Shouts! / Troll of the day

Facebook: Gateway to friends or delusion?

Ok, so I'm a little dramatic

Aside from the recent deluge of statuses lamenting the new Facebook, I’ve noticed a minor trend on the site:  People announcing that they will be deleting their internet existence. I always sort of laugh at this –– the  announcement of their impending departure on the very site from which they intend to recuse themselves. It has a “Goodbye cruel world” ring to it.

Of course, many of  these farewells often prove false. Within a few days these same people emerge like junkies from a cold turkey heroine hiatus, frantically ‘liking’ things and posting with vengeance. Whatever their reason for rejoining the living ––be it lack of self-control or  devastating loneliness once separated from the continuous injections of butchered song lyrics and semi-self-deprecating, self-referential third person exclamations––they often can’t help it. And Facebook knows it. If you deactivate your account, you can return and restore your profile whenever you like. Facebook stores your profile and information. To permanently delete your account, you actually have to submit a request, after which Facebook grants you a two-week separation period to see if you are really sure. So that when you inevitably come crawling back, it’s there with open arms. “I said some things that I didn’t mean. Take me back?” And it does.

I think it takes a great amount of courage these days to permanently exclude yourself from all things Facebook. I don’t think I could do it. Which is sort of pathetic in its own way, especially when you take into account the horrifying amount of time I waste on the site. I’m sure there is record of how much time we’ve all spent on Facebook (there’s actually software that you can download that keeps track).  But it just scares me to know that this astronomical calculation exists, that if read at my funeral as part of my eulogy (“She was a nervous lady, who liked coffee, books and spent approximately XXXXXXXX hours on Facebook), it’d represent a colossal waste of my precious time.

Yet, I remain a fiend, partly out of addiction and partly out of anxiety. My fear ––and I’m sure many others feel this way too –– is that I’ll miss something. The idea of being disconnected from something that has become so integral to our generation’s communication is nothing short of terrifying. Sure there are other ways to stay in touch with people. There’s always the phone, and you know, the increasingly archaic face-to-face hang (sans web camera). Of course, it isn’t as instant or constant as Facebook. But it eventually gets the job done.

This brings me to my next point, what I think is one of the main reasons people struggle with eliminating Facebook forever. Permanently deleting your Facebook is one way to determine who actually wants to be part of your life. Who is willing to go that extra step to remain in contact with you? With Facebook it’s simple –– a “like” now and then constitutes rudimentary interaction. Sometimes a “like” is the ignition for further conversations, and sometimes it is just an obligatory virtual head nod to someone you know and want to remain “visible” to but don’t exactly want to engage in conversation. Then of course, there are the people who you are strictly Facebook friendly with –– a “like” here and there, a comment or two. But when it comes down to it, who is essential in the equation of your life; who transcends occasional “pokes” and actually contacts you outside the computer screen? Of the more than 200 Facebook friends, how many are actual friends?

Not to say that the casual Facebook encounters are all bad. There’s definitely something to be said about instant communication with people you would otherwise never talk to. It can even lead to real friendships, I’m sure. But what concerns me is the ambiguity of Facebook connections ––there’s no precedent. Certain elements of Facebook merge into real life; it’s suddenly very easy to rattle off what’s going on in so and so’s life (perhaps too easy, depending on the person). Couples aren’t real unless they are “Facebook official.”  Occasionally, people announce approval out loud with a thumbs up. Other more obvious aspects, however, do not, such as translating internet interactions to real ones. I think people still struggle with understanding the depth of connections made via the internet. For instance, some people use previous Facebook chats as a lead-in to real conversations with acquaintances. Logically speaking, you’ve talked before, so it’s ok to strike up a discussion.  However, others flounder in the nebulous territory and, as a result, pretend they’ve never spoken to person and struggle with a polite hello.

It’s an incredibly awkward dance. Except in many cases, the people standing around, staring at their hands, are adults, not middle schoolers. It’s scary to think how many are dependent on something that they don’t quite understand. The “etiquette” is a motley of made up standards. How long should you wait after a person posts something to comment? There’s a fine line between creepy and complementary, apparently. If you seem weird on Facebook, then people probably perceive you the same way outside. But if your profile seems cool, it isn’t a guarantee that this will carry into the real world. See? Rules. It’s a miracle that anyone talks to anyone anymore.

It’s admirable that some are attempting to rebel against our modern-day Hal by excluding themselves. I’m not sure how long they’ll be able to stay away or remain unswayed by the likes of Google +.

Frankly I’m too panicky and barely go outdoors, so I won’t be deleting mine anytime soon.


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