It’s a pretty big deal that I deactivated Facebook. Especially with it not being for any defined period of time, or spurred on by the beginning of Lent, or Advent or some other period of time that many people stop Facebook. I’ll admit, I thought about it for a long time before I did it. Honestly, the fact that I thought about it for so long was a HUGE indicator to me that I needed to do it. Additionally, I was able to set up a way that I can still post my blog to the Facebook page without getting onto Facebook myself. That was nice to figure out.
The main reason I deactivated my account was because it was far too invasive in my life. The invasion was self-inflicted, of course. No one FORCED me to start Facebook. But, I was so active on it. A few months ago, I started doing some self-reflection on why I was so active and how I felt about it. Who are all these people that Facebook calls “Friends”? Why am I so careful to label some of them “acquaintances” and others “close friends” and shield my posts accordingly? Why did I accept (or send) a “Friend Request” to this or that person? “Why do I worry when no one ‘likes’ or comments on something I have posted?” Or even the comparisons…constant comparisons!!
A long time ago, a friend of mine who was on Facebook (and has since left it behind) said something I have often thought about. She said something along the lines of the following, which I paraphrase: Facebook seems like an invitation to peek into the windows of my home to many people I would never invite to cross the threshold of my front door. How insightful she was! The more I think about the things I shared on Facebook and the reactions I received, didn’t receive, hoped to receive…the more I realize how self-centered Facebook had made me. Some of my activity shouted — “Hey! look at me!! Look at my beautiful children! Tell me how awesome they are!” And what I’ve learned at this point is that I don’t need a bunch of people on Facebook to tell me how awesome my children are. I know it without all of that. And while I tell my children (at least daily) how awesome I think they are — THAT is enough. My children don’t care what my many “Friends” on Facebook think of them, as they shouldn’t! They just want to hear their Mommy share her love for them…WITH THEM. Sure, it’s nice to share with the world how in love with my children I am, but in the end — showing that love to my children directly is far more important.
Of course, the other things I shared — about myself, and not my children — wow, what an eye opener. I’ve written over and over about my struggle to embrace humility. Well, my historical posts on Facebook are enough to show me that I sure don’t struggle all that hard. Matter of fact, I run completely in the other direction. Holy smokes!! So…I won’t go too much into detail on this one. We’ll just suffice to say that deactivating Facebook should help me grow in humility — at least that is one of my fervent desires.
While reviewing my “Friends” list, another eye-opener. My first exercise was to trim down my “Friends” because I know that I don’t really have 500 “Friends.” I mean, even if I count all my family on Facebook…I really come nowhere close to that many honest-to-goodness friends. So, I went through the list to “unfriend” people that I would most likely never talk to (maybe not even recognize!!) if I met them on the street. As I was “unfriending,” I took note of how I became “friends” with them in the first place. There were quite a few Crossfit people — people I had shared workouts with for a time. But, to be honest…some of the people I became “friends” with — rarely even spoke to me at workouts. I realized I had become “friends” on Facebook after attending one of the social events (a “Ladies Wine Night” at someone’s home). But I rarely had interactions with any of these people on Facebook and even though we’d had a fun time on that social evening, no real friendships came from it. Therefore, I “unfriended” many of them. Then there are some people from the parish/school — who rarely interact with me on Facebook or in person — that I just decided to hit the “unfriend” button for them as well. All in all, I think I got my list down to 400 or less — and at that time, I was happy to have done that.
The few months I considered removing Facebook altogether from my life, I reflected strongly any time I would check back on something I posted to see who had liked it. I found that I would look for certain people’s names — and often not find them. Then, sometimes a mutual “friend” shared something and I would see these same names that I had searched for on my own posts (and not found) “like” or comment on that post. I spent time reflecting how it made me feel and why. I realized that I am not in a healthy enough state to handle all the comparison and competition Facebook brings into my life. Especially the TYPE of comparison and competition. I don’t need it. I never did. I realized how it caused me to worry about things that are so far BEYOND anything I need to worry about in my life. I mean — don’t I worry enough about the in-person interactions (or lack thereof) that I have in my life?!? Why would I continue to add the angst that accompanies online interactions (or lack thereof) of people that are only a marginal part of my life?
Finally, much like this blog…I think that I thought Facebook was a way that I could share and help someone else. I think that’s why I was attracted to it for so long. But what I think I have discovered is that helping people face-to-face…person-to-person is far more useful, meaningful and, yes, gratifying. It’s easy to see someone’s words in a Facebook post or on a blog and click away to something that makes us feel better. When someone shares something face-to-face or over the phone in a non-public, more intimate setting, that experience stays with both parties to the interaction far longer than anything online. I do want to share experiences, loves, heartaches with others…but I want to be far more intentional about it. The blog feels a little bit different in that I do not have a wide audience. I don’t see that changing, either. I’m not a magnetic personality with a unique ability to connect online with millions of people. I can, however, connect with some through this medium and probably have enough interactions with those who read me to make me feel like I make a difference with what I share, but not feel like I’m sending out signals over the waves to a bunch of people who don’t care.
When I deactivated Facebook, I didn’t know how long I’d stay gone. A friend (who gave up Facebook for good long ago) warned me that I may feel pulled back to it for awhile. I am not sure if what I have felt is a pull. Sure, it’s crossed my mind — “Wonder what so-and-so has posted recently…” but the pull isn’t as great as I feared it would be.
I actually feel quite a bit of peace that I haven’t felt in a long time. You see, I joined Facebook in 2006. But I never posted anything — hardly viewed it at all. I posted a little more frequently in 2008, but really got active in 2009. Dominic was born in January 2009. I suffered postpartum depression with him pretty badly…his birth in the midst of winter coupled with my already stubborn Seasonal Affective Disorder (not officially diagnosed, by the way) really did a number on my psyche. So, I turned to Facebook. I wanted to see happy things, and I wanted people to talk to me. And so it began.
The past couple of weeks without Facebook have gotten me thinking about my life before high activity on Facebook and the events that happened in my life and how I dealt with them. I changed jobs at the end of 2007. My grandfather passed away suddenly on January 1, 2008. I became quite ill in February 2008 (strep and the flu) and recovery was difficult. I also began counseling in March 2008, continuing for a couple of years. The Jayhawks won the NCAA tournament in 2008 — and I remember the text conversations throughout the Final Four with my brother. We announced our pregnancy with Dominic in the summer of 2008 — a period of time that was quite difficult for me because the reactions we received from some people close to us were hurtful. Our ultrasound was early that fall where we found out Dominic was a boy and we were so surprised (after three girls)! All of those things happened and the only thing I shared on Facebook was my last day at my job when I switched jobs. Quite the eye-opener when I think about all the things I have shared since becoming more active on Facebook.
Peace. Quiet. Purpose. I have peace in my mind as I am not worried about who “liked” so-and-so’s photo of her kids and never comments or “likes” mine. I feel a quiet calm in my life as I don’t have my phone shoved in my face seemingly 24/7. There is quiet in my life because I reflect more on meaningful interactions that happen person-to-person. I find greater purpose in my communication with friends and with family.
I’m not saying this giving-up-Facebook stuff is something everyone should do. Only you can decide for yourself. But I am saying that I sure am happy I gave it a try and I’m not sure I’ll ever go back.