Thursday, October 10, 2013

Living Facebook Free!

(Clearly I was the only one on that ride who realized how awesome it was.  Perfect illustration of me in life!)

I love technology! I love computers. I love iPods and digital music. I love digital cameras and Photoshop. I love email and being able to contact people in other states instantly. I love exploring various topics with my child on the Internet. My husband and I both have jobs in the field of technology. I can't deny it, technology is huge part of my life.

But what happens when your love of technology starts to become a problem in your life? What happens when technology starts interfering with the ways in which you interact with your children? What happens when you don’t know how to entertain yourself when your power goes out or when you forget your iPhone and you’re waiting at a restaurant? What happens when your happiness becomes dependent on how many people responded to your Facebook status? That’s when you know you have a problem. That’s when your love of technology has crossed the line from an excellent source of information and way to communicate with long distance friends, to an addiction...and addictions are never healthy.

Luckily, I’ve always had a pretty healthy relationship with technology. I am in no way addicted to it. I know when to turn off the computer and complete my other projects. I’ve always been really good about keeping all electronics off while my child is awake and trying to interact with me. I’ve also never owned a Smart Phone, so I’ve always been comfortable entertaining myself in other ways while sitting in waiting rooms and other places. But there was one thing in the technological world that was starting to cause me grief; one thing that I had a love/hate relationship with from the very beginning...FACEBOOK.

I first joined Facebook back in 2009. Some of my husband’s friends had joined and convinced him to hop on the FB train (a fun fact a like to tease him about). He then convinced me to join and I knew it was a bad idea from the start. To begin with, I was fiercely protective of our privacy. After living a somewhat public life in Flint (it’s a lot smaller than you think) and moving several times, I was ready for people to not know information about myself or my family. I was ready to keep my mouth shut and no longer be an open book to anyone who would listen. I knew that Facebook had the potential to reveal private information, whether YOU were the one who posted it or not. It could make your privacy vulnerable. There was the risk of other people posting information about you or photographs of your children and you had no control over situations like that. I also didn’t want everyone to be able to find me. I really hated high school and I didn’t have many friends. Facebook seemed like a constant high school reunion that I didn’t want to attend. I loved the fact that I had changed my name and moved several times and I knew that former classmates probably wouldn’t be able to find me. I had kept in touch with the people that I cared about and didn’t see the need to try to keep in touch with the others that had drifted away over the years.

Regardless of my reservations, I signed up and so began my four year slide down a slippery slope. Luckily, I was pretty smart about some things right from the beginning. I became very familiar with the privacy settings and made it virtually impossible for people to search for me. I never used my maiden name or filled out any information about my high school or work experience, so this also helped me maintain some privacy. I always kept my “friend” number low. I didn’t go crazy friending every person I had ever spoken too or had classes with. I tried to keep my “friends” limited to family, friends, former professors, references, and people that I had spent time having conversations with. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few times I screwed up and friended a former high school enemy just to see what they were up too. But I always deleted those people instantly and regretted ever friending them in the first place. Anyhow, my point is that I went into it in a pretty smart way, and maintained that most of the time, but other things started to happen that I wasn’t quite as prepared for...

Knowing when to be silent
. I’ve always been a journal keeper and I know how therapeutic it can be to write down your thoughts. Unfortunately, I started to update my status with every little thought that popped into my head. I never aired dirty laundry or anything like that, but I started to post things that I would have normally kept to myself or shared with only my husband or best friend. For example, if I had a bad interaction with another a random person at the grocery store, I’d write about it. If I saw something on the news or something happening in the media that I thought it was stupid, I’d write about it. If I heard a song that I liked, I would post a link to it. If I hated the weather, I’d post about it. Things would happen in my life, and I would think, “I totally need to update my status with this later.” It became ridiculous. It took me a few years to get the mouth diarrhea under control. I realized that just because you have a thought or opinion in your head, doesn’t mean you need to share it with the whole world. It’s not classy, and some things are better left unsaid. I think learning when NOT to speak up is a hard lesson to learn and it’s one that my generation in particular needs to work on. Once I realized this, I then had to go back and delete years worth of embarrassing comments. I was horrified at some of the stupid things I had written. I was so grateful that Facebook was not around when I was in college because I can only imagine the kinds of crap I would have written about back then. Luckily, we only had AOL Instant Messenger to communicate with, and that usually only consisted of leaving up some angry lyrics as your “Away” message. That was how we got our points across back then. People had to read between the lines. Nowadays, nothing is obscure or cryptic.

