I gave up Facebook for Lent. It has been forty plus days since I’ve been on it, until today when I reactivated my account. It felt instantaneously like a mistake.
The reason that I gave up Facebook to begin with is because it was a time-suck. I suppose it was no one’s fault but my own that I spent fifteen minutes on Facebook here, twenty minutes on Facebook there, until it all accumulated to about two hours of Facebook time per day. I felt disgusting about it. Not because it was Facebook, but because I was sucked into this repetitive motion of checking my profile and looking at other people’s profiles and pictures and then checking my profile again until I wasn’t even conscious of my actions anymore. It felt like I was on auto-pilot, or like a puppet-master was pulling the strings. Bad feeling.
A couple years ago, when I asked one of my friends why she didn’t have a Facebook, she explained to me that Facebook was social masturbation. I didn’t get it at the time, but it makes complete sense now. Certainly, Facebook is a valuable and easy way to keep in touch with people, if in fact that’s what it’s used for; but I think the more common use for Facebook is personal gratification. Doesn’t it feel wonderful when you have lots of friends on Facebook, and when those friends leave you nice comments on your Wall, or when they comment on your new profile picture, or invite you to events? All of this makes a person feel loved and cared for, and maybe that’s valid to a certain degree, but how much is Facebook a reflection of real life, really? I know that the majority of the people who are my “friends” on Facebook I would not consider friends in real life, and the people that are my friends are people that I don’t need a social networking site to interact with on a regular basis. But it feels nice, regardless, to have people acknowledge you. To paraphrase my friend, when it comes to Facebook, we’re all just jerking each other off. (It is probably worth mentioning that this friend has made her way back to Facebook, bless her heart.)
And I guess that’s my real beef with Facebook: it’s a synthetic substitute for real life (at least for me, anyway). It’s intangible and impersonal. No matter how many people comment on my Wall, that doesn’t mean they’re really my friend. No matter how frequently or how easily my “friends” can see pictures from my life, that doesn’t make them any more a part of it. Nothing from Facebook carries over into real life, which, now that I think of it, may actually be a good thing. I guess it’s really a matter of how it’s used, but it’s so damn easy to use it for evil.
Since I’ve been off Facebook, life has been better, more full-bodied and rich. I’ve been infinitely more productive since I’ve retrieved those two extra hours each day, and I like not feeling like there’s some sort of gravitational pull that lures me into a dazed stupor. I’m resolved to spend only a small allotted amount of time on Facebook per day, but I fear that I’ll get sucked back into that scary artificial Facebook world and that I’ll continue to waste time on something that is neither interesting nor beneficial. I guess I’ll see how it goes, but I may decide that it’s just better not to have the temptation at all.