I started using Facebook over ten years ago. It holds some of my happiest memories. I still coo when I see pictures of my friends’ new babies, teenagers, young-adult children, college-graduate children, and newly-married children. I am moved to action and prayer when I see posts from my friends recently diagnosed with cancer or another illness. Facebook makes me laugh, cry, connect, learn, grow, and change. So why do I want to quit it?
1. I can’t stand the political posts. I am a New York City transplant living in the suburbs of Florida, and I have many beloved yet diverse friends. My social media pages read like they missives from a rift between mirror-worlds. Is the guy headlining in the news a savior or a demon? Is the situation on the border a rescue or a pillage? Is the new law a protection or an assault? At any given time, one of my friend’s posts states it is unequivocally the first, and another friend arguing absolutely the second. My brain hurts trying to reconcile them. It either means I have to think one beloved friend is crazy, the other is, they both are, or everyone is believing a lie. None of those choices are acceptable to me. I’d rather just read the news for myself, then have an actual conversation. People tend to be more multifaceted and reasonable when approached in real life.
2. Posting to social media is not activism, and I will no longer delude myself into thinking it is. The spread of information is important, but it’s not enough. Participating in social media where I hit share and write a pithy comment is, unfortunately, substituting in my mind for real action, which it isn’t.
3. I am positive social media sites are either tracking me or listening in on me. My husband asked me what I wanted to do the other day. I told him there was a Goya exhibit at the Dali museum I’d like to see. Hours later I opened Facebook. There was an ad for the Dali Museum’s Goya exhibit. Coincidence? Maybe. Yet, a little over a year ago I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a CPAP machine. The week before I started using it ads popped up all over my social media feed about CPAP cleaning. I’m sorry, this cannot be a coincidence, and it’s creepy.
4. Posting has started to feel like a privacy violation, favoritism, or egoism. Every time I take a picture of my thirteen-year-old daughter she says, “You’d better not post this on Facebook.” I cannot tell you anything about her. She has forbidden me to post photos of her, write about her, or put anything in electronic form about her other than that she exists. I was not even allowed to post happy birthday to her. Thus, it seems like I only post things about my older daughter and utterly neglect the younger. The imbalance is bothering me. If I can’t post about the younger, I can’t post about the elder. And posting about myself seems just plain egotistical. So what do I post? Pictures of cats? I can still do that on reddit.
5. People are mean and it makes me sad. We have the power to reach more individual minds and lives in this generation than anyone ever has before. And what are we choosing to say? There was a picture of a beautiful girl on a website. The first comment I saw (I know, don’t read the comments, but this one was right there, I didn’t even click) was “I want to throw acid in her face.” I don’t want to expose myself to this any more. On any given day I am filled with female Gen X rage against the world just from breathing air. I don’t need to be made any angrier than I already am.
6. I should not get my news from Facebook. Every time I tell my younger daughter something she asks, “Did you read that on Facebook?” I defensively reply, “No, it was in the New York Times.” She counters, “But did you read it because someone posted it on Facebook?” More times than not, hanging my head in shame, I must admit that, yes, I would not have seen the article from the New York Timesif a friend who subscribes had not posted it on his page. I am particularly ashamed of this because in my previous life I used to teach academic research writing, including evaluation of sources, and I’m sure if I was still teaching I would issue an edict like, “Facebook is not a reliable source.” So the fact that I’m getting much of my news through that medium, even if that medium is leading me to a reliable source, is rather embarrassing.
7. I will not be labeled an “over-sharer.” Both of my daughters and my husband have
called me this, on separate occasions, individually and together. They all agree that I am on social media way too much, that I post way too much, and attribute it to my need for constant validation. I can see how it can be interpreted that way. I prefer to see it as a way to connect, maintain friendships, participate in community, and practice some degree of vulnerability. I try not to use social media as a brag book, and am more than happy to admit my failures. Granted, I will not post negative or critical things (especially about others in my life) purely out of respect, but if that’s being interpreted as oversharing and a need for validation, I will most certainly stop.
8. I think I’m being exposed to generated conflicts when we have real problems to deal with. Have you heard about Disney’s new casting of The Little Mermaid, and all of the anger it’s generating because Ariel will be played by an African-American woman? Neither had I, until I went on social media. Because, based on some research, no one is really all that angry. So is social media being used to redirect our attention from the real conflicts, like what the hell is happening on the Texas border? If we’re going to get upset about something, let’s get upset about that.
9. I am tired of being blindsided by posts telling me people I love have died. There I am, looking at a video of a cat jumping in fear of a zucchini, and when it ends I scroll to find out one of my favorite singers has died. Or actors. Or even an actual friend or mentor. No matter how many times it happens, I’m never prepared. I never open Facebook or Instagram or Twitter and expect to read of some untimely (or even timely) death. In my generation, that information was given in a somber voice by a newscaster. Social media notifications are blunt, unexpected, and piercing, and they hurt more than one might think even if they are beautifully written with the best of all possible intentions.
10. I have to get off my phone, out of my house, and see people face-to-face. Social media is the ultimate time suck. If it was all about keeping in touch with friends and family, it wouldn’t be. I love my friends and family, but they don’t do stuff every day that needs posting or commenting. I could probably catch up with them once a week, or once a month—if my social media algorithms actually let me see what’s being posted by the people I care about, which they don’t always do. I don’t know what algorithm Facebook is currently using, but it seems like if it’s someone I regularly interact with, regularly interacts with me, and/or I have put them on some priority list (which has a limit of something like ten or twenty people), I see their posts first. After that I see . . . absolute randomness. So I’ll think, “Gee, I haven’t seen this friend post in awhile. Hope she’s okay,” and I’ll type in the friend’s name to see I’ve missed weeks of posts and now look like I don’t care. So, I have to call or text—which, in retrospect, I would probably do more if I didn’t rely on Facebook and actually reached out to people and physically met up with them.
Granted, this mostly deals with Facebook because I’m very rarely on Snapchat (though the filters are cute), I am too uncomfortable with my photography skills to frequent Instagram, and I think Twitter is pretty much a trash fire of people screaming into the abyss, so I just don’t bother. The question is, am I strong enough to leave it all behind? Time will tell. But first I have to post this . . . .