Hello fellow Cynics,
With all of these social media networks bombarding us these days, I’ve come to wonder if Facebook, one of the most popular, most used sites in the world, is even relevant anymore. At least to me. What do I mean by this? Let me explain.
I started Facebook in May of 2009, when I was still in high school. It wasn’t as if I was reluctant to join or that my peers forced me to, but you could say it was sort of an…internal peer pressure. Before I had a Facebook account, I had a Myspace one. But as people–friends and classmates– started to gravitate towards Facebook and abandoned Myspace, I felt the urge to join the movement: the Facebook movement. I didn’t want to be left behind.
And so, near the end of that school year, I made a Facebook account. I remembered that it required a lot of filling out information and whatnot. One thing that particularly surprised me was the fact that I had to enter my real name to be displayed to the public. The lack of anonymity struck me, for other social media sites like Youtube and Myspace allowed you to create incognito names like “John Doe” or something funky, like “beebeejam123” (totally made that up; apologies if it’s an actual account!). Anyway, I was suspicious, not to mention reluctant, about letting strangers find me readily online. It wouldn’t be until later that I would discover the privacy settings for the site that I would feel better about this whole situation.
You know, I realized that I could’ve just made up my account name to something that wasn’t my actual name. Probably some troll identity like “Boogerface McOrange,” or something weirder than that (actually couldn’t think of anything more bizarre). I’ve seen profiles that do so, even some of my “Friends!” Usually, those particular profiles are, like, alter-egos or something: one of my friends has a cosplay account! At one point in my Facebook career, I’d changed my name to something odd, but still recognizable to my “Friends.” Kept it like that for a few months, maybe a year(?). But back then, when I first started, I didn’t know about all of this. Inexperienced me…
I remember that my first profile picture was of me or, more specifically, my shadow. Wanted to keep my anonymity like that, so I chose something that I thought was “clever.” And I’m going to disagree with others on this by saying that I’m pleased with my first ever profile picture. It wasn’t of me looking stupid (you couldn’t even see my face!), or doing something embarrassing. That picture no longer exists on my Facebook, but memories, man. Memories.
Anyway, flash-forward to the next couple of months and years: I posted things, I added “Friends” by the barrow-load, and I filled my information page with enough, but not too much information that it could expose me to trouble. Facebook became somewhat an addiction: I would log in everyday and spend the next few hours stalking (erm, “looking”) at “Friends'” profiles, posting and commenting on status (for “Likes”), and playing the frivolous quizzes that the site offered (do they still do that?). Tagging people in Notes and writing Notes were big as well. Lots of “Like my status and I’ll…” statuses (whoa!). Facebook became my platform for displaying my best front; it almost became a place where I sought recognition. As a teenager, I wanted attention: I wanted to be popular, with over 700 “friends” and “Likes” on every single one of my posts. Hence, I continued to add “Friends:” my actual friends, acquaintances, classmates, and even people who I perhaps only spoke to once before. I posted random shit like “Phyllo Wrap :P” (yes, that was an actual status!). I changed profile pic after profile pic of myself (selfies, anyone?). I was indiscriminate, but more importantly, I was hungry for fame. Online fame.
I remember that I would get so discouraged when no one “Liked” my status post or didn’t reply immediately to my message. Admittedly, I still have those issues today, but I’ve learned to care less. We are overwhelmed with so much news and info every day, every minute that some things gets lost in the endless, endless “Newsfeed” scroll. But as a teenager, Facebook was like my…my Self Esteem-O-Meter, going up and down depending on the day and the situation. It tested me on my confidence and more so consumed my life.
Then, at some point, I changed. It came around July or August of 2011. I was older, and realized the futility of doing all of this for show. If I didn’t get a 100 “Likes” or 1000+ “Friends” on Facebook, then it shouldn’t ruin my pride. The idea just struck me, and instead I decided to take my own happiness into my own hands (cliché’d, I know). In one day, I’d gone down from 500+ “Friends” to perhaps 225: I “unfriended” those who never really were that important in my life and kept those that were worth it. I deleted almost every posting that I’d ever posted that far in my FB career, only saving the most recent one. I amped up my privacy settings and hid (or deleted) certain embarrassing photos from my profile. I wanted to start anew, have a clean slate for better, more selective things on my “Wall.” I made myself not go on everyday, and instead maybe once a week; I didn’t need to know everything that everyone was doing every day- why should I care about their lives so much? I’ve had several instances when I would not choose to use it for months! It was like quitting cold turkey: the first week is quite difficult, but over time when you get busier and busier with work, school, other commitments (aka “real life”), it doesn’t matter as much anymore. I was growing up, and I wanted my profile and habits to reflect that.
I’m happier now that I have less “Friends” and a more minimalist profile than I used to five years ago. Seriously, it’s the quality– not the quantity– that matters (again, cliché’d, but true).
So, you may still be asking: how does this relate to my claim on Facebook’s relevancy?? The answer? Growing up.
Like how I discussed my realization to delete “Friends” and post less, this realization of FB’s possible irrelevancy to my life stems from aging. I am no longer a teenager- I have less time on my hands to do things that I love, my metabolism is slower, and I’ve come to accept the importance of self-reliance, the fact that you don’t give a fuck about having others’ approval and instead choose to ascertain your own desires. Over the years after high school, I’ve kept some and dropped some friends and “Friends.” I no longer see their statuses on my Newsfeed, nor am I interested to do so. Or maybe I just don’t think about them anymore to consider checking their profiles. And a lot of friends are, like me, busy college students/adults who seldom post or comment on anything anymore. At least, I think that’s what I am doing right now. But others, too, have become more distant, less silly, and more polite in replies. We’ve kind of grown apart, even though we’re still connected as “Friends.” And you don’t want to “unfriend” them, because you still remember the memories– good memories– with them in the back of your mind.
Therefore, I wonder if there will come a time when I just won’t go on FB anymore. I wonder if there will come a point in my adulthood that I’ll be too busy with my own life to care about other people’s lives, or let connections disintegrate until gone. I worry about losing my friends, my real friends, that I’ve come to know for years, just because FB no longer interests nor holds any importance to me. I’m still young: I probably got another five, ten years before I would experience this.
Overall, the personal relevancy of Facebook continues to confound me, but then again, I should just let this happen. I can make the effort to keep ties, but not stress out about it so much that it actually becomes counterproductive. Some will survive, some will go; I have to accept that. But most importantly, I want to be happy. Online and in the real, material world. Take care.
-The Finicky Cynic