I want to take a moment to ponder the enormity of the situation, but more importantly, how it become so enormous to begin with.
Today, social media has mixed reviews. These websites are simultaneously hated and beloved, and we can connect them to each other for maximum share-age. They don’t remain websites, but instead transform into something bigger than ourselves. That’s part of why just a few minutes ago, I deactivated my Facebook account.
I remember when I was finally able to persuade my mom to let me sign up for a Facebook account. The site attracted me because it could give me the ability to stay connected to friends and family members, as well as make new friends. So, it wasn’t the games or the pages that held the allure–it was the desire to form and maintain meaningful connections. So, even though my mom had reservations about how safe it was to be on such a site, she realized the connection potential and gave me permission. I was in high school when I made the account I just deactivated, and despite myself, there is a bit of nostalgia happening.
However, what began as a way of staying connected quickly became something more. Ideas were born and bred on the internet, as were opinions regarding these different ideas. Friendships have begun on Facebook, but especially in the wake of the recent U.S. Presidential Election, they have also been dissolved. Instead of talking, people have torn each other apart and eventually just cease all contact completely. There is very little discussion anymore, or at least, I saw it start to dwindle on my particular feed. It’s so polarized, leaving no room for understanding or collaboration. I know how easy it is to just label someone or something as wrong and leave it at that, but I’ve learned that having the difficult conversations can be so much more rewarding. So far, this endeavor has been more successful off of Facebook than it has been on Facebook.
I have seen stories of love and loss played out on Facebook, but sometimes I wonder about the stories I don’t see. What are the non-Facebook people up to? There is one person in particular whom I see occasionally post a picture or two from their journey abroad, and if I remember correctly, being disconnected from social media (especially Facebook) enhanced their experiences of travel and self-discovery. Now, I’m wondering if more opportunities for self-discovery will open up now that I’m not going to be on Facebook daily.
I have compared myself to my Facebook friends far too much, to add. Any time one of the girls got engaged, married, and/or had a bab(ies), I found myself measuring myself against them. I looked at my place in life (unmarried and childless) and felt a loss. I felt like I wasn’t progressing right along with them, and because of that, my self-esteem took a hit. Whenever someone got a job or traveled somewhere I thought would be interesting, I also got bummed out. Of course, I would be extremely happy for them, but I would once again find myself measuring myself against them and found myself coming up short. Much the same can be applied when I kept seeing old friends graduate from college, because if I had continued on with my very first academic plan, I would have had a Bachelor’s degree for anywhere from two to four years, now. Heck, I may have even been employed at one or more places by this point. Considering I’m close to my first and only Bachelor’s, and I still don’t know what I want to do with it, the updates reminded me just how behind I was. I hope that by disconnecting in this way, I’m able to focus more on myself, without measuring myself against anyone like that. Maybe I’ll finally find a direction for my life!
Plus, as valuable as Facebook can be to creating understanding, it can also lead to misunderstandings abound. Again, in the wake of the recent election, misunderstandings are tearing people apart while tearing them a proverbial new one. I found myself trying to share and/or write things that demonstrated my views/opinions, only to have them misinterpreted by my Facebook friends. Sometimes, I would try to clarify my position, and that would work. More recently, though, clarification only led to further misunderstanding, which formed a communication barrier that effectively ended the conversation. Something as simple as “liking” an article helped to create the barrier and signaled the end of discourse.
What was also frustrating was that I would have my thoughts and opinions, and then I would find groups that shared those thoughts and opinions. This is a good thing until a lot of those people act like assholes to other people. Two subject areas wherein this problem has popped up have been feminism and atheism, more so in the second area than the first. With feminism, there was mostly mockery and taking things too far, warping what it really is in favor of taking on a radicalized position that got nobody nowhere in the end. With atheism, there was an unapologetic, give-no-fucks approach that didn’t attempt to create meaningful dialogue—remember back to the labeling things as wrong and leaving it at that. I was torn between my position and their methods, and I didn’t want the methods bleeding in where they didn’t fit. One of my hopes is that I’ll be able to figure out how to talk about these topics on my own, and cement just what my responses ought to be, rather than putting a loudspeaker to a virtual voice that isn’t my own.
I also deactivated my Facebook because it reminded me too much of the connections I made and lost over the years. Whether through life changes, deactivation/deletion, or something else, many close relationships have faded away. My continued presence on the website only reminded me of these lost connections, which made me sad and nostalgic in the worst way possible. I’d take to wondering just what I’d done to make them leave, even if I didn’t really do anything. That’s what sucks about being anxious and a member of a site like Facebook—even if you definitely didn’t so anything wrong to make someone cease contact, you will wholeheartedly believe that you did, just because it sounds like such a valid explanation.
Mind you, I have only deactivated my Facebook account, which means that if I so choose, I can easily reactivate it. Even though I’ve listed numerous negatives that still stand as reasons for my deactivating my profile, there is still a trove of memories within. I might even feel like checking back in and seeing what people have been up to at some point in the future—it just won’t be tomorrow or the next day. Who knows? Maybe if I check back in, things will have changed. Perhaps by some miracle, all of my reasons will lose their weight, and I’ll come back for good. For now, though, I’m sticking with Instagram, and of course there’s the Twitter account I use to share these blog posts.
So, what is the point? If you glean anything from this post, let it be that making a change can mark a positive turning point in your life. Maybe you feel like I do, and have been thinking about deactivating or deleting a social media account or two. Maybe you have other reasons, and just haven’t gotten around to doing it for a reason that’s all your own. Not all change is bad, and depending on your online circle, it might be good to step out, at least for a little while. Focus on you and your direction without that account(s), and maybe you’ll learn something from it. I am definitely NOT saying that if you keep your account, or you decide to return to it later, that you’ve scrapped your journey. If you think deactivating and coming back is your cup of tea, you can do that. Delete the account entirely? You can also do that.
Do you, and see where it leads you.