There is life and there is Facebook, but it’s hard to tell the difference. Facebook is a parallel universe where pictures of babies and puppies are endless and life is one long Coachella weekend of sun and fun. But it’s not real. That’s what I had to tell myself over and over: It’s. Not. Real. Facebook is not an accurate representation of anyone’s life, not even those adorable puppies.
In the beginning, Facebook seemed harmless. It was in some ways a “grown up version” of Myspace. It took months for 15-year-old me to accept that Myspace was dead. I hung on until the very last of my Top 8 Friends had made the move. But when Facebook finally became the official site of social media, I was right there with it.
As my friend count grew, so did my sense of self. These people really wanted to hear what I had to say. Facebook asked, “What’s on your mind?” because it actually cared. I was important. I couldn’t let my “friends” know that I sat on the couch all day watching Sex and the City reruns and eating peanut butter out of the jar, or could I? I wanted to be thoughtful, witty, and above all else, cool.
But before any of us realized, Facebook became something much bigger than anyone could have expected. Soon, me and 1.2 billion of my closest friends were online...constantly. Just think, have you ever “logged off” Facebook? Are you afraid to because that AOL account you used in 2004 to sign up no longer exists and you aren’t positive you know your password? I was the same. We are connected 24/7 to a world that doesn’t even exist, striving to live a life trapped behind a glowing screen and terrified of being locked out.
The more “likes” a status obtained, the better I felt about myself. I was addicted to the approval. And it was exhausting.
I would see pictures of my “friends” at parties or at the beach, eating delicious food and drinking cocktails in the sun while I was sitting at home all alone. I became anxious and depressed. Why wasn’t my life as glamorous? I’m a twenty-something living in New York City and the best thing I can do on a Friday night is eat a slice of dollar pizza on my walk home from my boring job? I had this feeling that I was the only one who wasn’t having fun, that I was missing out.
I was checking my phone hundreds of times a day. Mindlessly scrolling through my feed in an effort to stay connected. Crafting the perfect status became an art form. The more “likes” a status obtained, the better I felt about myself. I was addicted to the approval. And it was exhausting. My eyes were tired, my thumbs were tired, my mind was tired.
I disabled my Facebook almost six months ago. It hasn’t been very long, but in that time my social life has come to a screeching halt. None of my 600 “friends” have texted or called to grab lunch or see a movie. I have not been invited to any parties or events. It’s like I don’t exist. But between you and me, I prefer it. If existing in 2016 is boiled down to a carefully curated page of selfies and passive-aggressive statuses, then maybe it is better not to exist at all.
I may not be the social butterfly I once seemed to be, but do you know how satisfying it is to eat a meal without photographing it? Or to tell your partner you love them without blasting it to the world with a string of emojis?
I don’t hate Facebook, and I don’t judge those who aren’t ready to cut it out of their lives for good. Being able to connect with people from your past, or family far away, is an amazing gift that the internet has given us, but Facebook was never intended to be a substitute for real human interaction. Our obsessive society has taken an extra-curricular social activity and made it the center of our existence. The fact that not having Facebook warrants an explanation at all is proof in itself that we have gone too far. I am more than my Facebook, and if that is too hard for you to understand, then maybe I don’t want to be friends.
Top photo: Flickr/Sean MacEntee
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Cat mom. Pizza enthusiast. Nap taker.Creator of LOUDM♀UTH Magazine