I have been off of Facebook since, the end of 2011, and it has changed my life.
It has been almost 3 years, and at first, I was asked a countless amount of times, “why did you leave Facebook?” Time passed, and I was no longer invited to ‘group events,’ and I found out later that ‘friends’ had gotten married and others had moved away. However, from the end of 2011 to the end of 2014, my life, has moved forward. I have been to about 20 weddings in the past 3 years, I have attended many parties and sadly said goodbye to many friends who have up and moved away. But can you believe it? I did ALL of that, without Facebook.
The original reason
The typical story; A heart is broken, emotions ensue and an ‘adventure’ is needed. I follow the cliche footsteps of many others who couldn’t bear to be exposed to old memories of love and happiness. I threw away so many photos, donated outfits from romantic occasions, moved locations, and surrounded myself with an entire new breadth of friends. I needed to smother the past for just enough time to get me through my immediate heartbreak. Once I accepted the situation at hand, I was ready to reflect.
I took a handful of months, during the frozen season of Chicago, to read old notes and diagnose all aspects of why our relationship was not healthy. I needed closure, but ultimately I needed an understanding of how to move on. And, mostly a definition of what I wanted in my life. Those cold months became a period of self reflection and therapeutic acceptance.
The choice to stay away
The spring had sprung and I was ready to meet new people, discover new things and experience every part of life I could. I met a lot of new people that year, and many of them said, “I’ll friend you on Facebook.” This led me to the repetitive dialog consisting of; “I’m not on Facebook,” “Oh, why?” “Because I left and just didn’t go back” “Oh well can you get back on so I can friend you and send you these photos?”
I began to think about how leaving Facebook was such a meaningful action in my life. It carried much more value than just discontinuing a web service. When people asked me to join again, it wasn’t as easy as saying “okay.” It required a lot of thought.
I started to think about how I had lost touch with some people who were tied into my relationship downward spiral, and how beneficial it was that they were not in my immediate life anymore. I thought about all the old photos I hadn’t seen in months and was not interested in digging up. I imagined the gut retching feelings I would encounter looking at old comments and possible new, and potentially mean, comments about the ending of us. The answer was not as simple as, “okay.” The answer was, I don’t need to consider this because the potential negative and unproductive effects are not worth this action.
As time went on, I met someone new and moved on with life. I took a job traveling the world, and didn’t take a second to think about the past. I as growing and experiencing new things, which is exactly what I promised myself I would do. Often, thoughts would come into my head about leaving Facebook, “this is great, because I will experience all these new things and no one will know about until them they ask, which is what friends should do anyway.” I began sending cards to a good friend, and she would send them back. I met new people and found out that they knew someone I knew and that feeling of connection carried so much meaning. I learned that a friend was pregnant because she called me on the phone, and I thanked her endlessly for including be in the excitement.
Slowly, I began to reap the benefits of leaving Facebook. I never had any ‘gray’ area friends, and I removed myself from any digital gossip circles encroaching toward me. Not being tempted by gossip is an act of god, I tell you. I had more verbal and physical interactions with friends then I used to, when Facebook became fully adopted and spewed as a communicative hub. When people didn’t invite me to something, I never knew about it and when someone wanted to hurt me they had to break through my physical friend barrier.
Initially, when I left Facebook I never thought I would be so effected by the action. My attempt to hide parts of the past for a short period of time helped heal my heart, but I didn’t realize how many other aspects of my life would benefit from my choice. Old memories of scrolling through friend of a friend of a friend’s photos to Jamaica, plague me to this day. Viewing peoples lives, that didn’t ACTUALLY really invite me to view, felt wrong. Degrading myself because I wasn’t as pretty in my Facebook photos, or didn’t have as many friends, or was obviously not in a relationship, or didn’t go to all the cool places everyone did, was unproductive, masochistic, and unhealthy. I think about the other life events now, that I would feel like I don’t live up to. The truth is, I get, and we get, enough of that pressure in our everyday lives that we don’t need the reinforcement during our private, quiet, reflective moments in life.
I didn’t realize how drastically my communication style would be altered, after I left Facebook. Thankfully, I have an endless data plan. Because after I left, I was on the phone again like I used to be at 13, twirling in my parents phone cord in their kitchen. I felt as though I was connecting closer with my friends through the phone. We would promise to see each other, and we would! I would reflect on my days and remember my verbal conversation. I’m not sure the same can be said for digital messaging.
I live in a big city, but the locals call it a small town. There have been many times in the past 3 years that I’ve run into friends and acquaintances while out on the town. When I run into a good friend, or a good old friend, without expectations, the feeling I get, is on my top 10 list. It helps me believe in fate, and a reason for things. When I see people I have a lot to share, and not gossip to take part in.
All of that being said…
I realize there are good aspects to Facebook. To put it bluntly, the bad aspects out weigh the good aspects for me, and although that may not be true for everyone, I’m sure it is true for many. Today, if I went back on Facebook I would be flooded with information from old friends that I no longer talk to, photos from a very different time in my life and information that is not relevant to me. Sure, I could friend everyone I know and start sharing information like everyone does, but I don’t think it would add value to my life.
Either way, things have been going really well in my real world, and I think I’d like to keep them that way.