Why I Socialize Off the Grid (Facebook)

About ten years ago when I first joined Facebook it was a rather quaint place that felt like a virtual town square. I reconnected with people from high school and New York City whom I hadn’t seen or spoken to since the 1980s. It was all “hey, what’s up!” and fluff.  But then more people started joining. Some of it was painful and triggering.

There was a mutual friend but not yet added to my own friends list who, in 1985, had attempted to assault me in an elevator. I saw that he had written a public post that was an apology written to anyone he had hurt in the past. I sent him a message. I reminded him about what had happened. He was drunk at the time so didn’t remember but apologized. He shared more about his past, specifically how horrifying his home life was. His mother died of a heart attack while trying to run from his father who was chasing her with intent to harm. What was very important for me is that I was able to forgive and let go of my anger about his contribution to my PTSD.

There was another mutual friend, this one a guy who was in the same elevator as the man above. The reason why the assault wasn’t successful is because he stopped it. I wanted to thank him! Finally after all these years! But tragically he had never stopped drinking or drugging. His posts were sometimes from his phone while he was sleeping on the streets in a psychotic state. He was in and out of jail (and back in now). I didn’t feel safe reaching out to him, but prayed for his well being and sobriety.

The people who were friends, real friends, we brought it offline by talking on the phone or emailing.

Then the awkward friend requests started coming in from people like the ex-boyfriend from college with the Bon Jovi hair (then) that all these years later STILL had the Bon Jovi hair. (Ok, there’s more to it, but not for a post.)

Not everyone accepted my friend request, like my father, with whom I am close. He joined Facebook and had maybe three friends. I don’t think he knew how to use it.

Some years ago when I was developing recipes from the Depression era I made a humble vegetable loaf that sparked outrage from people who normally are quiet. “No one should eat that!” Everyone had an opinion. I was amused, not hurt. Facebook had that entertainment value I once cherished.

Anyway, Facebook was transitioning from fun catch-up, healing old wounds and good ol’ people watching online to something more involved and dangerous. Dangerous is accurate. Our time is to be cherished, not squandered. The fun was over and the following began:

I felt obligated to “like” what my friends posted. People started posting memes in place of anything substantive. I discovered I had little in common with many of my “friends”. I saw some very dark sides of people, and what made it worse is that they were showing it off for the attention. An example is the college friend who posted a pic of the chipmunk he had intentionally drowned, or the husband of a friend who also posted a dead chipmunk because HAHAHHA look what the cat brought it. The politics, vitriol, outrage and incessant commentary on the news was forthcoming from the majority on my list. The privacy concerns and exposed manipulation by Facebook was becoming more publicized.

At some point some friends started posting that if people on their friends list didn’t post their outrage about (insert issue) then their silence was compliance and you aren’t a friend. 

As obnoxious as that all was, I didn’t want to lose touch with everyone. Quitting Facebook would be like going off the social grid because Facebook has a monopoly and hold on where and what is holding people’s attention. That reality alone is a wake-up call!

Early in June this year I was done with having authentic angst over virtual toxicity. I have a blood pressure monitor at home and I noticed it would spike when I was on Facebook. I had enough.

The way I see it is that Facebook is a bad neighborhood. There are some nice people hanging out there but it’s all in the confines of a for-profit entity with nefarious intentions. I will not meet up with good friends in bad neighborhoods, whether real, virtual or metaphorical. And if those “friends” vaporize when the computer or app is turned off, then they are not friends.

For the past three months I have felt free but also frightened by the realization of how much time I invested in it. I was talking with someone yesterday who mentioned that he isn’t on Facebook and never had an account. He still uses a mobile flip phone that he had to special order. He seems like a very happy, well-adjusted man without a shortage of friends.

“I respect your resistance,” I said. The reality is that had he said that to me a few years ago I would have thought maybe there was something wrong with him and that he was missing out! He was and I wish I had missed out on it, too.

All I have is today and I’m going to make the most of it!

10 thoughts on “Why I Socialize Off the Grid (Facebook)

  1. Facebook has indeed become a bad neighborhood, and is helping to spread divisiveness in our country. It is toxic. I have unfriended or blocked a lot of people, and I do not post anything on my page that is political in nature, nor do I respond to any political posts. I also only look at my page about once or twice a week, and only have friends who are people I actually know. Unfortunately, FB is how I found about about a friend’s death and another’s new job on the other side of the country, so I’m afraid for the time being that is how people are communicating.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve thought often of quitting Facebook. I don’t like to post anything political and rarely respond to such posts. Maybe a time or two in the past but not anymore after I thought I had innocently responded to a post of my brother’s and one of his friends, who didn’t know me, took me to task. There are people on the fringes of family who request me but I don’t know or remember a lot of them as the families on my dad’s side are very numerous. I think of culling my list but then worry that I’ll hurt someone that I’ll delete. A couple of family members have come right out and asked me to keep my page up. I’m not on there often but most of my family and friends are several times a week. They are mostly in other states so it’s nice to keep up with them. I guess I’ll just keep the status quo for now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People on the “fringes of family” is a great way to categorize those fifth or ex step cousins who take a sudden interest in you! I’m also like you where I worried about hurting people’s feelings if I didn’t accept their request. It’s such an artificial and awkward situation we don’t face in real time. I do appreciate the convenience of keeping up via Facebook.

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    1. I miss you too very much, Steph! You are the real deal and I’ll never forget that you sent me a card all the way from Italy during Lent because you missed me on FB then when I was giving it a trial break. I’m so glad you are still reading my blog. ❤ And yes, we will reunite in Italy sometime!

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  3. Averyl,
    SAME HERE! You know R and I stepped away from social media (IG and FB) a long while ago and we’ve never looked back. I am happier and feel more content and less on display.
    I find myself missing certain people’s updates, but thinking that through, it actually feels pretty empty. If that’s the only way I am “updated” on new life events from friends, I don’t think they are actual friends. Yes, we all get busy, but too busy to drop a card in the mail or type out a quick email- or even text message? No. Real friends who want to stay in relationship with me will find the time and energy to actually keep in touch. And that is the healthy boundary I’ve set for myself!
    Love love love that I can still find you on the blog.
    Andrea

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    1. “Real friends who want to stay in relationship with me will find the time and energy to actually keep in touch. And that is the healthy boundary I’ve set for myself!” AMEN! And I love that you’re still seeking out my blog. 😀

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  4. There are so many truths in your post! I also gave up Facebook this year and to be honest, I do miss it sometimes… But I only miss certain parts of it. I definitely feel there was more bad than good for me so I won’t go back – I just can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your boundary-setting for what is good for you is very healthy and admirable when you realize there were still a few positives. My local police department and municipal government posts important updates on Facebook, but I realized I can simply bookmark those pages and check them once a day since they are public pages, no account needed to view them. I also had used my Facebook account to log into certain websites like the New York Times (which I now dislike anyway). Now I’m creating accounts from “scratch”. It’s like Facebook wants to ensure you can’t get away.

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