“We want to be loved,’ ” quotes Britt-Marie. “ ‘Failing that, admired; failing that, feared; failing that, hated and despised. At all costs we want to stir up some sort of feeling in others. The soul abhors a vacuum. At all costs it longs for contact.’ ”
― Fredrik Backman, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
Today I celebrate being Facebook free for four weeks. First, I cannot believe that much time has passed and passed so quickly, and second, I never thought I’d be able to do it–give up Facebook. I had tried and failed so many times before that I thought this would be the same experience. I’d stop for a day, three days, a week, but then I’d take a picture that I wanted to share so I would download the Facebook app and install it yet again, the shame dripping from my fingers as I tapped the message of my post.
What was different this time is I asked myself what I needed from Facebook that I wasn’t getting from real life. The answer was surprising: I needed attention. I needed those eyeballs on my stuff and I needed fingers to click the like button on what I posted. Those likes and comments showed that someone was paying attention to me, unlike anyone at home. At home I’m invisible. Getting those likes was validation that I still existed for something other than cooking, cleaning, shopping, and doing laundry.
The revelation that I needed attention made me decide to be more engaged in life instead of online. Although this was a good dream to have, I didn’t always follow-through. At the grocery store, for example, I’d sometimes avoid my new friend, Alistair, instead of engaging in conversation with him. Who is Alistair? He’s the guy who was the cashier on duty when I noticed the elderly man in front of me was treating him so badly that it was shocking. I suspected racism. When it was my turn to buy my groceries, I told Alistair how much I loved his name and talked to him about how unusual it was, and that I had sought unusual names for my girls. I laughed about the fact that I wasn’t always successful in my endeavor. I could tell he was grateful for the chit-chat after the asshole before me and he has remembered me. Every time I see him, he yells from wherever he’s stationed, “Hi, Catherine!” Turns out he’s going to school to be a psychologist/therapist for those who are injured. He became interested in this field when his skull was shattered and psychologists helped him recover. I need to ask him how he managed to shatter his skull.
I need attention but I guess I don’t need it all the time but I do need it from real people. The one exception is my Twitter habit. The funny thing is, though, that I don’t expect much attention from my Twitter followers. It’s hit and miss, and the most important part is, it’s not personal. If my Twitter followers don’t retweet me, they’re not rejecting me personally, it’s that whatever I tweeted, they might not have been interested in or they’ve seen it a million times that day, or whatever. Facebook is for friends so when they don’t pay attention, I take it personally. Twitter is for people I don’t usually know so when they don’t pay attention it’s because I’m one person in a social media platform that hosts hundreds of millions (or is it a billion yet?).
I’ve recently gotten on Instagram and the funny thing is that I don’t take that personally either because not many friends are following me, and the ones that do like everything I post even if it’s utter crap. I can count on these women (and one random man from New York) to like everything, and I appreciate that.
What I’ve gotten in exchange of giving up Facebook is peace in my mind. I no longer see on a daily basis that my friends are enjoying their lives more than me. I can live in utter oblivion just like in the old days before Facebook. If I wanted to know what my friend, Pam, was up to, I had to pick up the phone and call her instead of lurk her Facebook account and like her pictures and those of her husband. Ah, the good ole days.
I also avoid the sadness of checking out the accounts of friends who have unfriended me for one reason or another. The knowledge that someone can end a relationship with a few keystrokes is the price of being on the Internet, I guess, but it still hurts.
So, all in all, I’m saving myself from self-inflicted pain. The only pain (and it’s only slight) is that nobody has noticed that I’m gone. Nobody has contacted me to ask if I’m ok or if I’m coming back. Nobody’s missed me enough to inquire, but even that doesn’t hurt that much because some of my friends have disappeared for a month and when they announced that they’d been gone for a month, I hadn’t noticed either. Whoops!
In the past I was staying on Facebook to keep family members up-to-date on my family’s milestones and trips but I’ve gotten more interest from my dad’s former best friend (Tom) and my mom’s former best friend (Mary Lou) from when my parents were living in Michigan in the 70’s! Talk about loyal.
No doubt I will continue my Facebook diet until at least the end of January. That’s the goal, at least. I’ve signed up to volunteer at a convention and part of the free entrance is that I have to post several times on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’ll see if I can make it through all the holidays without looking longingly at pictures of snow. There’s no snow where I live, and if you’ve ever been to my Pinterest page, you know I love snow!
Here’s hoping that once I complete my obligatory posts, I’ll head back to my oblivious life.