Facebook Fights. If I read something that someone else had written and that I disagreed with, I’d state my opinion below their status, they would defend themselves, then their mother/brother/friend would hop on and defend them, and thus a little spat would ensue. The same went for if someone disagreed with things I had written. No major name calling or swearing ever occurred, but there was definitely occasional tension. That’s the problem with Facebook though. It’s mixed company. You have friends, former classmates, family, coworkers, and other random people, all thrown into the same mix and it just doesn’t work.

Picture Sharing and Lurkers. One reason I stayed on Facebook so long was because of my love of photography. I genuinely LOVED looking at other people’s photographs. Not in a stalker way, but in an art appreciation kind of way. I really appreciate a well-composed photograph and Facebook was a great place to satisfy my need for pretty pictures, as well as share my own. But, as the years went on, more and more people stopped posting pictures (perhaps because of all of Facebook’s privacy/sharing issues?) and some of my “friends” never posted pictures to begin with. That didn’t seem fair to me. It was weird to me to think that my “friends” were potentially looking at my pictures and reading my status updates, but never sharing any pieces of their lives with me. You can’t come to my house and look in my windows and not expect me to be curious about what’s in your house! My friends and I had a name for these people: lurkers. I hated lurkers. These are the people who created a Facebook page (even with a profile picture) but NEVER posted anything. Yes, it’s true, perhaps these people were actually really busy and created their profile pages, but were never actually on them and didn’t have the time to share things. But, I doubted it. Most of them proved themselves to be full of crap about being “too busy for Facebook” because when I would speak with them, they were completely up to date on all of their Facebook gossip. I used to tell myself that I wanted to stay on Facebook to stay in touch with family, but the reality was a lot of my family members never posted anything and never commented on what I posted. So how was that keeping in touch? Lurkers. They were a huge part of what ruined Facebook for me.

Fake Friends.
Facebook gives people the illusion of having real friends. Facebook makes you feel like you are a part of people’s lives, even when you are 400 miles away. When people share information or post pictures of their kids at birthday parties, you feel like you were there! Isn’t it nice to feel like you are a part of so many families? Doesn’t it make you feel loved and involved? I definitely fell victim to this. I had several instances where I got in touch with an old friend (either because they found me or I found them) and we had a conversation through a series of messages and at some point in those messages we said, “Man, it’s so good to talk to you again. We should get together some time.” So then, I would make an attempt to actually get together...because that’s what friends do. They spend time together! But the thing was, they didn’t want to actually get together. They were completely happy to have our friendship exist in only the virtual world, and I had a real problem with that. Why would you want to be friends with me on Facebook if you didn’t want to be friends with me in real life? It didn’t make sense to me and it hurt. I also was constantly making plans with people and they would cancel at the last minute via Facebook. It’s a hell of a lot easier to type someone a lame excuse as to why you don’t feel like seeing them than to call them on the phone and hear the disappointment in their voices. It’s a lot easier for someone to “like” your picture than to make the effort to be a real friend. Your virtual friends are not really there for you when you need them. And what’s the point in having those kinds of relationships?

