What is this hold that Facebook has over us? Frankly, it scares me. As of July 2010, Facebook estimated over 500 million users. That's 500 million people who are connecting over cyberspace. That is kind of cool, but it can be costly. It was for me.
I first learned of Facebook when we had a college student living with us for the summer. At that time Facebook was just for college students. We worked with college students in our ministry, and I learned from him that it was a popular way for college students to communicate, even more than email at that time. When Facebook expanded to let more than just college students join, I joined in an effort to learn more about how the kids we were working with communicated. I wanted to be relevant.
I soon found out that many people that I knew were already on Facebook. People who I hadn't seen for years. Suddenly I could find and communicate with people that I'd known in the other places we'd lived. We had just moved to our current location and I was finding it quite difficult to connect with anyone. I don't know if it was my hesitation to get close to anyone lest I have to move again - this was my fourth city in ten years - or the stage of life we're in - everyone is busy with kids, no time to make new friends - or the climate of the city: cold, both in temperature and personality.
In any case, I suddenly found friends on facebook that I already had been friends with, people who I knew I liked, people who I had a history with. This was easy. Much easier than picking up the phone to call someone I hardly knew to have an awkward conversation. (I am not a phone talker.) Not only did I suddenly have friends, but I could write to them. I much prefer writing. You can edit your writing before you post it. You can delete something you didn't mean to say. Not only did I have friends that I could write to, but I could pick and choose what they knew about me. I didn't have any bad hair days in the photos I posted. (Well, except that one.) I cropped out my bulge. I posted witty statuses and comments that got 'liked.' It was like a drug for me. I didn't have to be fully there to be liked from people all over the world. "People really do like me," I told myself. Except I had to be on Facebook to feel the love. The Facebook love. In real life I wasn't feeling it.
In real life I was not able to get out of bed. In real life I was depressed. I was imagining ways I could escape my reality. Facebook was a more acceptable form of escape. I escaped my marriage. I escaped my overwhelmingly energetic and demanding kids. (Did they really need to eat?)
I made myself a fictional facebook character with a supporting cast of hundreds. But one day my fictional world collided with my reality and I saw Facebook for what it was: an unhealthy escape for me. I deactivated my account and haven't had a desire to get back on it. That is until New Year's when I thought it would be interesting to see my statuses from the past year which included many of our kids' clever sayings as well as the story of our year. When I reactivated my Facebook account and read through my statuses, I was struck by how excessively preoccupied I was with letting my Facebook friends know what I was thinking and doing every day. How much time had I wasted investing myself in my fictional fantasy instead of my family and making friends here where I live? It kind of made me sad. Especially since only a fraction of those Facebook friends that I sacrificed my family for have sent me an email to find out how I'm doing now that I'm not on facebook.
Not that I'm surprised, or even expect it because frankly, I'm sure that people have disappeared from facebook and I haven't noticed or if I did, didn't say anything. Because let's face it: facebook is fiction and the social connections on there are nice, but they're not real life.
I have a greater appreciation now for non-fiction. Real life rocks.