First of all, I want to preface this with the old cop out: It’s not you, it’s me. Which may be the ultimate cliche, but it’s true. I’m just... tired of you. And it’s probably because, as with many destructive relationships, I’ve just given you too much time in my life lately.
These days I’ve been realizing just how many things I have a tendency to overuse and it’s been a sobering time, and a time for big changes as I overhaul my diet, exercise daily, and try to do/eat/drink things in moderation, always moderation. But you? I always thought you were no big deal. In the summer I don’t have internet in my home, so my intake drops. But now? Living alone in the city with lots of time on my hands and no money? We were made for each other, Facebook, and I dived in: I scrolled through my news feed, instant-messaged friends, dreamed up snappy status updates and uploaded carefully-shot photographs (no blurry, badly-shot snaps for me!).
But something changed, crept in as I was staring at my screen... I started feeling annoyed, Facebook. I’d felt it before, but this time it wasn’t going away. It was getting worse.
Everybody’s status updates started to drive me nuts, even my dearest friends’. The perky optimist who just has to tell me how great her day is going to be, because she’s doing the same damn thing she does every day? Ugh. The people who ‘share’ yet another Buzzfeed list or inspirational platitude? Grrr. The proud mommies posting another hilarious thing their kids said or did? Spare me. The Vague-bookers, luring me in with their mysterious remarks: It’s all over, I’ve had it. Or, fuck you, you dick-head. I started to realize that I could basically predict exactly what my friends were going to post because it was the same thing every day: there were the political pundits, the mommies, the performers (always with another gig or show to promote), the constant sharers and over-sharers... I want to emphasize that none of those things are intrinsically bad or boring or wrong. It was me. I just got sick to death of seeing it all. Facebook, you started making me dislike my friends and that’s not cool.
Not to mention that you also started making me dislike myself. I found myself always wanting to be clever, to say something that would make people laugh and “like” me... I caught myself wondering how I could capture a moment in a pithy status update. I “liked” things and read things and made comments. I was an active, engaged member of the Facebook community. And then I was an addict.
So why did I stay? Why was I hooked?
I conned myself into believing that you fostered connection, Facebook, and that held me for a long time because I truly love feeling connected to my friends, my arts community and my family. I spend my year living in 2 different towns / my extended family is in another country / there might be work somewhere down the line if I keep in touch with this person / I have a huge crush on this guy and Facebook is the way to benignly stalk him / I I don’t post something today people will forget I exist... The reasons were endless. Until they weren’t.
I started feeling mad at myself for placing so much importance on people who I barely saw in ‘real’ life. I gave myself a talking-to:
So what, some guy “liked” another funny thing you wrote. Is he banging down your door asking you for coffee? Nope. So what, you think the things that woman writes are funny and cool? Would you actually want to spend time with her? Do you have anything in common? Maybe not. Do you really want to waste another 30 minutes of your day reading the comments of some small-town tempest-in-a-teapot status update or getting sucked down the internet rabbit hole as you check out another article someone’s linked to? Can you afford to go to all these shows you get invited to?
And the only question that really mattered: Can you afford to give this entity so much of your time? The answer, I realized was NO.
You’re a great tool, Facebook. I love that there’s a network of several hundred people that I can contact and check up on when I need to. You’ve reconnected me with a number of old friends, and several of them are now people I hold very dear. You keep me in touch with the tiny northern town where I spend my summers, and when I’m up there you keep an eye on my city for me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the casual acquaintances I have online, but I want to spend more time with flesh-and-blood people, not commenting on the status update of someone I once did a show with ten years ago. You have your place, but I refuse to let you rule my life any more.
Today I made a choice NOT to visit you, Facebook, and it was hard. My fingers strayed to your name on my bookmark bar more than once but I stayed strong. I hope to have more days like this one, where I don’t check in with this shadowy group of people who call themselves my friends but whom I rarely see. Instead, I want more weekends like this one: a new friend crashed on my couch while in town, we bonded over (virgin) cocktails, talked ‘til late into the night and had breakfast together this morning before she caught the bus back home. And I thought, how lucky I am. Because I have so many great friends. Because I will keep in touch with them by phone, by email, and yes, by Facebook. But I will stop being obsessed. I will take several days between visits to you. I will stop rolling my eyes over the same-old-same-old online suspects and spend more time actually catching up with people I love.
I’m not breaking up with you, Facebook, but I DO need more breathing space. And it’s up to me to carve that out for myself.