As anyone following this blog knows, I recently made some decisions designed to downsize, and in doing so simplify, my life. One of those steps included getting rid of Facebook. I didn’t think that this would be a big deal. No more being inundated with updates about who unlocked what on Candy Crush. No more stupid posts about who had what for lunch at what restaurant. And no more being forced to look at everyone’s baby pictures. No offense, parents, your child is cute, but the world doesn’t need a photo or status update every time s/he opens its eyes, rolls over, or fills a diaper. The bottom line is that about 95% of Facebook is totally mundane, asinine, and unnecessary, so you’d think that getting rid of it wouldn’t really be a big deal.
Boy, was I wrong.
Only twenty four hours after I deactivated my Facebook (you can’t delete it, unfortunately, which seems like a pretty big red flag) my phone was lighting up like the 4th of July. People were frantically trying to get a hold of me, asking if I was alright, making sure everything was okay. It was like these people thought I was dying or going to kill myself. For comparison, I lost my last remaining grandparent in January and didn’t receive even half the outpouring of concern and sympathy. That deserves repeating: people were more worried about my mental state of being when I deactivated an account on a social media site than when a family member died. Un-freaking-believable.
And I realized that in this day and age, getting rid of a Facebook kind of is the equivalent of suicide, a digital suicide of sorts. In the modern era, a Facebook is a simulacrum of the self. It’s an avatar for interacting with the rest of the world, for keeping in touch with people, for sharing thoughts and ideas (but mostly for the sharing of details that need not be shared). To unplug from the digital world is to essentially remove yourself from what passes for social activity in 2014. Because apparently there’s no such thing as, you know, actually physically hanging out anymore. Gone are the days of getting together for dinner or coffee, going bowling or out to a bar, or just shooting the breeze in someone’s backyard on a summer day. We’ll just Skype. Text me while I’m surfing Facebook. Today, if you don’t have a Facebook, you’re deemed antisocial; only ten years ago we deemed the people who obsessed over online interaction to be the antisocial ones. In only a decade, everything has totally reversed. In the ultimate twist, the people who want to actually be in your physical presence are considered the weirdos, and the ones who want to do all their socializing and dating through the internet are considered the norm.
Unplugging from Facebook really hit this home for me, and only reinforced to me that I made the right choice. I believe that we’re losing something of ourselves, of our very humanity, by turning ourselves into digital avatars to interact in simulated worlds. There’s nothing to experience in reading text on a screen. There are no nuances, no flavor. There’s nothing sincere about picking and choosing which parts of yourself to share with the rest of the world, or in dressing up or hiding your imperfections. Everything that Facebook and twitter and online dating and online gaming represent is superficial at best. People are more than a collection of photos and a handful of status updates.