Life without Facebook
By Rebekah Curtis
A few years ago, friends started coming to me individually with the same problem. Facebook is terrible, each of them told me in her own sad way. It’s making me miserable.
“You don’t have to be on it,” I told them. “You should quit.”
They couldn’t, they said. They would miss everything. They would miss everybody—except the things and bodies that were making them miserable.
“I miss all that,” I said, “and at the same time, I don’t miss it at all.”
Truthfully, I have never had a personal Facebook account, so I don’t really know what I’m missing. I’m sure it would be much harder to quit Facebook than never to have been on it at all. I am as blissful in my ignorance as the maxim promises.
However, I can'’ claim to have an absolutely clear conscience when it comes to Facebook. My sister logged in at my house once and left her account open. I couldn’t resist. Due to our shared history, she was friends with several people I was interested in “checking in on,” and so I did. Who was married now, who wasn’t, and what were their kid factors? Who filled out and who slimmed down? Who seemed to be ridiculous and self-absorbed, and who just had a truly sweet love for her family and friends?
I “Facebooked” until I went to bed, but in the morning, I was disgusted with my wild night of binge judging. Nothing honorable, right, pure, lovely, or admirable (Phil. 4:8) had come out of that. I signed out of my sister’s account and knew that I was too lousy of a person to be able to handle Facebook without damage to my character. Facebook is not intrinsically good or bad, but ‘'ve got enough bad in me that Facebook wouldn’t be good for me.
What I think I miss most by not having a personal account is Facebook’s common uses as a public message board, and as a means of personal communication. I couldn’t figure out why email seemed to be losing its mojo until I realized that everyone else was messaging each other on Facebook. While there is a part of me that is mildly concerned about my isolation from greater society, my real friends care enough to keep up with me despite my antiquated ways, and they’re the only people who truly matter to me.
In fact, it’s my real care for them that gives me another big reason to steer clear of the Facebook universe. I’m happy to let my friends into my life. I’m not happy to give idle spies a place to scratch their curiosity itch, and maybe even their meanness itch, like I had done. I’m not comfortable with the Decline and Ignore options for Friend requests I would not welcome, or the Block option for really stupid situations. To me, that’s an inhospitality my normal life does not demand, and I’d rather not open myself and other human beings up to it.
I know there is an etiquette of sorts for all these things. But when I do the math, I’m happy enough with the social life I have in actual human society; the kind with sidewalks and neighbors and hugs. I would find the establishment of Facebook friendships ticklish and wearying. I have even less stomach for the brawling and backhanded competition that seem to grow out of a lot of Facebook relationships. I would not gain anything good from that kind of behavior that was making my friends so sad.
I’m also happy simply not to know that someone I sort of knew in college is on a crusade to pile up “Likes” relating to a social cause I don’t support, or that someone from the church where we both grew up now blogs about the “insane cult” in which her parents raised her. Factor in the time I’m better off spending on things other than this form of socializing that seems to me rather anemic, and it all comes out to Decline. Facebook would not be a beneficial addition to my life.
I don’t begrudge Face bookers a thing, and I understand the appeal. I know I am missing out on a lot of pictures of delectable babies, quotidian insights, good article recommendations, and endearing peeks into the lives of people I care about. But I’m saving my own weak little soul a lot of confusion and even sadness I can’t pretend to be above. Friendships deep enough to survive a Facebook disconnection are the ones worth keeping, and I’m glad to know which ones those are.
Why is it so hard to cut back on Facebook?
It’s just a dumb thing, right? It should be easy not to get too tangled up in the Facebook universe. Here are some explanations for Facebook’s tendency to metastasize and how to maintain a balance when you do “Facebook.”
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a real problem for a lot of people. No one wants to feel excluded. Budgeting your Facebook time will still allow you to know what’s going on while not making you a slave to your feed.
Habit. Slow moments are easy to fill by wandering over to Facebook. Having a plan in place here helps, too. Think of some 5-10 minute tasks that can fill those gaps and keep you from getting sucked into mindless pseudo-socializing.
Misunderstanding. Facebook gives us a one-dimensional look at other people’s lives and ideas. Remembering this can help you maintain your perspective so you don’t fall down an emotional rabbit hole.
Ease. It’s harder to put away the dishes, catch up with your kid about his day, or hit the bike trail than it is to zone out with your friends and frenemies. But you’ll never regret getting past inertia to do something real.