“Friend” defined: “A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.”
This day has been a long time coming. I’ve thought about this day a zillion times in my mind. Never feeling brave enough – until today. I suddenly felt more at peace yet filled with the strength of 1,000 men to type the status:
I wanted to let you know that I will be getting rid of my facebook account. If you are interested in keeping in touch in the future, please inbox me and we can exchange information. Would love to hear from you on the end of a phone line sometime.
Facebook was causing me personal failure in true friendship and distress as a human being.
It caused me to be unproductive clicking through walls and making cute little comments when I needed to be doing something (let’s be honest – ANYthing) other than sitting on facebook.
I managed to break the Farmville addiction and then even stopped my obsessive compulsive play of Bejeweled Blitz. I had once believed that those things were reasons I spent time on facebook.
A very long time ago a past facebook friend of mine deleted her account. Before she had even spoken about it, I had thought it. But I held on. I held on for all of those people that I had reconnected with from my past. Those that I had missed and I was desperate to have in my life in any insignificant way that I could – even with something as miniscule as a “like”.
But secretly, I was envious. I admired her strength to stand and walk away from something that EVERYone was a part of. I knew deep inside that one day I too would walk away from it. To this day since she deleted her account, I’ve yet to be in touch with her again. How important could we have been to each other?
As time continued I found myself accepting friend requests of people that I did not want to accept. They were not my friends, not ever going to be anyone whom I trusted. But out of social correctness, was forced to let into my life. Because that is facebook. Having to say yes to everyone that wants to enter your world or suffer the consequence of their hurt feelings or angry rejection. Why? Because quite honestly there is no social protocol for something like technological friends. I wondered how many people accepted my friend request that did not want to…
I had sought out a number of people on facebook. People from high school that I had thought of over the years, people that I had been employed with and shared many lunch breaks with, people that somewhere in the journey through life we had lost touch. I was happy to connect with these people again. I remembered their previous kindness and was happy to rejuvenate a past relationship. Some reunions were grander than others – spending more time chatting on each other’s “walls” – some were quiet where my admiration for them was on the down low.
Eventually facebook became somewhere that due to people who had encompassed my “friends” circle – I could no longer be honest and speak in a forthcoming manner. I felt as if I was having to censor myself for those that would be offended by my statuses. So I would pick and choose very carefully what I would say on MY wall about MY life because I didn’t want to appear to be TOO this or TOO that for this person or that person who might take it the wrong way who may then tell so and so that I said such and such. Real friends don’t do that.
A while back my very best friend said to me, “Why do I have to find things out on facebook?”
She was right. Thank God for that beautiful soul that stepped up to remind me that she loved me…my voice…my story…my company…my FRIENDSHIP. She didn’t just want to creep around on my facebook looking for information, she wanted me to have a back and forth and a give and take with her. Exchange of ideas and hugs. She talks. I talk. Depth of conversation not a status with a limit to the number of characters typed making some declaration. That is a FRIEND. I never forgot those words.
My kids "facebook friend" count continued to climb. I wondered how they could POSSIBLY know all of those people. For goodness sakes, they go to a REALLY small school and they are here with me most days - where did those people come from? One day Son #2 and I had a conversation:
Me: Who is that?
Son #2: I don't know. They are friends with what's his face.
Me: Why did you accept that request?
Son #2: I don't know. Because that is what you do.
I started to feel that familiar yearning to the pull the plug on facebook again.
But again, I didn’t. I held on. I worried about people who read my blog – making sure there were updates, that I didn’t lose readers and more than anything I worried that I would offend people if I just closed up shop and left town. Those few dozen people that were in a genuine exchange with me that I didn’t want to lose touch with again kept me clinging to it.
