As recently as a few weeks ago, I would not have imagined myself stepping away from Facebook for an extended period of time. This past weekend I deactivated my account. I don’t plan to stay away forever, but I feel the need to take some time away from its rule over my daily life.
Years ago when I first joined, I relished each reconnection with friends and relatives whom I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. The circles of my life—from elementary school to college to past and present jobs—had come together in one place, people from different chapters in my life all interacting on the same stage. It was surreal and fun to participate in this world where my former classmates could converse with my former students, and I together with all of them. So very cool. So what happened?
I’m still thinking it through. I made my decision hastily, but so far I feel better for it. Perhaps the stage just got too big for me. Like a Peter Jackson adaptation, I got stretched too thin. I used to disagree with the philosopher Paul Ricoeur’s belief that one can have only a few friends, but now I’m thinking there’s truth to it. At least for me.
Every day I’d scroll through my feed after making sure that the page showed all activity and not only the top stories, but as my eyes passed over each status update, I rarely read every word or paused to think about the people telling me something about their lives. It dawned on me this past week that, cruel as it sounds, I just don’t care too much about what my almost 600 friends have to say on a daily basis. Now that I’ve deactivated my connections with them, I don’t for the most part feel as though I’m missing something special, even though the network was the only place where I had any connection with a lot of old acquaintances.
I figure that many of these “friends” won’t notice or care that I’ve left. Our interactions were mostly superficial and fleeting, if they paid attention to me at all. If we met in the flesh, perhaps passing one another on the road, we might greet one another, but we wouldn’t stop to talk for very long. We wouldn’t think to rearrange our days to accommodate one another. There would be pleasantries, but no attempts to enter into our respective stories. At this stage in my life, I don’t have the time for friendships I can deactivate without any hesitation or regret.
By the droids, that sounds weird. Can you deactivate and reactivate friendships? I think not. A lot of my connections are not friends. Not really. But some of them are. Some of them are close friends, and some of these I know only through the internet. Because I value these relationships I intend eventually to return to Facebook, but when I do come back again I mean to make it a smaller place, less crowded and busy, less encouraging of the casual glances of a channel surfer. I would like it to be a place where I care about what my friends post, not simply because it’s there in the feed, but because I care deeply for the people with whom I’m connected. I’d much prefer to interact with a few good friends than with a crowd.