Humblebragers and Praise Seekers. Another huge reason I wanted to get off of Facebook is because I couldn’t stand the things people would post about. I know we all think we are interesting, but the reality is...most of us just aren’t! And we are definitely not interesting when we look like we are fishing for compliments. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Humblebrag”, it means when someone acts like they are complaining about something when they’re actually trying to make something else (a hidden message) known and are bragging about it. Here’s an example: “I’m such a fatty! I just ate about 20 pieces of chocolate. I really have to learn how to control myself when flying first class.” You see, at first, it seems like the person is putting themselves down and telling you something embarrassing, something you can relate too. But then the secret message, the thing that they really wanted you to know, was that they were flying first class. They wanted you to know that either they’ve got the cash to spend to fly first class or are potentially being flown first class by their employer, or something of that nature. The last part was what they really wanted you to know, but they worded it in a way where they were hiding their bragging. Humblebrags always made me laugh because I couldn’t believe that these people didn’t realize how transparent they were. There’s something to be said for actually being humble and unfortunately, it is a dying character trait. Similarly, so many people these days feel like they deserve praise for everything they do. The one subject I  saw posted about the most that really killed me was working out and exercise. Now, I get it. Working out can be a big deal for those who aren’t used to doing it and/or are making big attempts to lose weight and change their lives. But for someone who’s always consistently worked out for the past 18 years and never looked for praise for it, I didn’t understand why we needed to praise people for doing something that they should be doing anyways (By the way, I am in no way super fit or muscular or bragging about being super fit or muscular. I’ve just always maintained good health with normal weekly routine workouts). To me, praising someone for working out was the same as saying, “Yay. Good job Betty! I’m so glad that you went to the grocery store to buy food for your family.” You don’t praise people for that! It’s just part of everyday life. It’s something that we need to do. Working out is the same to me. Who wants to say, “Yay, Bobby! I’m so glad you decided not to be lazy any more and are dragging yourself to the gym 3 times a week just like everybody else. Good job!”? Do we really need to be praised for deciding to take care of ourselves or be healthy? Do we really need to be praised for every single personal accomplishment (don’t get me started on the zillion people who post about the races they ran in and are looking for a people to tell them what a good job they did when they weren’t even there to see it)? Can’t we just be content and happy with ourselves for our accomplishments? Can’t we call our friends to tell them about these accomplishments and get the praise from someone who genuinely cares about us?    

In addition to the things listed above, one of the biggest problems I have with Facebook (and perhaps technology in general) is that I don’t like the way our society is choosing to spend their time and interact with each other. For example, I went to my son’s soccer game the other day and as I was walking past the other games that were being played, I saw kids sitting on the sidelines playing on their parent’s iPhone, either while they were waiting to play in their game or while their siblings were playing. I find that incredibly sad. What the hell is wrong with just sitting there and watching the game? What about cheering on and supporting your sibling or friend? What about picking grass and running around with your friends? Are our children really that desperate for something to do that we need to fill every moment with an iPhone game? It’s even worse when I see the parents doing it instead of watching their child play soccer. I can’t stand that we are so distracted that we are missing life. We are missing the moments that make living worthwhile. Are you going to reminisce on your deathbed about your FarmVille game or about the special moments with your children?

Another personal example, when my husband and I first got married, we would play games together like Scrabble and Gin and do crossword puzzles and word searches to unwind and relax in the evenings. It felt good. It felt old-fashioned. It felt like we were really spending time together and living life. As the years went on (and jobs changed) we both became glued to our laptops (or iPads, iPods, etc.) in the evenings. We still had a great relationship and still watched movies together and other things like that, but it just didn’t feel the same as the early days. It felt...distracted.

I also didn’t like not having as much time for the hobbies I used to enjoy doing, such as reading, making art, teaching myself guitar, etc. I would tell myself that I simply didn’t have time to pursue those things any more. The reality was, I HAD the time to do those things, but chose to waste it online instead, and that didn’t feel REAL to me. Living online was not the same as REALLY living.

Even though I was never fully a technology addict, I knew that it was time to make a change for myself. I had grown so disgusted with Facebook and was starting to become unhappy with the ways I was spending my time. I was unhappy with the friendships that I thought that I had. I was unhappy with our society who can’t sit in an uncomfortable silence for one minute at a restaurant table with other people, the society who can’t think of conversation topics so they resort to looking down at their phones. There needed to be a change and the change was going to start with me. I knew I couldn’t stop the world from handing their kids iPhones to entertain themselves, but I could control the choices I was making  for my own family and myself. This was the day I decided to commit...

Facebook Suicide. 

I was no longer going to live in the Facebook world because I was going to start/return to living in the REAL world. I wanted to see and speak to REAL friends. I wanted to hear REAL praise at actual appropriate moments. I wanted to feel REAL awkwardness and experience REAL disappointments.      

Quitting wasn't easy though. Just like quitting anything, I had to go through a process when I finally decided to give up my Facebook life. Immediately after deleting my page, I felt relieved. I was SO thrilled that I no longer had to pretend as if I was interested in the countless posts regarding workout routines or diet habits, I no longer had to check to see who’s birthday it was (It would be bad Facebook etiquette not to acknowledge a birthday on a “Friend’s” page!), I didn’t have to “like” pictures of pet dogs or children I didn’t know, and more importantly, I didn’t have to work to maintain friendships that would never be REAL outside of the virtual world.

