatever curated posts Facebook wanted me to see first and I think what was going on finally clicked.
Whenever I would go on there, I would think about all the time I spend by myself, and how little I actually do with other people. That sounds like it’s a bad thing, but for me, it’s really not. That’s time I spend reading, writing or watching movies/TV and analyzing stories. It’s time I play and listen to music and think about everything. It’s time I spend working out or running errands and trying to keep myself physically and mentally healthy. Having time like that is a physical need for me.
But Facebook was making me feel like I was being a selfish asshole. That there were all these wonderful people doing wonderful things and loving each other and here I was sitting around at home by myself reading a book. It started to make me feel like high school again, where I always felt like a secondary friend – someone you say hi to in the hallways but don’t invite to grab coffee or watch a movie with. Someone you make half-hearted plans with but don’t follow through on. Eventually I thought it would be healthier for me to never ask if I could come along because if people wanted me to come do things, they’d invite me. I don’t invite myself to stuff. I’d rather be home by myself than risk forcing my company on people who weren’t into it.
But that’s only half of friendship. When do I ever invite anyone to go out and do anything? When do I ever make plans for doing stuff? Hardly ever. No wonder it was making me feel bad. It was making me feel guilty for doing the things that make me happy and underscoring some really old beliefs about where I fit in in the world.
Stepping away from Facebook made me feel better about taking care of myself.
But it also made me realize how I was using it as a crutch in lieu of actually hanging out with people. Sure I know everything that’s going on in so-and-so’s life. That means that I don’t need to ask them out to coffee and I can stay home tonight and read for five straight hours. Or I don’t need to go hang out at a bar and catch up with whozzit and whatshername.
I don’t know what a good balance is anymore. But I do know that I miss my friends.
I’m leaving the Facebook app off of my phone for the forseeable future in the hopes that maybe it’ll make me leave the house more and stop feeding that stupid teenager deep inside me that suspects that no one actually likes or wants to hang out with me. Because if that teenager had her way, I would self-fulfill the hell out of her prophecy so she would ultimately be correct.
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And a somewhat relevant song link :