Why I Left Facebook

 

A week ago yesterday, I deactivated my Facebook account. I left behind 533 "friends", numerous notes, status updates, pictures and private conversations.

I'd been toying with the idea on and off for months, but the final decision came quickly. I had no tete a tete, no back and forth comment chain weighing the pros and cons. It was just time to go.

There are, no doubt, people I can't contact anymore. The vast majority of my Facebook friends were not folks I ever saw in real life. Most had never exchanged e-mails with me. Very few knew my phone number.

Before I left, I posted something like this to my wall:

Facebook is not meeting my social needs, so I'm leaving. If you want to talk to me, I'm in the book. Bye.

Only a couple hours after clicking deactivate, I realized the absurdity of my "final message". Once I was gone, my wall would be gone too. So no one would even have a record of the anguish and frustration of my last minutes on Facebook.

But in retrospect, I'm glad that all that is gone. Even though I had segmented my friends into groups, and only posted my most ashamed and upset material for my so-called "Personal Friends", I really did feel embarrassed that I was baring my soul to a bunch of people who, on a good day, would leave me a few bytes of comments, and on a bad day, only vague "Likes" -- or nothing at all.

We all know know "that person". The one who is always messed up. The always-needy. The emotional charity case. The one who takes and takes, and never gives back.

Well, I was tired of feeling like her.

And I was equally tired of the other side that Facebook forced me to project. The "public" side, the status updates fit for mass consumption. The cleverly-worded observations. The banal, cheerful recounting of my various activities. The announcement of achievements, for all to Like or go "Congrats!".

It was exhausting.

My whole life I've struggled with feeling that I am a real enough person, that I have something unique to say, that I have value just for being who I am. I was bullied in elementary school by kids who turned my own name into an insult, so even now I can't say my first and last name together without hearing a stupid little boy sing-song those two words with utter contempt and disgust.

Honestly I don't even like my own picture. I am tired of hearing my voice. And I grew tired of putting myself on display for a whole bunch of people who I never even see.

I used to wake up every morning and log right into Facebook. I would go back to my computer numerous times during the day, or just stay on there, always waiting for that next comment, that next like, perhaps that elusive personal message.

Instead of reading books or stories or even articles on news sites or magazines, I would scan the Facebook news feed. I would see the same pictures over and over again, the same memes exhorting us to believe in ourselves, the same posts from "Causes", and I'd grow more and and more numb and detached. Eventually it would all just scroll by without me even taking anything in.

I don't drink alcohol. I don't use recreational drugs. I don't gamble. I don't smoke. But I was using social media hours and hours every day to numb myself from my own pain and loneliness, to trance out in a haze of overstimulated understimulation.

January 19, 2013, the day I left Facebook, I was so incredibly lonely and ashamed that I spilled my guts to my "Personal Friends". I was feeling really F'ed up that day. In deep pain. One or two people answered in comments, but it wasn't enough. The feeling of loneliness was so strong that I finally said, "Screw this, if I'm lonely, I'll be lonely alone. At least it's more honest."

Now I no longer have the illusion of connection. And you know, that's fine. Because it was never really there. I was just the same wounded human as I was before the computer and Internet came along, only busy projecting and managing a public persona which, in retrospect, seems like a ridiculous thing to have. I'm not the Queen of France. I'm not Angelina Jolie. I'm not as astronaut. I haven't done anything, on purpose or accidentally, to warrant such public scrutiny and attention.

I often think, I'm not anybody. And growing up in our society, with its competitive, pressure-cooker school system and the constant presence of images of beauty and success, my self-concept was pretty much stomped into the ground. I was led to believe that you're either famous, beautiful, brilliant, or some combination, or a big, fat, stupid loser.

If you've ever seen the movie The Social Network, it really illustrates how puerile Facebook's origins were. It was basically a site for status-seeking Ivy League students awash in a climate of egotism where women were prized for being slutty and hot, and men hardly older than boys were all trying to own the world.

Good for you, Zuck. You've managed to build a whole empire on the backs of people like me who dump the entire contents of our fragile psyches into your servers so you can sends ads back to us. Brilliant. But I am not going to help you build your dynasty anymore.

And the funny thing about all this? Since leaving Facebook and facing my own feelings, I've been less lonely. Yes, I've sat on my couch and cried. But I've also connected more. I've had more conversations. Spent more time talking with my partner. Gone out more.

And Facebook? I don't miss it. Not the shame, not the frustration, or the loneliness.

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