However, the good feeling didn’t last long because on the second day, a mild sadness and loneliness hit. Part of me felt as if I had lost a big virtual family. Considering I live in a different state than most of my family and friends, Facebook was my only way for staying involved and keeping up with gossip. I had dedicated over four years to watching some of my family members and friends get married and have children, and I was sad that I was no longer going to be able to witness these happy occasions in their lives. Seeing it on Facebook was almost like being there and without it, I wasn’t sure how I was going to keep up.

Another thing that hit me (that I wasn’t expecting) was the feeling of, “Well now what do I do with my time?” Facebook had become such a normal, daily habit, that I had to figure out what I was going to do during the time I would have normally been Facebooking. I thought it would be easy to instantly return to my old hobbies, but it took some time to remember what the I used to do before wasting all of my time on the computer. Eventually, it all came back to me though and I have to say that I am ecstatic to be practicing some of my old hobbies.

I made a little list of the Pros & Cons I’ve experienced since committing Facebook Suicide. Note: Let me remind you again that I have not quit technology or the Internet entirely, I simply quit Facebook.


I have some privacy back. No one gets to peek into my life anymore (Well, unless they’re on Instagram. I couldn’t give up all of my guilty pleasures!). No one can engage me in conversations on my page that might be weird, or add me to groups that I don’t want to belong too, or send me invites for games I don’t want to play, or show my pictures to their creepy uncle in their basement, it’s all gone. Of coarse, I can’t control what other people post, so I could still essentially be tagged, mentioned, or make a cameo in random posted pictures, but I can live with that. It’s still an improvement.

My relationships have improved. The people who wanted to keep in touch with me have kept in touch. There are so many other ways to communicate: email (my favorite virtual method), texting (my least favorite), phone calls, snail mail, and good, old fashioned arrangements to actually see each other face to face and hang out in person! There are a few people in particular that I feel even closer with since leaving Facebook. As for the others, they didn’t make the cut! My husband and I do more activities together in the evenings like we used too. We were always close, but I feel even closer now without the distractions!

I have more time for my hobbies (and other things). I’ve done more reading than I have in a long time, I’ve done more writing than I have in the past four years, the options of how to spend my time are endless! I can’t believe I panicked for even a minute about how to spend my time. I've even made it to bed early a few times, which is a HUGE deal when you're a mom!

I’m more present than ever. I’ve always lived very much “in the now” because I learned a long time ago that you can’t plan too far ahead. But now I’m even more present and it’s such a great feeling. It’s very real. It’s life, and I want to live in every moment!

CONS (there’s really only one that I can think of):

I no longer get to see pictures of the people that I DO care about
Not very many people were posting pictures on Facebook anymore anyways, but for the ones that were, I will miss seeing them! I will miss seeing what those people are up too and watching their kids grow up. I will miss sharing in their sorrows and their successes. But this isn’t really even that much of a con because NOW we will have more to talk about when we finally do see each other! I can ask questions and they can answer them (like a normal conversation) and I won’t feel like I already knew the answers because I already saw everything on Facebook. I look forward to engaging in these conversations about life. Plus, people can still email me pictures. Yes, it requires extra effort, but it is an effort that people put in when they want to be friends.

Our society is becoming socially inept and heavily dependent on their "devices" to occupy their time and thoughts. People are forgetting how to communicate and interact with their families. They’re forgetting how to act in social gatherings and how to start conversations in group settings. They’re forgetting how to stay humble and how to protect their private lives. They’re forgetting what it feels like to hurt someone’s feelings. They’re forgetting hobbies and skills they took years perfecting that are now going to waste. They’re becoming insecure and depressed because they’re constantly comparing themselves to others and the material things that other people have. They’re forgetting how to have empathy. They’re making excuses for not getting off of their butts to take care of themselves or even better, take care of others. They’re teaching their children that they don’t need to support their siblings at soccer games and that every uncomfortable silence needs to be filled with a distraction. They’re forgetting about everything good in life that involves living in the present moment. They’re forgetting how to love...AND IT MAKES ME SAD.

I can’t change the actions of others but I can control my own and I choose to live in REAL life and have REAL relationships. I couldn’t be happier to be FACEBOOK FREE!

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