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The other day I did something pretty courageous—something that I think most people wouldn’t. I did something that I’ve continued to think about since. It really shouldn’t be that big of a deal, though. After all, all I did was click a button.
When I tell people, they’re taken aback: “Really? Cool… Why’d you do that?” they’ll ask. And I respond, “Well, I felt like it.” An uncomfortable “Ohh…” is usually all I get in return. End of conversation.
It took a lot of effort (no really, it did) and it took a lot of thought (still serious). But what it really came down to was my willingness to push down on my mouse. It was tough, but after a little under a month, I’m proud to say that I have survived. Yup, you’ve got it: I deactivated my Facebook.
“No really, why’d you do it?” Well, that’s the thing, I’m not totally sure. For a while now I’ve been thinking about it and haven’t come up with a clear answer. The best I can do is say that Facebook just gave me a bad feeling. It still does. I didn’t like the way I instinctively went to Facebook when I opened my computer: Espn.com, espnchicago.com, Amherst email, Facebook. Every time. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to check Facebook, rather it had become a part of my routine; something that if I didn’t do, made me feel as if I were missing something (I mean, who knows what I could have been missing!).
What really made me nervous about Facebook, I think, was the thought that getting rid of it would be bad for my social life. I wouldn’t talk to my friends, wouldn’t know what was going on, would become a social pariah, I was sure. Of all of my friends, I know no one who does not have a Facebook. Were there people that lived outside of the Facebook world? It had been at least 7 years since I had, and my social life had become so intertwined with Facebook that it was frightening. The fact that I thought any of these things, though, was ridiculous; of course people don’t have Facebook’s, and of course they are fine, I reckoned. After all, what did people do ten years ago before Facebook existed? And so I was convinced: I had to get rid of it if for no other reason than because I didn’t want to.
And so I went about dismantling my virtual identity. Thankfully, Facebook told me, I could come back if I ever wanted to. All I would have to do was log in. “Good,” I thought, “if I regret this I can easily come back.” (As I write this and reread it, there are interesting parallels between this and a breakup. I’ll have to think about that.)
But then it got more complicated. I’m not sure how many people have ever deactivated their Facebook’s, but at least nowadays, Facebook puts in an impressive, and, I find, chilling effort to get you to rejoin, or “stay.” When I initially clicked the “deactivate account” button I thought I was all done—finally. Wrong. Next thing I knew, I was staring at the pictures of five or six of my “friends” (ironically I’m not close with any of them) with a caption that said something along the lines of “Are you sure you want to leave Facebook? [Insert name of person in picture] will miss you.” Huh? One was even a picture of somebody, a “friend,” waving goodbye. Weird, right?
Next, Facebook asked me to select my reason for leaving the “community.” There were a handful of options, and every time I clicked one (e.g. security) it gave me a reason why I shouldn’t worry about that (did I know that there were extensive security measures that I could take to protect myself?). Every single “reason” I could choose offered a corresponded “answer” for why my reason wasn’t really good enough. Finally I clicked “Other,” and wrote “I don’t like the role that Facebook plays in my life. It freaks me out.” When I finally deactivated my Facebook, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “That right there is exactly why I got rid of it.”
Even if Facebook claimed that all my friends didn’t want me to leave, even if they’d miss me, I was uncomfortable with the power that Facebook grew to have over everyday life. I know people who constantly take pictures of themselves to show off on Facebook so that other people know exactly how good of a time they are having all of the time, and others who spend all day thinking of witty statuses. Maybe it’s because I was good at neither that I particularly felt imposed upon by Facebook, I’m not entirely sure. All I knew was that I wanted out because, among other things, I couldn’t envision myself out.
That said my life (surprise!) isn’t any different without a Facebook. I’m in Amherst over the summer, and while I’m missing out on the Amherst summer Facebook group that does I don’t know what (I’ve heard a few people talking about it, and one person asked if I had joined), I feel much less left out than I thought I would. It turns out life goes on.
And so while today I pat myself on the back for my ability to disengage from the social network, I realize that the real issue was that I spent too much time thinking about Facebook. It took a while (instead of actually using Facebook after I’d gotten rid of it, I spent my time thinking about how great I was for having gotten rid of it), but what has come of my deactivation is less thought going into my virtual identity (besides this blog…) which, I think, is exactly what I wanted all along.
Yesterday I tried to download Spotify just to see what all the brouhaha was about. Everything was going smoothly until it asked me to login. Login? “I’ve never used Spotify before,” I thought. I tried to figure out what my username and password could be and, unthinking, typed in my Facebook credentials. Before I knew it, Spotify asked me if I wanted to sync my Facebook with the Spotify. “But I don’t have a Facebook,” I thought, “unless…” Yes, as it turned out, logging into Spotify automatically brought back my Facebook. Pissed off, I immediately tried to (re)deactivate my account. For the second time I had to disappoint the profile pictures of my friends who didn’t want me to “leave.” But this time when I clicked “Other,” I wrote, “I just downloaded Spotify and when I logged in, it automatically activated my Facebook. I am angry.”
Feature Image from: http://weknowmemes.com/2011/10/do-people-judge-you-by-how-many-facebook-friends-you-have/