Sometimes I feel guilty about it, but I simply can’t bring myself to log on to Facebook. I’ve tried. A couple of times in the last few years, I’ve put a bunch of thought into it and resolved that I should force myself to check in, at least once a week or so. Then I log in and remember why what used to be fun is now so repellent to me. Since I’ve replaced it, I don’t miss it. There are a million more satisfying things to do with my time instead of Facebook.
When I first got an account, I didn’t understand it or what it was for. I feel the same way about Snapchat today. Huh? What? As time goes by and I get older, I’m sure I’ll gradually become infinitely less hip and I won’t even know the names of the newest forms of social connection.
One day, I sorta figured out the kind of thing one would post on Facebook, and I shared my first link. Instantly it returned a lot of laughter and commentary. For me? Gee whiz! I felt like I was part of a conversation. It was exciting and gratifying to make my friends laugh in multiple cities and states at the same time. I could see why people liked doing this kind of thing.
Then I visited my family, and one of my relatives was playing FarmVille. I should do that, I thought, as a favor. I could reach out from a thousand miles away and do little chores or send little gifts, a minor way of waving hello. It would give me a reason to log in more often and connect better with my friends.
File under: BIGGEST MISTAKES IN LIFE
I utterly failed to understand why most people loathed social gaming. I had no more hook for gaming in general than I ever have had for coffee or booze, but this thing got into me. I lacked the social awareness or sophistication to see how obnoxious I was becoming. It wasn’t until more features were added to the game that I lost interest in it and never logged in again. Too late, of course, to repair my reputation with various people. If I’d never set up a Facebook account, I would have blissfully gone through life never becoming addicted to an electronic game, and that alone would have been enough reason to stay away.
For a few years, I checked Facebook several times a day. I would look up and two hours would have disappeared.
Again, arriving late to the party, I didn’t understand that certain online behaviors were already cliched. I believed that my “friends” were actually my “friends” and I kept trying to make emotional connections that blew up in my face. I reached out, looking for connection and validation.
Years later, I finally saw the pattern for what it was. I would always, always feel worse after logging in to Facebook than I did before. I never felt that I got back what I was putting in.
Social comparison wasn’t the problem. I like my life, my real life anyway, and in many ways I’m doing better than most people I know. I would see someone fighting in public with their partner, or complaining about their cat barfing on the carpet, or some other problem that I don’t have. Whew, I would think, that would definitely be annoying, glad that’s not me. Sorry, hon.
I had a series of problems that stemmed exclusively from Facebook, problems that were never a part of my life beforehand and have never been a problem since. I’ll list them in increasing order of salience.
Ten, a close friend cut off relations with their extended family. I knew this had happened, and that was enough for me; it’s none of my business WHY a friend is or isn’t talking to someone. I just respect their wishes and their privacy. That’s why it was so incredibly creepy when a member of this extended family reached out to me with a long letter, wanting me to intercede in some way. This never could have happened in person, with a distraught and sketchy stranger showing up on my doorstep. Likewise all the icky ‘friend’ requests from bots or horny strangers.
Nine, a steady stream of pictures of meat. Pictures of food in general.
Eight, Throwback Thursday. I have no nostalgia for any period prior to, say, 2008, and even then I was dealing with a lot of health issues. Let’s keep it to the current year!
Seven, rants from people about game invites. I saw about 10:1 “don’t invite me to games” rants for every game invite I personally received. Can’t you just... spend one second blocking each game as it pops up? She said defensively.
Six, no matter what I shared, there would always be someone who believed that nobody should ever share that category of thing. Don’t share your workouts. Don’t share schmoopy pictures or posts of you being happy with your husband/date/handsome cardboard cutout/invisible friend. Don’t share your charitable contributions. Don’t share vacation photos. Don’t share party photos. If you accidentally had a good time one day, don’t tell anybody.
Five, spoilers of the two TV shows I actually watch.
Four, bizarre anti-information, conspiracy theories, rants, baseless opinions, and pseudoscience. Nobody thanks you for Snopesing them. I guess we just live in a world with seven billion parallel alternative universes now.
Three, constant super-hyper-extra-polarized political everything.
Two, the meanness. Piling on, chastising, lecturing, pedantry, flaming, trolling, and outright insulting of fellow humans. It didn’t feel any less bad to see friends of friends doing it to each other than it did to see people try to do it to me. It just made this seem more pervasive and inescapable.
One, it made me like people less than I did before. It permanently destroyed friendships that were perfectly fine out in the real world. The intense, unprecedented pain of being UNFRIENDED. A.k.a. “You’re dead to me.”
What do I do instead of Facebook? I hang out with actual real physical people in my community. In person. In real time.
I started taking classes at a martial arts school. Unlike most other gyms, we partner up, and the close physical work has a magical way of creating bonds unlike anything else I’ve ever done. I feel that I’ve formed true friendships there, and even better, the kind of friends you know for a fact would physically have your back in a crisis.
I joined Toastmasters, a public speaking club. Right now I’m a member of three clubs and I have a total of five under my directorship. Unlike anything else I’ve ever done, Toastmasters has given me the stories of my new friends. Deep listening to someone else’s story drives home empathy and compassion. It can’t be helped. It’s innate to how our brains work. This is where you find out how fascinating and lovable your neighbors really are.
In both martial arts and Toastmasters, I’m spending an hour at a time with people of every age, race, gender, sexual orientation, education, income level, and many linguistic and cultural backgrounds. I don’t usually know what my friends do at their jobs, how they vote, what their homes look like, or what car they drive. Instead, I know more about what lights them up, what makes them laugh, and what interests them.
Instead of Facebook, I talk with other people in person. We hug, we laugh, we high-five, we trade stories, in some cases we kick each other in the thigh and throw each other on the ground. What we never do is to talk politics, insult each other, rant at each other, criticize each other’s punctuation or spelling, or permanently shun each other socially.
Social media had infinite potential to change the world and build community. It also has endless power to annoy people and lead directly to misunderstanding, misinformation, confusion, and hurt feelings. Instead of Facebook, what if we reach out and spend more time getting to know our neighbors?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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