Goodbye, Facebook

Every year for my birthday, my grandma makes me a photo album. She does it for all her five grandchildren, a full book of photos, old and new, of us, of our family, of the farm cats, of our friends, of our life. Every year I’ve learned to look forward to receiving the photo album, to sitting with family, turning the pages, and laughing, smiling, and reliving the past through these photos. I’ve never told my grandma this, but sometimes these albums make me so happy I could cry.

This collection of albums is a chronicle of each of our lives. From our births, to every moment up to the moment she closes the book and wraps it up with glittery paper, these albums have become a way to remember with happiness and joy, our loved ones.


 

I joined Facebook in 2006. I probably wasn’t old enough, I definitely wasn’t in high school yet, but somehow I finagled myself into my future high school’s network and alas, there I was, a functioning member of the Internet. Over the next few years Facebook became a real way for people to connect- you met someone at camp and you kept in touch via Facebook, your best friend a few years older than you goes off to college, you keep in touch via Facebook, you miss your cousin from another state, you write on each other’s walls on Facebook.

As the psychical technology we owned progressed, Facebook became less about “communication” and more about “broadcasting.” Instead of posting personal messages to your friends’ walls (because why would you when you could just text?), you posted messages to everyone on your own wall. Facebook became a way to tell the world what you were feeling, what you were doing, and what you were thinking, all the time. And thus, Facebook started to become a chronicle of all our lives. Every thought, every feeling, every event and photo, is plastered on the walls of our Facebook to remain on the Internet forever.

There’s a poem I read recently called “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann. It’s a beautifully written prose poem about how to live a full and happy life, and there’s one line that I found stuck with me for a long time after reading. It goes, “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

Days later, as I was browsing my Facebook feed before bed, I realized something. I was not happy. At that moment, as I was going through my Facebook, reading statuses, viewing photos, and ‘liking’ things, I was not happy. I found myself irrationally disliking people who had posted updates; I was resentful toward these people I was supposed to be close with, and envious of their lives. It didn’t matter the occasion- marriages, births, graduations, birthdays- I found myself constantly judging first myself against others, and then simply judging others. I saw statuses that got numerous ‘likes’ and I found myself thinking they don’t deserve that many likes, it’s just an engagement, or why would people like this? This person is 23 and having a child! And all of these people were my “friends.”

Having made that realization I was immediately repelled from Facebook. I thought for a while that it was just me. That something was wrong with the way I thought, and I was the only one who felt this way while browsing my timeline. However, I started to open up to a few close friends about it, and as I shared my revelations, my friends began to admit they felt the same way. Suddenly, the thought of anyone I was friends with, from middle school, high school, college, post-college, or random times throughout my life, having those same feelings toward me was appalling. It was suddenly weird to me that someone I met in the last six months and friended on Facebook, could go back in my life, all the way back to when I was in middle school, and find out what I looked like, what I wore, who I was friends with, and what I was doing. I had changed so much, for the better, in the last nine years, did I really want to keep the window to my past public to anyone who was on Facebook? And on the contrary, did the people who knew me then, as a bratty-tomboy-smarty-pants middle schooler, really care about the person I had become?

I suddenly felt a lack of control over my own life. Any one of my 700+ friends on Facebook could pull any number of things off my timeline and do anything they wanted with it. There are people I’m friends with who I haven’t talked to since I was in high school, and there are even some people I’m friends with who I’ve never talked to! Did I really want this modge-podge collection of “friends” to have access to me at the click of a mouse? I started to find that I had very few “practical” uses for Facebook. I manage a page for this blog, and I’m a member of a few groups through which Facebook is our primary means of communication. Other than that, I used Facebook solely as a way to kill time, and I realized, that with that time, I could be doing any number of more fulfilling and positively satisfying activities. Or, at the very least, an activity that didn’t make me unhappy.


 

Sometimes, I think about how I want to be remembered when I die, and the first thing that always comes to my mind are the albums my grandma makes. Books and books full of pictures of me, smiling, happy, and surrounded by people I love, a true timeline of my life. When I think about the possibility of someone, likely someone I have completely lost touch with, hearing of my passing, and going to my Facebook and scrolling through my angry rants, party photos, relationship statuses, or cat videos, and seeing how many ‘likes’ and comments and shares every post garnered in my lifetime, I feel sad. At some point, I was at least acquaintances with most everyone I friended on Facebook, and instead of that person trying to grasp who I had become as a person since we last talked, I want to live on in that person’s memory as whoever I was at that time, a memory, and not a snap judgment based on a status or a profile picture.

I’ve thought long and hard about how I want to handle this. Everything on the Internet has come to rely so much on having a Facebook, that completely deleting it would render me incapable of using so many other websites and apps I have “connected to using Facebook.” And while I regularly communicate with my closest friends and my family outside of Facebook, I want to remain available to people who may only know how to contact me using Messenger, and likewise, I’d like to have them available to me. I don’t want to shut people from my past out, and I have nothing to hide from people I’m close to now, but it’s comforting to know that I will have control over who knows what about me and my life again.

So what I decided to do was simply delete all the content from my Facebook. Before I did this, I downloaded all the data from my account, just as a cute little zipped file, or a sort of time capsule stored on my hard drive. Then, since you have to delete items from your timeline one by one, and I literally had thousands of entries spanning the 8+ years I was active, I downloaded a cheap and reliable script to do it for me and ran it through a few times over the course of a weekend. Done, gone, finished, forever. And even though I technically still have access to my timeline, I’ve simply ignored it, completely. The app is deleted from my phone and I’m logged out on all my devices. I found that it was easy to become addicted to living a life where I don’t need validation through “likes,” where I’m not tricking myself into judging people I consider my friends, and where I’m spending even the smallest moments everyday committed to being happy.

Goodbye, Facebook.

5 Comments

  • Katie Bedrosian says:

    My friend who studies stuff like this (I don’t want to misstate, but I think her PhD focus is something like “the affects of online social networking on our brains”) posted this on Facebook (ha), and I thought you might find it interesting:
    http://davidrainoshek.com/2013/06/how-facebook-fb-is-altering-your-mind-2/

  • Julia says:

    Tory,

    Love this post! I have always been one to deactivate my facebook for awhile and then eventually reactivate it for all the things I “logged in using facebook” for, or messaging people in a group project or something. I love the practicality of this post, so I am doing the same thing! I got that app that will delete everything for you, but now it is having issues not removing me from pictures/posts others have tagged me in. Did you end up having to remove those things yourself?

    • Tory Hoffman Tory Hoffman says:

      Sorry for the late response, Julia! You cannot delete what other people have posted on your timeline, or tagged you in, however, in your privacy settings, you can simply make them visible ‘only to you,’ so other people viewing your timeline won’t see them! Hope everything went smoothly and thanks for the read 🙂

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