I tried to contemplate how I would handle My Real Life Parenting fanpage that I had set up on facebook. I hashed the concept around my brain for hours. How do I justify keeping the fan page but ditching my actual facebook account? But it isn't rocket science. When businesses use facebook as a means of promotion it isn't wrong. It is marketing. I tried to view my blog as a "business". It is my writing that people are choosing to partake in. When I went to the "number of likes" on the fan page, I realized that the majority of people that belong to that page are not my facebook friends - they are in fact strangers to me that have found my stories somehow through the blogging world. My Real Life Parenting is not somewhere that I interact on a personal level with friends. And that is what had become the major issue for me blurring the lines of appropriate interpersonal relationships. My Real Life Parenting is not an intimate arena in my mind. It is my "business." Just because I "like" the Chick-Fil-A fanpage - doesn't mean I go seeking the CEO out to be "facebook friends."
This then led me to consider my use of Twitter. Again, I developed my Twitter account as a vehicle to reach into the blogging community. It was not a means to find past friends or maintain current friendships or relationships. But Twitter has managed to allow me to meet many individuals whom I have developed a nice repoire with all around the world. Individuals that we share a common bond of writing, blogging or parenting and that I never would have met otherwise. It is a completely different atmosphere than facebook. I do not feel the voyeurism that I do with facebook. In fact, I feel a sense of commradery and respect from those that choose to "follow" me. I believe those that follow someone are generally interested in something specific about the individual they follow. I know that most of the time I choose to follow someone who appears to have a common interest, or perhaps I read their writing and I was inspired. Friendships that are born through the use of Twitter as an introduction are a different entity. Sometimes we interact daily on Twitter with people that aren't "friends" but there is a mutual respect. As an example, there is a gentlemen who writes a poetry blog. I read his blog daily and I follow him on Twitter. We occasionally share a "mention" or a "thank you" - perhaps even a :) - but honestly, it is nothing more than the fact that I admire his writing and the maintenance of a mutal polite respect. Twitter doesn't provoke a negative feeling within me and it certainly hasn't become a means of primary communication with individuals in my daily life. At least not as of yet. :)
During the course of those couple of weeks, I decided to “clean house” on my facebook. If we didn’t interact in some sort of normal friendship way – I deleted the friend. Because clearly, we were not friends. But then I deleted people that NEVER commented on my page and I NEVER commented on theirs. There was no give and take. If we didn’t have a facebook dialogue…DELETE.
It was very freeing. I felt like I was taking back control of my life and headed in a direction of managing friendships and relationships in an appropriate manner. For them to be able to take the shape of what a friendship should be. Then I found myself in another awkward situation where I was being “friend requested” by people who I literally had never exchanged ONE word with. But because I was “friends” with so many of their “friends” somehow in facebook world and in their minds – that made me “friend request” material.
In keeping with the prior friend deletions, I knew I would be just undoing it all if I started being bullied into accepting unwanted friend requests again – so I ignored them. But the weird thing was after denying one friend request, they didn’t stop. They kept trying – again and again. It was weird. It made me very uncomfortable. I started thinking about the deletion option again.
With all of this on my mind, I decided to spend a week purposefully not commenting or liking anything on people’s walls. I wanted to see how much of my input was reciprocated and if I did nothing what did others do. I learned that people who are going to be my friends outside of facebook still came around. They still commented. They still checked in on me. Then there were those that if I wasn’t posting – they were not interested in me. It was apparent that facebook was a world of “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” If a “friend” comments or “likes” something, there is an obigation to return the jesture. But if not prompted by a comment…..welp things are pretty silent.
While performing this little experiment, I also had the chance to open my mind to watch the social hierarchy and adult cliques at work. Ever so connivingly does it operate. But it is there. I learned that sometimes it isn’t what they say to each other as much as it is how much they all don’t say to you but continue to say to each other.
I also took notice of the comments between people that outside of facebook basically talked about each other behind each other’s backs. It was comical. I’d see one friend telling another how much they loved them or putting up little heart signs, but not long ago I heard them slay that person with some pretty hurtful words. Things I’m sure they would never say to that person’s face.
