The F Word
Recently, I deactivated my Facebook account. I wanted to brag about it, but without Facebook it seemed there was no appropriate place to do so. I didn’t expect to feel so sad about that.
I also made the decision to remove all my Facebook friends before deactivating my account so that if I were to return, I’d have a fresh start. This was unexpectedly gut-wrenching; Facebook makes you do it one friend at a time. It was hard for me to see people I love and people I find interesting and elect to sever ties with them one by one. I kept reminding myself that it’s not real life and it wasn’t personal, but ultimately I modified my user stylesheet to hide the names and faces of everyone and it was actually the only thing that made me able to complete the task.
I deactivated Facebook for a few arbitrary reasons, but they all seem to be relate to my anxiety over the nature of the term “friend”. When I was a Facebook user I was constantly culling my “friends” list, trying to get it as close as possible to Dunbar’s number, willing it to model my real life friendships. Apparently this is not the socially acceptable use of Facebook, and I ended up insulting some people, which is ridiculous. Facebook friendship only gives you the illusion of closeness, even if you haven’t communicated with your Facebook friend in years, whether in person or on Facebook. It is an empty distinction.
I assume people feel closer being connected on Facebook, but I suspect the illusion of closeness might be keeping me from forging true bonds with people. My dad is very prolific on Facebook, and it does make me feel closer to him seeing his posts so frequently. But without Facebook, I immediately felt disconnected from him, so I gave him a call and we had a meaningful conversation. I suspect a lot of interactions on Facebook were ultimately superficial. The “like” intent is the most superficial of all, and I considered hiding it in my user stylesheet in order to be forced to say something more substantial if I wanted to share that I appreciated a piece of content. But even those interactions are akin to small talk or chatter, as most conversations take place in semi-public, which doesn’t facilitate having a personal conversation. Ultimately, I would like to feel closer to people.