Taking a break from Facebook
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 19:12
Next year, I am temporarily closing down my Facebook account. Now, I know that might draw a chuckle or two from anyone who first reads it. After all, people who promise to leave Facebook are like people who promise to move to Canada when the presidential election doesn’t turn out the way they had hoped: no one ever actually does it, and if they did, they wouldn’t have any friends waiting for them.
However, I have done it before. For two months in high school my account was deactivated. I enjoyed being away from it for a while, except I never told most of my friends that I was planning on deactivating it and some people assumed I was dead.
It’s a New Year’s resolution of sorts. After cutting out meat for a year, I started wondering what the next unhealthiest vice in my life was that I could address. I don’t mean to imply that Facebook is a soul-sucking time-waster with no redeeming social value, but I do think that my over-reliance on it has become unhealthy.
If you’re anything like me, you never sign out of your account. You have the mobile application installed on your smart phone so you can avoid talking to people directly across from you by checking your news feed. You get email or phone notifications every time someone comments on your status, posts a link on your wall or sends you a message. You measure the worth of nearly anything you post by the amount of “likes” it attracts from friends. I could go on.
Facebook is more than just a convenient way to stay in touch with people. For a lot of our generation, it’s a means of constructing an identity. We construct a profile with biographical information, work info, our favorite quotations, our life philosophy and anything else that we feel would help someone who’s never met us before understand our personality within 30 seconds. We agonize over picking the most flattering profile picture of ourselves. We post about some of the most mundane minutiae of our daily live assuming that the rest of the world must be made aware of how stressed out we are about final exams, or how frustrating our day has been.
The frightening thing is that before I met some of my best friends in college, I was already Facebook friends with them. We were all members of the same group, which was intended for people with our scholarships to get to know each other. I was making judgments about a lot of these people before I’d even met them, and I was guilty of forming prejudiced opinions about people that in reality were some of the coolest folks I’d ever met.
I detest what Facebook is doing to us. Sometimes the most exciting part of my day is seeing a little red dot at the top of my page informing me that someone’s commented on one of my photos. In some ways, Facebook helps us connect in ways we’d never imagine. I have friends living around the globe that are a mere click away now. But in other ways Facebook has built huge walls between us. Genuine social interaction requires seeing each other, hearing each other and understanding each other’s emotional tics. When we reduce all of our friends to exchanges of text and web links, what kind of interaction are we really having?
So I’m giving up Facebook for a while. I’m sick of the incessant notifications ruining my attention span, and I’m sick of so many of my friends only existing in a sterilized digital form. Call me a dinosaur, but I think real world interaction is something that can never be replaced.
Bub is a junior majoring in English, history and political science.