While I watched all of this, I indeed felt fed up. Facebook is a way to be a lazy friend. Scratch that. It is a way to pretend to be a friend. Someone pours out their heart on a status: “Having a terrible week. Kids are sick, mother is in the hospital, my job is in jeopardy and I think my husband is having an affair.” Friend response? “Like.” “Dislike.” “Frowny face.” “Hang in there.” Seriously? What the heck is that? Clicking that you like something has become an acceptable response? Wow – how lame can you get? Facebook is becoming a short cut for friendships, relationships – while I am certain facebook is here to stay – that isn’t necessarily a good thing for the act of friendship.
I longed for the “old school” life of friendship. The days that you picked up the phone and called and chatted. The days that even if it were only 2 people – you knew they had your back and you had theirs. You didn’t get to pass go and collect 200 dollars because you clicked "like' on a status and anyone who didn’t respond to a status went directly to jail. If you don’t believe what I am saying, think about this scenario:
You post a status on facebook – it could be anything – an exclamation of great news or a prayer request. Whoever responds to it, you will have a back and forth with. It could be someone you haven’t physically seen in 25 years. It could be someone that you know casually through another friend. Whatever. But -
What if you didn’t have a facebook? When it is time to alert someone to your great news or prayer request, who would you pick up the phone and call? Would it be the individual who responded to your facebook status – that friend of a friend that you haven’t seen in ten years? Who would you want to share it with? Who would you want to talk to? Would you suddenly feel an overwhelming urge to call that person you met at your friend’s Tupperware party because that is who is responding to your status on facebook?
The world of facebook is too deceptive for me. Too manipulating. Too competitive. People’s facebook walls aren’t real. They are painting the picture of what they want you to believe. I watched this one “friend’s” wall for months. I thought to myself – “I need to get some counseling. This chick is eternally happy. I have never known anyone who felt so perfectly wonderful every moment of every day for month after month. Maybe there is something wrong with me.”
Over the weekend I watched “the social network”. Right after the movie was over I announced to my family, “I am ready to delete my facebook.” They all laughed at me. I shrugged my shoulders and laughed myself but I was partly serious. The premise that this social media connection was established saddened me. It became something I thought that perhaps I couldn’t support.
All of these things continued to simmer and stir on the back burners of my mind. I knew I was getting closer but still felt afraid to let it go. Eventually my watched pot would boil.
But then something fantastic happened. I was reminded about the ways in which people who are not your friends can operate. The deceit and unkindness that lies within them. People who don’t look into my eyes to talk to me as a person who is their friend. Those people that look into their computer screen and don’t see my soul or my feelings. The people that forget that I am a real human being that can be hurt. Because they don’t care. Because they are NOT my friends.
So if they are not my friends, why do they want to be my “facebook friend”? It is very simple. They want to snoop. It is the essence of our present culture. Reality television? Yup. Watching the trainwrecked lives of their facebook friends. My pictures. My statuses. Why? Because they are secretly hoping that they will see my failures. They are leaving comments like “beautiful pics!” under my vacation photos that I posted – but that isn’t what they are thinking or saying. They are turning to someone and snidely saying, “Boy it must be nice to be able to take that many vacations a year.”
Thoughts continued. Why do I post those pictures on my facebook? Recently, I put up some pictures of my daughter dancing. They were beautiful. She was stunning. But in keeping with the premise of facebook, they were posted for my 375 FRIENDS to see. Why did I feel the need to do that? Was I looking for compliments? Did I think that people genuinely were thinking, “I sure would like to see some of her daughter’s dance photos.” Guess what? If you are my friend and you come to my home, my home is FILLED with pictures of ALL of my children from birth to present in all of their respective sports and talents. Oh that’s right, if you were my friend you would know that. And let's be honest here - the majority of those people could care less.
