One Billion Minus One

This past weekend marks the one-year anniversary of when I pulled the plug on my Facebook account and transitioned out of that world. As crazy as it may sound to some, I feel that my life has gotten better since saying goodbye to Mark Zuckerberg’s social network. I’m not trying to argue that Facebook is the devil’s platform, or that world peace would be achieved if we all decided to deactivate our accounts, but I have to wonder, how many of us have truly felt better after checking Facebook and scanning our newsfeed? 

We see photos of people at social events we weren’t present at, or achieving things that we ourselves want to do, and we begin to feel jealous, or worse, depressed. When viewing the profiles of others, how often do you engage in a kind of comparison contest between yourself and that individual? Most of us never do this on purpose either, it’s just an ugly piece of human nature, and Facebook has only served to indulge that nasty part of ourselves. I know that I am not alone in feeling these things: the recently published TIME Magazine article “Why Facebook Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself” by Alexandra Sifferlin details a study conducted by two German universities, and their discoveries were anything but surprising. The article stated that “the scientists studied 600 people who logged time on the social network and discovered that one in three felt worse after visiting the site…” 

At first an experiment with an end date in mind, I’ve found myself enjoying my time “in the dark” and now I wonder if I may ever feel the urge to reactivate my account.

We become like Jekyll and Hyde when we use Facebook; we selectively post photos to create a sanitized version of ourselves that we want others to see. There exists the real version of you and then there is “Facebook You.” When we post a picture, we submit it to the eyes and judgement of the hundreds (or thousands) of “friends” we may have, and we are saying that this is how we want the world to see us. If you repeatedly see photos of the same individual doing the same activity, you begin to assign certain labels and make judgements. When you look someone up, don’t you try to sum up their entire existence after a quick glance on their timeline?  How many times have you paused before posting a photo only to wonder how others may view it and if it ruins the image you’ve created for yourself? We engage in a kind of method-acting on Facebook, fearing that anything out of character may spoil the whole performance. 

Looking back on my first year at Colgate, I can’t help but wonder if some of the disappointment and sadness I felt that year stemmed from Facebook. Logging onto Facebook as part of my daily routine, I would be confronted with images of high school classmates going out at their respective schools and enjoying college in, well, typical college ways. I would then wonder if there was something I was doing wrong. How come I wasn’t experiencing college the way you’re meant to? Why was I failing at this while others seemed to be doing it so well? The truth is that I wasn’t doing anything “wrong,” I had fallen for illusions. That person who seems to be having the time of their life is only posting certain photos to create a persona; their life isn’t perfect, they just choose not to post anything that says otherwise.

Since shutting off Facebook, I’ve had friends tell me, “I wish I could deactivate my account, but I need it for (insert reason here)!” My question is, do you honestly need Facebook for anything? Life has existed before it and life will exist long after it. Go to settings and click “deactivate.” Trust me, you won’t regret it.