To Facebook or not to Facebook

At the beginning of 2018 I deleted my Facebook.  I didn't tell anybody what I was doing.  I wanted to disappear and go on with a new phase of my life.  During that year I read more books, I had a cleaner house, and I wrote more blog posts.  I lost some weight too.

The down side is that I lost some connections with people.  Facebook is the main way many of my friends socialize.  I had Instagram, but Instagram lacks the same interactive quality.  I can post anything on Facebook.  Instagram requires a photo.  It's also harder to share other people's posts on Instagram, so I don't have the option of sharing something I like from another friend with my friends list.  Furthermore, many of my closest friends didn't use Instagram regularly if they used it at all.  That left me with reaching out to individual friends with emails and phone calls.  I often felt guilty doing so because I know many of my friends are busy and going through difficult times.  There is a reason why they use Facebook to keep up with friends.  It's all they have time for.  Calling and emailing sometimes felt like I was intruding. Why couldn't I be on Facebook and get the news there like their other friends did?

In 2019 I rejoined Precision Nutrition.  They no longer maintain their own forums on their website and team communication is only on Facebook.  If I wanted to communicate with other teammates, I had to rejoin, so I did.

I was much more selective in picking my friends the second time around.  During my first round on Facebook I friended everyone I knew and accepted every request I received.  After some time passed I found myself occasionally unfriended and often set on ignore.  In some ways ignore hurt more than unfriending.  At first I thought being put on ignore meant my posts wouldn't show up in people's feeds.  Then I realized that the comments I made on friends' posts were also ignored.  That really hurt.  I would often try to say fun or supportive comments to people and nobody saw them.  There was one time a friend's mother died.  I adored her when she was alive and I made a heartfelt condolence.  I don't think he ever saw it and that makes me sad.

For my 2019 return I only sent friend requests to a handful of close friends and family members whom I knew would want to connect with me.  I put a public disclaimer on my wall saying that if you planned to be friends with me, then be ready to put up with stuff you don't like.  I received a fair number of friend requests despite this - including some unexpected ones.  I appreciated every one.  I noticed some of my former Facebook friends - ones I once interacted with daily when I first joined - stayed away. As I spent more time on Facebook, I extended a few more friend invitations to family members and people who never realized I left Facebook the first time, but I still kept my circle small.

After a year away from Facebook, nothing much changed.  Four years ago I wrote a post here on S&C about how repetitive Facebook posts have become.   Everyone posts the same stuff.  Four years later it's still true.  For example (and it's a big one) every day I log in and see the same posts about coffee.  I know I'm a little too obsessed with my anti-coffee posts, but it's such a gigantic example about people making the same posts over and over again about irrelevant topics.  Can't you find some other ways to connect with people?  Do you really think being addicted to a neurostimulant makes you edgy and cool and original or special or interesting in any way? Is this the only thing you feel you have in common with your three hundred other Facebook friends?

The coffee is repetitive and uninspiring, but that's not what gets me down most.  If you're thinking politics is my problem, you're wrong.  I am more than happy to share my Facebook feed with people who disagree with me politically (I'd rather people care about politics I disagree with than not care about politics at all - apathy kills democracy).

What gets me down the most is the misanthropy.  I am so tired of the, "I hate people," memes.  These memes go on about how stupid people are, how the poster is barely restrained from committing acts of violence against the reader, or about how the poster doesn't want to talk to anybody or connect with anybody.

If people are are terrible, if you don't want to talk to anyone, why are you on Facebook - a place where hundreds of people you know gather?

If you think people are so terrible and mean and rude and stupid, maybe it's time a hold a mirror up to your own Facebook feed.  Sometimes you get back what you put out there. What I find even funnier is that sometimes the posters who post the most misanthropic memes are the ones who also post the most inspirational memes.  These hokey and saccharine, "Smile, God loves you," posts come across as insincere and unnatural.

No matter how unsatisfying Facebook can be, I still find myself addicted to it.  At any moment of down time in my day, I am likely to pick up my phone or my iPad and begin scrolling through Facebook.  It's like looking in the refrigerator hoping to find something to eat and then going back five minutes later to make sure I didn't miss anything the last time.  Facebook offers me little new or interesting content, but I can't seem to stop myself from going back to it over and over again.  It's worse if I actually make a post. Then I have to go back for the likes and the comments.  It's true that Facebook provides validation and one can become addicted to that need for validation.

I have to ask myself what kind of validation I seek on Facebook?  Like many of my friends, I seek a support network.  I'm sure I seem to overshare sometimes, but there is so much more going on in my life than what people see on Facebook.  I'm not one of those people who is trying to present photos of a perfect life on social media.  I am not trying to not be real.  I don't want to generate envy or admiration.  All I want is connection.  Sometimes I want more connection than what I can get from Facebook, but if Facebook is the only place where people will interact with me, then they don't get the full picture of what's going on with me.

There is a limit to how much I can share.  If it were only about me, then I would talk more, but I can't talk about certain topics out of respect for other people in my life.  I can't talk about certain things on Facebook, but Facebook is the only place I can talk to people.  It creates a dilemma.  I'm afraid to "bother" people by reaching out to them in other ways, but I fear sharing too much on everyone's main form of communication is going to disrupt the lives of those I care about.  On Facebook I can talk about a lot, but I can't talk about what's really on my mind.

In July I dropped out the Precision Nutrition program for various reasons.  I no longer had a reason to stay on Facebook, but I stayed.  I had too much of a community of friends again.  Now I'm looking down at the abyss and wondering if I'm willing to lose that.

If I leave, I lose connection to a large number of people in my life.

If I stay,  I remain a slave to the scroll, chasing another "like" and allowing some random memes to ruin my day.  In other words, if I stay, I risk losing myself.

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