Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's Hard to be Humble on Facebook

Recently I gave up Facebook.  I say that in the same way I would admit to giving up cocaine, beer, or betting on the horses.  I loved Facebook in the same way an alcoholic loves a drink of Drambuie.  But you get the picture.

When I worked as a counselor, I often communicated with students through Facebook.  We posted pictures from our school trips, and quite honestly, sometimes I discovered problems our students were having by their quite honest posts.  I found long-lost family members, old friends from high school, and cousins from internet family trees.  I had hundreds of "friends".  It. Was. Awesome.

There was at times, though, an  undercurrent of discomfort.  How much information was too much information?  Had my account just been hacked?  Was that new "friend" really the FBI tracking my political statements?  I became increasingly disturbed by posts that other people made, and often found myself wishing that someone would just hold back a little.  On some deep, basic, intuitive level I knew that I needed to make some changes.

So I deactivated my account.  Facebook said I could come back; they sent me an email wanting to know why I'd left.  Holy status update, Facebook, leave me alone.

Eventually they did.  Leave me alone, I mean.  So I want to share with others, who may be facing the question of how you can be "friends" with, in some cases, thousands of people, five signs that you, too, may need to face life without social networking.

1.  Your right thumb is numb.

2.  As soon as you wake in the morning, your first thought is to wonder how many people have "liked" that photo you posted right before you went to bed.  You know, the photo of you looking extremely good at that party last night. It is extremely difficult to be humble in the egocentric flare of "likes" and "shares" on a Facebook post.  If you have a meltdown, your friends respond with concern and advice.  Others tag you in photos.  It is all about you.

3.  You remember things you used to do when you had more time. Things like cooking a complete meal, hitting fly balls in the backyard, knitting a sweater, sorting your stamp collection, or reading a book are remote memories.   It gets increasingly difficult to get all your work completed on time because you check for status updates or new photos every few minutes, and Facebook is the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night.  Your self-esteem is minimal because you find it increasingly difficult to finish a task; your self-worth is determined, not by accomplishments, but by how many "likes" and "shares" you can get from your friends, many of whom you've not actually met and wouldn't recognize if you saw them in Food City.

4.  You've run out of people to stalk.  You know you do this.  You check the profile of any people you've ever known, from the curmudgeon down the street to your prom date in 1965, but this becomes increasingly boring as you find their lives are just as drab and dreary as everyone else's.

5.  You were not alarmed to find that Facebook is running a trial program of charging $100 to receive services that have previously been free.  If the trial is successful, it doesn't take much imagination to foresee that the fees will be extended to everyone.  You think that Facebook is crucial to your business and/or personal life, and you will pay whatever fees they charge.  You have too much money.

I deactivated my Facebook account for several reasons, some of which are not listed here.  At first I really, really wanted to get back on Facebook to see what people were doing and saying, but I resisted.  I kept busy.  I read more books--a lot more books.  I took long walks.  Time passed, and everything was ok.

If you feel the need to make changes, turn off the computer, stand up, and go outside.  The air is fresh, and life is full of things to do where you can meet real people.