Monday, December 14, 2009

Why I unfriended Facebook

Disclaimer: This post reflects only my opinion and not necessarily that of my husband, who has a Facebook account.

I joined Facebook a couple years ago.  At first, I really enjoyed finding old friends, perusing all their photos, and learning all kinds of interesting tidbits about their lives.  Quickly, I amassed a good number of friends.  The overwhelming majority were people with whom I had probably never been more than casually acquainted, of course, but that doesn't matter in the Facebook universe.   We browsed each other's pages, but there was precious little real, active communication.  And I noticed that even among my real, close friends, emails and phone calls were fewer and farther between.  After all, we only needed to log on to learn that one friend was expecting a baby, or that another had just bought a house.  But the fact that I didn't get to hear their news and congratulate them immediately in a more personal way made me sad. 

Ultimately, it was Facebook's encouragement of my inner voyeur (a part of me that is better left un-encouraged) that led me to delete my account last January.  I spent way too much time digesting all the teeny tiny tidbits of the lives of people who, honestly, weren't really my friends.  Worse, I found myself envying others based on photos of vacations to exotic places, or how many people had wished them a happy birthday.  Not healthy.  So I quit.

It wasn't long before I began to get e-mails from friends wondering whether I had "un-friended" them.  No, of course not.  I had unfriended Facebook (or so I thought - I'm still not certain that my account has been fully deleted).

Now, nearly a year later, all too often when I catch up with friends, I'm surprised (and saddened) to find that I've missed hearing about significant events in their lives. 

"Yeah, I put those pictures on Facebook."

Because almost everyone is on Facebook.  And it's easy.  And on the surface, I guess there's nothing terrible about that.  But just as the advent of e-mail has virtually wiped out the art of letter-writing, and just as text and instant messages have begun to erode e-mail (not to mention basic spelling and punctuation), Facebook is slowly chipping away at long-distance friendship.  When you keep up a friendship through correspondence and phone conversations, there is the capacity for give and take, for tangents, for real emotion and for reflection.  By contrast, the typical wall post is not only read by all of a person's "friends," but is only a few lines long.  No matter how many photos or status updates a Facebook user posts, a Facebook profile is still just a two-dimensional depiction; a person in brief.  I don't know about you, but I prefer my friends to be the three-dimensional variety.

Quitting Facebook didn't exactly fix this problem.  I am left out of the loop a lot of the time, because my friends forget that not everyone is on Facebook.  But at least I remember to email or call them, because otherwise, I'd have no idea what they were doing.  And then we can interact like real live people.


  1. I like that you consider e-mail a "personal" form a communication.

    I actually prefer my communication to focus more on commments on a person's blog.

    How's life? You can go ahead and e-mail me a response.


  2. Your prescient comments about the whole Facebook phenomenon leave me wondering if and when anybody's ever going to really examine what the online world is doing to the already-fragile social fabric of this country. Here, as I see it, are the casualties of our Internet Age -- or most Modern World, if you will:

    1. Manners. Nobody has them anymore. People communicate with amazing candor to a screen while avoiding eye contact with whomever is around them. Hold a door? Stand to introduce yourself to someone at a dinner table? Say "please" or "thank you"? Forgettaboutit -- especially with kids and other youngsters. When I was a child, I was taught that it was polite, simple respect to nod or say hello to anyone who came close enough to be recognized. Today, that kind of behavior is thought odd. Or dangerous.

    2. Conversation. People have said it's a dying art form for years now. If you want to know what they mean, try sitting at a bar or restaurant with no music blaring or TV screens flashing SportsCenter. Then try talking to strangers nearby. If they don't think you're crazy, they will think you're selling something. Then again, are there bars and cafes that feature silence as their dominant motif anymore? Once upon a time, there were actually places where people could go to talk to other people -- and they didn't have to know them OR desire to sleep with them. I hear they still have some of them around. In Ireland.

    3. As you say, letter-writing, but also grammar. How long do you think it's going to be before school start allowing "luv" to replace "love" or :) to mean "You always manage to put a smile on my face"? lol. gtg. brb. Oops.

    I, too, have somebody in Afghanistan, a friend flying helicopters for the Army, and I write him 2-3 times a week. His wife compliments me that I always have something interesting to say. Yeah. I know how to write a letter!

    The appalling end of all of these things is that communication and simple regard or respect for our fellow human being is disappearing. If you don't know someone next to you in a public place, it's as if they don't exist. They are intrusions to ignore as we chatter away on our Blackberrys. The old urban horror story used to be that someone would scream "Help!" and no one would hear. Now I worry that people will need help, and no one will see because we're all playing video games on our pdfs.

  3. Wow. Somewhere inside me there is a frustrated social commentator screaming to get out.

    How you doing, Mash?

  4. Hello :) I never comment on blogs and especially not on blogs of people I don't know. But I happened upon yours and just had to say that I agree with you 100%. Sadly, most of my friends are on FB and don't understand why my updates are getting further and further between. It's kind of creeping me out, to be honest, how much people share about their personal lives. And it makes me sad because my friends who live long distances (either in the U.S. or not) don't communicate with me nearly as often because like you said "Well, I said it on Facebook so I thought you knew". And they get a little annoyed with me because I didn't know. Sigh. Oh well, it is what it is, right? Anyway, I really enjoyed reading through your blog and your interesting experiences & great attitude. I love to sew and have little girls so it's been great fun. Thanks for sharing!


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