I deleted my personal Facebook page today and felt like a piece of me had died. I was quick to hop on the Facebook bandwagon, creating my account back when it was students only, sometime in 2005. I was in high school at the time and it was a great tool for communicating homework assignments, sharing homecoming photos, and creating events for post-prom parties.
The thing about Facebook then was my 'friends' were truly my friends and I actually talked to them in real life (minus a few exceptions***). Before hitting that deactivate button last night, my 'friend' count hovered somewhere around one thousand. I can't even begin to name one thousand people. I certainly do not have that many friends. Do one thousand people even know my name? How they 'met' me? What city I live in?
I DOUBT IT.
Facebook has shifted from being a communication tool among friends to a spy tool for the nosy. It is now a way for people to watch one another live their lives from a distance without ever truly interacting with them. I'm no exception. I'm the nosiest of them all, and it's starting to get in the way of my life. I have one year left of school, and since I was super smart and took the non-traditional route through college, that puts me a year or two behind most of my 'friends'. Facebook has been an excellent resource for self-pity and shame for me this year - watching my friends graduate, get engaged, have babies, and start real jobs. I am constantly sizing myself up against people I really don't even know, when there is actually nothing wrong with graduating at twenty-three and in fact, there would be nothing wrong with graduating college at forty.
When one of my dearest friends got engaged earlier this year, I congratulated her by commenting on her Facebook photo, not by calling - or even texting her. I don't even think I have her telephone number. But I'm not the sole perpetrator here, either. When I was a child imagining my engagement, I'd always thought I would call my friends in excitement. Maybe she sent out a group text and I was just forgotten. Either way, our interaction completely lacked emotion and I am ashamed of that.
A little over a year ago, my father was hit by a car. His skull was cracked wide open, his arms were broken in several spots, and he could barely move his neck. My father is a severe alcoholic and is also homeless. I found it in my heart to take care of him. After years of abandonment on his end, I welcomed him into my home, where he recovered for a few long months. I asked for prayers on Facebook. Maybe my friends came through, but I can tell you that during the single hardest period in my adult life, I received zero phone calls.
Aside from the fact that all of my interpersonal relationships have been ruined by Facebook, there is one other major factor that prompted me to deactivate. About a month ago I got a message from a Facebook friend informing me that a fake profile using my images had emerged. At first I found it a bit funny, and figured once I reported her the account would be removed. I do put all of my business on the Internet these days, so I figured it was bound to happen eventually. Unfortunately, Facebook did not delete the account. They did not even respond to a single report. I gave it a month and then decided I was simply not a valued consumer anymore. Over seven years of loyalty to a company and they feel no obligation to protect my privacy, and perhaps even my safety. Who knows what 'Breanna James' is actually seeking to do with my images and likeness. Clearly, Facebook doesn't care.
I'm not going to sugarcoat things and pretend like deleting my Facebook wasn't emotional. I think I actually cried. The number of messages I received were both heartwarming and depressing. We have become a society where friends beg you not to delete your social networking accounts as if you were threatening to commit suicide. This year I vow to live a life without Facebook. I vow to pick up the phone more, even if it's only to send a quick text message. I vow to visit my long-distance friends as much as I can. I would consider myself forward-thinking, but I don't believe a friendship has to be based on the Internet.
With all that said, I am not completely dropping off the face of the Interwebs. I still have Instagram and Twitter accounts for both my personal life and my brand, and YouTube is moving faster than ever. I say this all the time but I'd like to get back into blogging, it's just so hard sometimes! Either way, I'll always be just a click away ;)
*** I have a handful of friends that I first encountered on MySpace - some of which I have still not met in real life. They are actually better at keeping in touch and being supportive than most of my 'friends' I met in real life.