I deactivated my Facebook at the start of the semester. I understand that this has disappointed many people. Every day people ask if my profile has disappeared or been hijacked, or if (gasp) they’ve been blocked from viewing it. I truly cannot walk outside without a bevy of Scripps students pleading with me to reactivate my page. This may be a slight exaggeration—few lack the dignity to actually beg—but one thing’s for certain: people are all too willing to suggest, subtly or not, that I make my return to “the social network.”
I assume most people rubbed their eyes, raised their eyebrows, and gazed at their screens in confusion when, for the first time this fall, the first letter in their person search—“A”—didn’t yield the result they were looking for. Imagine their befuddlement when they double-checked the names on the list, only to find no one of consequence:
‘“WHAT?!?! Anderson always appears on my dropdown box whenever I type the letter A! Because he’s the A-name I click on most frequently!”’
Yet the consistent shock I’ve received about my Facebook deactivation has blown me away. My classmates, my hallmates, and my other “friends” can’t comprehend the change, and can’t help but bombard me with questions. Most ask me why I left it in the first place. The desperate ones remind me about everything I’ve missed since. Others ask anything and everything they can to try to understand why I’ve made this—in their minds—inconcievable decision.
“How do you know about the party scene?”
“I have friends,” I reply. Actual, living, real-life friends. We communicate among each other about our social lives using voiceboxes and movements of our lips.
“How do you make real friends like these?”
Once again, I use the spoken word to discuss issues of mutual interest, make jokes, and share stories. It’s a lot more fun to witness a human connection than to imagine one happening over the Internet.
And the most legitimate: “Why couldn’t you retain your profile and choose to not visit it?”
The knowledge that my avatar was floating out there on Facebook—existing idly in its Internet community—was too distracting to ignore. The notifications would find their way to my e-mail which would then alert my phone. It was difficult to not ponder the state of the Facebook world even when I wasn’t blowing up. When I was, little red numbers of notifications popping up and chat tabs blinking with attention-begging frenzy made the site impossible to avoid. I was devoting too much of myself to it. I had to end the addiction.
And yet simply logging off was not enough, because Facebook has now moved beyond our own laptop screens. Take the typical Facebook user. Every time an attention-craving party girl takes a camera out of her handbag, you smile wide, knowing that your mug will be uploaded into her album and tagged by the end of the night. Your picture will be seen by your friends, your admirers, and even your enemies, people you like, people you dislike, your parents, your siblings, and sometimes even your teachers. You’re now forced to become more self-aware because you’re surrounded by what are essentially amateur paparazzi. The media has been abuzz with talk of this “Facebook effect” this past year, often with a touch of the melodramatic; but for the most part, it’s true: Facebook has now implanted itself into our social thought processes.
If you are one of the more obsessive, you might even exploit this to create a favorable representation of yourself online. If you genuinely don’t care about the way you look on Facebook, then you are unlike most kids our age.
You probably joined an admitted students’ group upon receiving your college acceptance letter. If you’re one of the kids who friended every single student in the group, you may have been sincerely trying to make friends. But in order to do so, you implicitly sought to project a calculated image of yourself to your classmates. If you’re one of the students who recognized that this was happening, then you sat at your computer and watched as kids selected pictures of themselves to achieve one goal: to convince you that they were cool in high school. And if you’re like me, you were saddened and disappointed by this conscious creation of personas.
Here’s the best question I’ve heard so far: “Why stalk people on the Internet when you can stalk them in person?” While I don’t endorse—or practice—stalking in either world, this quote, in a way, expresses my feelings about making connections without Facebook. I’ve enjoyed getting impressions of people from how they interact with me in person, rather than how they present themselves online. When you see someone you’re interested in talking to, your first instinct should be to talk to her, not to hover around the cheeseburgers at Frary, waiting for this person to claim her order and reveal her name via lunch ticket so you can check her out later on Facebook. If you take down your Facebook page, you’ll feel much more inclined to start face-to-face conversations at the dining hall, on the dance floor, or wherever else you may find yourself. The general misconception and popular fear that keeps people from withdrawing from Facebook is that they’ll be missing out on something. I’ve found a lot more in college without it.