A Farewell to Facebook

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
An anecdote/reflection written shortly after I deactivated my Facebook account. Enjoy and please give your opinion: do you agree or disagree?

Submitted: July 26, 2009

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Submitted: July 26, 2009

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Last Monday, a close friend of mine urged me to do a "sweep" of my Facebook profile, to look at the sort of media I had shared, information I had posted and relationships I had had in the two/three years that I'd had Facebook. It was one of the biggest epiphanies of my entire life: I realized that I had a lot of Facebook friends whom I only knew by face, several people that I talked to that I had never met, and still more people who just plain pestered me. In addition, though my initiative three years ago to create a Facebook account was to keep in touch with friends, the amount of people that belonged in one (or sometimes all) of the latter categories greatly outnumbered my real friends that I actually spent time with.

I also found out something a bit shocking: I'd always been aware of the fact that I am rather precocious, and so had always been drawn to people older than myself, but still found it oddly disconcerting to see that 90% of the people I talked to, had been associated with and had sometimes never met (being mutual friends to more intimate friends or some such nonsense), were older than me. From my ex two years older than me to a fellow writer (related to a friend) a decade my senior, and every creeper in between it seemed the people my age were absent from my Facebook social life. I use this turn of phrase on purpose: Facebook really is a separate life. And when it mixes with the reality of actual relationships, things can often get muddled.

So, despite my immense reluctance and strong objections from friends, I deactivated my Facebook account: as a friend so eloquently put it, I ceased to exist. And though I wallowed a bit aimlessly for a few hours (those arcade games were great to kill time), I quickly realized that it has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

Without Facebook, I was finally able to actually meet people: cyberspace encounters can be enchanting and all, but I'm someone who finds it difficult to say no to people when I can't seem them and so envision the consequences of the signals I send. Which has landed me in some difficult situations in the past three years i.e. my ex (who used cyberspace to be pettily vicious), a few creepers and some pestering childhood friends who aren't quite as charming now as they were as little kids. I was in control of the terms on which I met people, as now my contact information wasn't a friend request away, or a matter of going on someone else's account to gawk at a profile: one had to meet me.

Not only that, but I realized that the people I actually wanted to keep in touch with and would definitely take the initiative to do so were people with whom I had other means of contact like MSN and my mobile. Oh, and whom I had actually met.

It sounds like a load of hackneyed crap, but it's true, as I discovered this past week.

Normally, when I made plans with friends, everything would be arranged over Facebook, someone or another would bring a camera to snap contrived and cliché photos, and everyone would blather extensively about it on Facebook afterwards, tagging people in pictures left and right, posting statuses with little hearts and inside jokes not even the insiders comprehended entirely, and so on. This week, however, was different.

A friend of mine whom I've known for some time and, though we have entirely different circles of friends, am relatively close to asked me to lunch on Friday over Facebook last Sunday evening (I deleted my account on Tuesday morning). He was taking an intensive summer course at Columbia University and wanted to have maybe a half hour lunch with me, just to catch up on things.

However, the day we were going to reconfirm, that fateful Tuesday, I had deleted my account (which I apologized for later on, as those plans had somewhat slipped my mind): he therefore had to call me to reconfirm the time and place. We ended up chatting for an hour about everything and nothing, and I resolved to come fifteen minutes earlier since it had appeared that we had more to talk about than we thought. The lunch had extended to a proper plan, forty five minutes.

Friday came and we picked up where we had left off over the phone; as it turned out, we had a terrific amount to talk about. My friend, who had opted for extra classes rather than electives, had two hours of free time: he had told me over Facebook that after we had had lunch, he planned on going to the computer labs to finish up his graphic design project while, knowing him, Facebooking along the way. However, since we hadn't had those means to communicate and had talked over the phone, we had more to talk about and wanted to spend more time doing just that. We ended up spending those two hours wandering in and out of book stores, eating frozen yogurt (well I did: he, much to my chagrin, hates the stuff) and just generally enjoying each other's company. We wandered the beautiful college campus and he flaunted what he had learned of the school's history in his four weeks there (some of which I gently corrected: he was never good at remembering dates) and we had a wonderful time.

It extended even further: in light of his extra classes being optional (and, as he pointed out, classes he didn't particularly like or take interest in and that his parents had made him take), he opted out of those for the day and spent the entire day with me: what had started as a plan to catch up on things for a half hour turned into a terrific day together. Without Facebook be our tin cans on a string, we realized that we had forgotten how much we liked each other and enjoyed each other's company.

Mind you, I'm not being entirely dismissive of Facebook: for the first year, it was a great way to keep in touch with friends who lived far away and extremely convenient for quick messages and such. But Facebook, as one can also say for the Internet, is good for keeping friendships, not starting them. Eventually the benefits were greatly outweighed by all the annoying applications, the temptation of reinventing oneself and the infamous and greatly irritating "Facebook etiquette". After a while, I started getting too caught up in the roaring waters of cyberspace and needed to get a real social life. It was time that I meet people at face value, not at Facebook value.

In the end, I don't really need Facebook: there are thousands of different other ways I can share what I want to using the convenience of the Internet. For example, my writing: until today, I had always posted my writing in Notes on Facebook, in an effort to improve my writing and gain a little more recognition. To no avail; the most I got from my Facebook friends were "Like"s (as in X "likes" Y's piece, something that really pissed me off). With Booksie, I received constructive criticism and encouragement within hours, because this is a website, like many others for different things, that targets one purpose and so does it well and efficiently. But when it comes to meeting people, I know for certain that meeting and interacting with people in real life is nicer that any "Poke" will ever be.


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