I quit Facebook the same way I quit heroin – an immediate, brutal, complete cold turkey withdrawal forced upon me by others.
While taking a self-imposed 2 day Facebook break, my account became deactivated because I use a pseudonym. And so I was thrust into a situation not of my design.
Initially, I WAS going to get back on quickly. But 2 days in, I became violently ill with a debilitating virus. The first night I was feverish to the point of slipping in and out of consciousness. Frightened, I contacted a close friend via text message and tried to convey to him my desperate fear that I was losing consciousness.
Because he was multitasking on Facebook messenger, I was not able to get his full attention or communicate the urgency of the situation. I felt like I was trapped in a cheesy horror movie; screaming that my life was in danger. Only, it came out in a hoarse whisper that no one heard.
When I started having visions worthy of the Nations Crystal Meth Hallucination League, I made an actual phone call to someone who just might have saved my life.
That was the night I broke up with Facebook
The next few days were nightmarish.
I was so sick I couldn’t leave my house. I was completely alone.
But without being on Facebook, for many people – I ceased to exist. Many of my friendships had been more site-specific than I anticipated.
I craved voices. Complete isolation left me hungry for authentic human interaction.
Losing contact with the majority of my online friends while my brain was intertwined with illness played tricks on my psyche. I had ceased to exist for many people, and in my fragile state, I joined them in this belief.
By the time I had sweated out my fever, I’d also managed to expel the toxins that made me believe I had to log onto Facebook to authenticate my life.
In the last month I did some reading on the psychology of Facebook’s allure. Facebook use is motivated by two primary needs: (1) The need to belong and (2) the need for self-presentation.
Facebook gives the illusion of companionship. It reduces perceived level of loneliness, although there’s no correlation between Facebook use and increased offline social interaction. We FEEL less lonely on Facebook, so we stop seeking meaningful companionship. In this way, the cycle perpetuates itself.
The studies also show that people who are anxious or have low self-esteem are more likely to post self-promotional photos constantly, i.e., photos on their wall.
But I wonder, how does documenting your life through photos help soothe anxiety or increase self-esteem? By letting others share our joy? Or by proving that we’re having the good time that the pictures paint?
When I see a photo from an event or a vacation, I appreciate it. IT. But when the parade of images is endless, depicting every inch of minutiae, I can’t help but think, “these people are having a terrible time and trying to distract themselves before they start tazing each other.” How much can you be really be sinking into an experience if you’re posting pictures of it, commenting, answering and liking every one else’s comments, multiple times in a day?
I’m keenly aware that I offer an edited version of myself for my Facebook audience. I can post “Had an amazing date but drank too many margaritas by the beach with my Cute Guy.” Now I sound like a vibrant single mom. But I won’t post, “Just limped into the driveway, doing the 6am mascara-smeared Walk of Shame.” That makes me sound like a fucked-out desperate housewife.
And without Facebook at all? Who am I, if I’m not funny, brash and quirky Samara, posting on her wall about her childhood pet chicken and her prison pen pal?
I don’t have the answers. But I may be asking the right questions.
We collectively embrace the delusion that sharing our experiences as we have them validates them. In reality, isn’t the compulsion to post each moment on Facebook a desire to disconnect from the real world, because Facebook world is more enjoyable? I read multiple studies showing that the Facebook selves appeared to be socially desirable identities that individuals aspired to have offline, but don’t.
So. Facebook Addiction.
It’s a Thing.
The symptoms varied slightly from study to study, but generally are: spending hours a day on Facebook, preferring Facebook world to real world, being obsessed with responses to your status updates, not being able to go a day without logging on, communicating via Facebook repeatedly with people who live in the same house you do, and the obsession to report everything as it’s happening.
The truth is, in our desire to be “connected” we have become so disconnected. Everywhere you look, people stare into their phones. Alone together.
I’m not against this tide. I love certain aspects of Facebook.
But perhaps we need to think about the desire to capture every moment and how that interferes with our ability to LIVE each moment.
28 Days Later
So what happened during the month I was off Facebook?
I’ve had time to do things I haven’t done, or done enough of, in YEARS. I played guitar. Took walks on the beach. Wrote. TOOK NAPS. That’s right, people, read it and weep. I had time to fucking nap.
That’s the good news. The bad news is, I lost friends. Off of Facebook, I have become inconvenient to communicate with. It has been eye-opening. And although I’m not angry, going forward with these people, I will be more specific about the way in which I cultivate the landscape of our “friendship.” Because the truth of it is, even though people kept telling me they “missed me,”
I NEVER WENT ANYWHERE.
I’VE BEEN RIGHT HERE, ALL ALONG.
Anyone who wanted to contact me, was able to.
Friends emailed me. Texted me. Called me. Skype’d with me. Whats App’d me. Said hi on Instagram. DM’d me on Twitter. Sent mother fucking smoke signals to my teepee.
Without Facebook, my friends have had to put in a little extra effort to stay in touch with me and I with them. Off the tech grid, we’re forced to do it, old school.
Online world is easy to fake. Real life takes work.
Is that bad?
By the time this article is published, I’ll be back on Facebook. There’s the catch. In order for me to reach the widest audience possible, to warn of the insidious dangers of Facebook duplicity, I need to be on Facebook.
But now that I’ve broken the habit of staring down at my phone, I’m going to keep it that way. I want to look up at people and see their faces.
I want to hear the sounds around me.
Now, when I walk along the beach, I want to listen to the sea gulls, and feel the ocean breeze on my face.
Instead of posting about it.
Are you addicted to Facebook?
Talk to me. I’m listening.