I quit Facebook today. The time had come.
It had become an addictive habit, and not even a very satisfying one at that. Yes, sometimes someone will put something interesting up. But usually they don’t. Most of the time it’s pretty boring on there. And I started to ask myself why I bothered?
When I first signed up, it was a peer pressure thing; everyone was doing it. Then I thought it was kind of cool to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in years. I friended people all over the place. But after the initial catch up – the what are you up to these days? – it was clear why I hadn’t seen a lot of these people in years. We weren’t actually friends.
Some of them I barely knew. Some of them I knew but didn’t really like. And yet, here I was writing status updates and notes for them to read and judge me on.
With this realization came the first great purge. The first to go were people I worked with. I wanted the freedom to complain about work on there if I wanted.
The next time, I got more ruthless. Had they friended me and then never written anything? Delete. Had I seen them in the last ten years? No? Delete. How about five? No? Delete. (Exceptions made for international friends.) If I knew them from school, had they ever actually talked to me at school or since? No? Delete.
By the third purge, my criteria were getting pretty strict, some might say snotty: If I ran into this person, would we stop and have a conversation or would we pretend not to see each other? If I were to plan a hypothetical party where money was no object and I could invite everyone I knew, would I think to put this person on the list? Does this one want me to join in annoying Facebook games? Does that one try to sell me things? Does this one talk about cute things their kids said or did in more than half of their status updates? Does that one feel the need to share their plans to make toast? Gone, gone, gone, gone.
I ended up with a shortlist of about 80 people: family, good friends, and people I’d have a drink with if I ran into them. All people I care about, or at least like. That’s how my friend list has looked for the last year or two. So when these people put things up, I cared, because they were people who matter to me.
But you know what? I’d rather have them tell me about the big things in their life. I’d rather they phone to invite me somewhere than create an event. I’d rather join a real group where I can see people and talk to them. I’d rather they be my real friends, not the cooler, wittier, and prettier versions of themselves that they present to Facebook world.
Facebook allows for this weird blend of narcissism and paranoia. People get to broadcast whatever personal stuff they like to whomever they like. It’s sort of like being famous. At the same time, we are always hearing about how nothing on the internet is really private, so these broadcasts are often edited or in code. Which makes them kind of pointless, no? And yet I’d be checking them every time I was near a computer.
Waste. Of. Time.
So, here I am, unshackled. I haven’t gone anywhere, but if you want to reach me, you’ll have to try a little harder and send that email or pick up that phone. Who knows? Maybe we’ll have a real live conversation.