Another thought. Posting statuses, pictures, comments...it's really just allowing someone to star in their own reality show. Facebook friends are the audience. The likes and comments or LACK of them are like ratings. And as the stars we feed the audience. We announce to our audience what we are doing, thinking, feeling and eating. We check our facebooks for responses as if our very lives depend on it. Think about the rush you get when you see the number 9 in that red box - that you have NINE notifications! NINE people are saying something to you. Aren't you so very important? Or better yet, how bad it feels when you come up with your most clever status EVER and no one posts a thing. Oh Snap!
It has also become a common practice that after something happens in our home that would be considered entertaining, funny etc. to hear the reply "Facebook Status!" The first thought to come to mind is to put it on facebook to share with the world. It isn't enough to relish the joke in the privacy of the home - it must be broadcasted to the world.
So today, I have given my facebook friends 24 hours notice. Anyone that is interested in pursuing a friendship with me outside of the voyeurism of facebook was invited to inbox me with their email, cell phone number or home phone number and I would kindly exchange mine – so that we could have the possibility of being true friends. I genuinely meant this. Anyone who was interested in chit chatting with me, having lunch, grabbing a coffee…I welcomed the idea.
After the post being up for 9 hours and out of my 375 "facebook friends” there were 11 people that inboxed me with their information and 13 that commented about my deletion. 24 people. 24 out of 375. So I left it up a bit longer. Perhaps I am the only loser in life that is on facebook as much as I was. I decided to leave it up for a couple of days for any normal people that only occasionally log on.
Now obviously, these numbers didn’t include family relatives or people that are active in my daily life. My girlfriend called me and said, “Am I supposed to give you my information on facebook so you know that I want to be friends?” We had a good laugh over that. But after posting 48 hours ago, I received a total 15 inbox requests giving me their cell phone numbers and email addresses, one wonderful lunch invitation and 17 messages that they were disappointed that I would be leaving and that they would miss me. In the end, out of 375 facebook friends, there were 32 that I would move forward into the future with. Funny thing was, they were people that for the most part I would expect to have heard from. I received an immediate text to my cell phone from my childhood best friend – some things NEVER change. But those relationships NEVER required facebook to begin with.
You know what? I felt better about those 32 exchanges than I did about all of the years that I was on facebook making cute little jokes, posting meaningful quotes, or pleading for prayers. You know why? Because they were real and genuine.
The other week I was at a friend’s home and she said to me, “It is exhausting to come up with cute little things to post on facebook, isn’t it?” I have heard those words echo in my head 100 times since that moment. THAT is a pretty significant impact for facebook to have on a person. In light of recent events in the news with Japan and in light of recent events in my personal life, I’d rather redirect my focus. I would rather be exhausted from cleaning out my moldy refrigerator that I neglect and choose to tell everyone 10 times a day how busy I am on facebook instead. Maybe using the time that I spent on facebook trying to be entertaining for people (that quite honestly are going to forget about me by the end of the week) to focus on all of those things that piled up while I was so busy on facebook, will help me feel less overwhelmed and exhausted.
Facebook also caused a bit of a detour in MY REAL LIFE PARENTING too. Too much time spent behind a computer or texting rather than living in the moment of my children is not good. Let’s face it, sitting on the couch with them pretending to watch American Idol over the top of my laptop, does NOT count!! If I’m not careful one day I’ll look over this laptop and no one will be sitting next to me on the couch because they all grew up and left and I was too busy playing Bejeweled or clicking through the mailman’s cousin’s vacation pictures to Savannah, Georgia in 2002 because she had “liked” my latest status regarding my dinner menu that night.
I’m looking to get back to the basics. Perhaps I’m just too old school. But I will continue to define friends with those that I know, like and trust. But in order to know you, like you and trust you, I have to spend time with you, talk to you and connect emotionally with you.
Facebook friendships are the equivalent of "fast food friendships". They call them chicken nuggets but is it real chicken? What is pressed roast beef anyhow? We've all seen what the effects of fast food are on the physical body. Imagine the effect that fast food friendships will have on the mind and soul.
I have decided that my new motto in life is:
“REAL friends don’t let their REAL friends use facebook!”
Are you a REAL Friend?