What Life Without Facebook Has Taught Me

The confession:

I don’t have a Facebook and I am completely comfortable and happy with my lack thereof.

The interrogation:

How do you communicate with your friends from home? Cell phones are magical–we can text and call any time we want! How do you remember birthdays? I put them in the calendar on my phone and wish people happiness accordingly. What about all the cute pictures you miss out on? If I want pictures from an event, my friends are usually more than happy to text or email them to me. How do you “stalk” people? I don’t, I get to know them instead. And probably most commonly asked (not explicitly, but very obviously hinted at) How do you have a social life? Trust me, ladies, it’s not as bad as you may think!

The experiment:

I had a Facebook profile for about a month during my freshman year of high school, so I like to think that my reasons for opting out have valid backup. I am fully aware of the benefits of connectedness, accessibility to photos and event planning, and overall organization that Facebook brings, but after my short stint, I found that it just wasn’t for me. The first thing I noticed was the incredible amount of time that I wasted updating my statuses, organizing my photo albums and deciding which friend requests to accept and which I should just pretend like I never received. I know this sounds mean, but I always had a hard time justifying automatically accepting everyone who had even the slightest inkling of curiosity about my life into the personal, virtual world I’d created. I might be weird, but I felt bad saying someone was my “friend” if I didn’t really know them all that well–I know, I might’ve way over thought the whole thing, but that’s just how I am.

Another issue that I found was the mass amount of “he said/she said” and other petty drama that existed in this space. Attending a small high school, there was never a shortage of unnecessary drama and inappropriate bullying, despite the constant efforts of the administration to eliminate it. After a while, the whole scene made me uncomfortable and like more trouble than it was worth so I made the decision to hit the deactivate button, promising myself that I could go back after a week if I really wanted to, but that desire still hasn’t showed up.

The response:

It’s been four years since my little rendezvous with Facebook and I can honestly say that I don’t regret my decision to shut down my profile one bit–it rarely even crosses my mind without someone bringing it up. Lots of people announce it to me, as if it’s an unknown in my life, “You don’t have a Facebook, I tried to look you up!”. To that I usually respond by reaffirming their claim and telling them that I simply don’t see the need to make one at this point in my life. But it’s a little less frequently that people actually ask me why I choose not to have a Facebook–they usually just nod their head and walk away after the first question, no inclination further pursue the conversation. That being said, a lot of people seem to think it’s pretty cool that I swim against the waves of conformity and even express their own desires to take a break from the social media overload that exists on Facebook. Until now, I’ve never really devoted time to an in depth exploration of why this decision is important to me, but the reasons are pretty clear in my mind.

The lessons:

1.) If people really care about you, they’ll make an effort. I might not get as many birthday wishes as I would if I had a virtual wall to post them on, but the ones that I do get are genuine. It means so much more when people make time and go out of their way for you than when you’re just a convenience to them.

2.) There’s a reason it’s called a “personal” life. Some things are not meant to be shared with anyone other than close friends and family, let alone near strangers. Your support network should be made up of the people who are willing to drop everything just to come over and give you a hug, not just those who will post a happy puppy on your wall when you’re feeling down. Once again, choose to be a priority, not a convenience.

3.) Getting to know someone on a personal level is worth it. I know lots of people who are guilty of rushing to look up that guy they danced with at last night’s register or that nice girl in their sociology class (I admit that I’m often the one saying, “check her profile!” or “did you look at his profile picture?”), but getting to know someone without preconceived notions and judgements has so many positive effects. It allows you the opportunity to get to know them the way they want to be known–not based on the pages they like and the silly pictures they’ve been tagged in–and it gives you more to talk about. What fun is getting to know someone new if you (secretly) already know all of the things they’re telling you?

4.) Unnecessary drama = unnecessary stress. Facebook is often a hotbed for rumors and drama that can only really be avoided by being completely disconnecting. Even if you’re not involved directly, just seeing something that has been posted can fuel gossip or negative feelings. Why bother with that when you could be smiling?

5.) Knowing how to communicate in the real world is an irreplaceable skill. I could be wrong, but I’ve never heard of anyone having a job interview via Facebook chat (I got skillz…ok u r hired. c u l8ter.). Okay, so I admit that being able to type might be an important job skill, but what employers really want are want individuals who are charismatic and know how to talk and make connections! I also feel like creating genuine relationships is so much more valuable than allowing the people you know to be defined by a status such as “friend,” “in a relationship,” or “it’s complicated”–that can become pretty shallow after a while.

6.) Keeping it classy is…well, classy. Not having to worry about what pictures I’ve been tagged in or scour my wall for comments containing inappropriate sentiments is a big relief. Although I do have Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest accounts, they’re just for fun and I control them completely. By limiting my info to 140 characters, a quick sepia-toned snapshot, a link, or a board full of yummy-looking recipes, I don’t have to worry about people (future employers, my classmates, long-lost cousins, etc…) finding things about me online that reflect poorly on my character.

7.) Time is the most valuable gift ever. My grandmother handed me a little slip of paper that read, “Every morning you are handed 24 golden hours. They are one of the few things in this world that you get free of charge. If you had all the money in the world, you couldn’t buy an extra hour. What will you do with this priceless treasure?” a few months ago and it’s been taped to my bedside table ever since. Among a million other things, I feel like it really applies to the whole Facebook issue–there are just better things for me to be spending my precious time on. I want to grab coffee and chat with a friend, to go for a long bike ride on a sunny day, to write a letter to my little sister. Sure, you can do all of these things and manage your Facebook account, too, but time slips away quicker than you’d think, and I don’t want to waste a minute!

It’s okay if you aren’t rushing to deactivate your account. It’s okay if you disagree with every single point I’ve made. It’s even okay if you think I’m crazy! If Facebook makes you feel happy and connected, keep it. If you find it’s a source of negativity in your life, try putting some distance between yourself and the screen. Whatever you decide is right for you, just remember that there’s a real world beyond the virtual one that’s waiting for you to enjoy it!

You can read more from Sara Chuirazzi here.

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