It has been just about one week since I deactivated my Facebook account. I know that I have saved some time, or, perhaps, freed up some time since a week ago, but I have no idea how much. There is no question that some of that “saved” time was wasted in other ways. While I still know what is going on in the world, in my world I am largely clueless. By design. It is that hyper-attention to every little thing that made the Facebook world so all-encompassing, so ubiquitous, so… annoying. Prior to social media and the domination of this one platform, all that information that now seems so important to share and digest was metered by the physical limits of communication. The rumor mill ground out tidbits at a much slower rate.
In the past week, I have seen and spoken with many friends and family members who were and are still on Facebook. It is not as though face-to-face and other direct communication with them was supplanted by social media, but a good deal of that communication did take place there – and often it was in the form of a mouse click on the “like” button. It is the modern day version of “I see you;” a virtual head nod of acknowledgement. That über-regular “contact” is now gone and, so far, I do not feel a downside to it. I have reeled my world in, I do not have to touch every corner of the globe every minute of every day. Looking back, it was exhausting.
I willingly grant that many do not put that kind of stock into their social media presences. And, for me, it didn’t happen overnight. Indeed, my Facebook account dates back to 2006, but I never really used it until an old high school acquaintance contacted me through it – and through that many other old, lost connections were reestablished. It was like magic. But it would be years before the ever-presence of Facebook would become ever-present.
What really turned me off was the acquisition of something I never had, thought I wanted, but did not know it how trying it would be. That something was popularity, a “following,” more “friends” than I could shake a stick at... I was in the “in” crowd. It wasn’t just Facebook, the recovery fellowship I am involved with has knack for doing that, too. While I enjoyed the attention, the validation, even the notoriety, I hated “monitoring” it, I hated maintaining it and I hated defending it. And when even all that was not enough, when even with all those “friends,” I still, at times, could find myself on the outside looking in. Real and/or perceived, it hurt and often left me wondering why. Worse, it left me thinking about what I was doing wrong and what I could do to get those people to like me.
When I thought about it – clearly – and framed it in those terms, I was able to place the appropriate worth on what I thought I wanted so much and, as it turns out, I don’t. True, everyone wants to be “liked,” everyone wants and needs friends, but no one needs 2,500 of them. I cannot maintain that many friendships nor would I want to. But the machine feeds that deception; Facebook hasn’t redefined what a “friend” is – Facebook users have. I did, even though I claimed otherwise. Worse, I feel it has diminished the real connection with the real friends I have… or had. When real friends are embraced by the “in” group, those relationships are necessarily diminished if I am not also in that group.
All I can do is work on my side of the equation and, to that end, the great divider that Facebook serves as will no longer play that role in my life – at least from my end. Grade school, for me, was hard. I was shy, awkward and never had a lot of friends. I hated it. College was better, but even then my self-worth was low. Looking back I should have given myself a lot more credit, had I done so, I might have been more successful (oddly enough, now that I do, I am). Some of those decades-old feelings were coming back due to the artificially high standards of not only Facebook, but also manifestations of it in the real world. I was, to borrow a cliché, “comparing my insides to your outsides.” I forfeit. I can’t play that game and keep my sanity. I cannot continually keep score. I will not base my self-worth on whether or not you feel I am worthy.
I have slayed the dragon. I will have no problem riding off into the sunset. It’s the only path to victory.