December 31st, 2016 I just up and deleted my Facebook. I had tried to do so a few months prior, but my premium Spotify account was linked to my Facebook, and I didn’t want to delete it and start over. They really know how to lock you in. But t’was the day before a new year, and I figured it was a better time than any to shake myself loose of all the saved songs I’d replayed a thousand times and start off on Spotify clean too.
On Facebook, I had gotten down to 284 friends, only followed twenty-odd people, had no stalking addictions to speak of, and only checked it once a day purely out of habit or procrastination. Over the years my reaction to a Facebook friend invitation had morphed from an immediate accept into an exasperated snarl. “Ugh, did they really just friend me on freaking Facebook?”
Before pushing delete, Facebook has you download your entire Facebook history. It’s both horrific and nostalgia-inducing to read random Facebook wall posts going back to 2005. Names are omitted for some reason in the .html file, but for the most part I could still read a cringe-worthy wall post and still be absolutely positive about who wrote it, just based off of voice and content. Interesting to view the evolution of how much social media behavior has changed in the past 12, 10, 8, even 2 years – It seems I used to have full on conversations over my Facebook wall completely accessible for anyone to read! So much of my life I shared on that damn thing.
There were a bunch of reasons I wanted to delete Facebook having to do with the Big Brother aspects, and thoughts like this:
But I think the main reasons were a digital detox and as a way for me to actually better handle the relationships I have in this life.
Facebook doesn’t make it easier when your friendships fizzle out, not the ones that have naturally fallen off due to physical distance nor the nasty ones that have been put out like a candle in the rain. Whether at the end there is bad feeling or faded feeling, in my mind I try to cherish that friendship for what it was at that time and find the beauty in our exchange – It’s okay that relationships can’t always last forever. But Facebook dangles these people out in front of me day in and day out. I don’t want Facebook to shape my memories of what my friendships are or what they were.
I think I forge intense bonds with people more easily than others, and I’m lucky in this way. I can’t think of a single stage in my life so far where I didn’t have a girlfriend I felt totally got me, who I could count on all the time. For all the living and traveling alone, I was never really alone – I’ve made many friends as the years have gone by that I had more than just a simple friendship with, but a very close connection and the ability to engage in deep, meaningful conversation. Most recently in Colombia I only had one day in two weeks where I didn’t find a temporary travel buddy who I really connected with. And I’ve been so fortunate to have grown up very close to my mom, dad, sister, and brother, and that will always be.
Facebook, after a while, just felt like when I watch movie trailers because I don’t feel like reading a book or doing something productive, and then I don’t even end up watching a movie because I’ve wasted an hour of my life judging two minute previews. People I once truly cared about reduced to a cliché profile photo (the jumping with arms spread on a beach shot, the funny face shot, the bar shot, the back shot in front of natural lake/cliff/scenery, the bff shot, the boyfriend shot, the newly engaged shot with the girl’s left hand with sparkly ring on her fiancé’s chest, the girl friend shot, the headshot better serving LinkedIn) posting political opinions I didn’t care to read. I spent the last couple of years deleting Facebook friends and binge-ufollowing people – At the time of deletion most of my Newsfeed was NY Magazine and The New York Times, and I know I’m not doing myself any favors living in my own echo chamber.
Last summer I didn’t feel like going home one night. I had a reckless sort of feeling juicing through my body, and I found myself at a bar across from my apartment. I quickly made friends with a group of partiers my age that seemed up to no good, which was exactly the vibe I was going for. I didn’t know any of them, they didn’t know me, we’d stumbled into each others’ nights and the next day we’d wonder if it was all a dream. I could be anyone I wanted.
I ended up out with them until 6 in the morning, sort of flirting with this one guy, I can’t remember his name. We both hated our jobs and were soaking up Saturday night for all it was worth before Monday hit us over the head. We teetered back to my apartment early in the morning and woke up together a few hours later. We didn’t hook up, I think we both just didn’t feel like being alone. We went out for breakfast, winding up at a diner somewhere off Polk Street discussing our San Francisco lives and careers. He had a similar role to mine except he worked for some weed delivery app, so yea, that must suck, I said to him. I wasn’t into him, but I liked sitting in this red leather diner booth, complaining about life while treating myself to an ostentatious stack of fluffy pancakes with maple syrup and bacon that could only be purchased with tech money, talking about how even when life is good, totally, totally decent, you can still just be so damn lost.
While I truly appreciated our breakfast b*tch sesh, I had no interest in seeing him again. He walked me home, got my number, but I was confident in the hopes he’d never call or text. I’d remember it forever as that night I decided to do whatever I wanted because I didn’t care about anything past Saturday night, past living in the moment, and I thought I’d met someone else who felt the same. And I was right – he did never call or text, but he did add me as a Facebook friend a few weeks later. Are you kidding me??
I love my life in San Francisco, but the job thing I really haven’t figured out yet. While I’ve finally figured out what my calling in life is, naturally there are massive barriers to entry, insane start up costs, and the last business I successfully ran was probably a lemonade stand to fund my 1997 Tamagatchi habit. So today I deleted my LinkedIn profile too. Because while I sit here trying to figure out what on earth Customer Success really means to the tech industry or what 95% of the tech industry means to anyone outside of the tech industry or how the hell I’m going to accomplish what I’ve decided to accomplish, I need not only to cut out the distraction but also cut out the ability to compare and imagine. For some reason looking at people’s resumes is the the only real thing that brings out feelings of uncertainty and insecurity in me – Maybe other people are above that, but I’m not at the moment, and I accept that.
I’ve never been someone who was dying to be the absolute best. My parents never punished me for bad grades, I have just always naturally wanted to do the best I can do. And academically I always have – I was totally content with a 91%, felt like I could have done better with an 85%, 75% I could go in early for extra help, and 65%, well, as long as I could pass the NY State Regents exam I’d probably be fine. Never had a desire to go to an Ivy League school. Woke up to take the SAT for a second time, decided my scores were perfectly reflective of who I was as a student (above average in English, average in math), and went back to bed. I partied like an absolute animal in college but graduated with honors. I’ve always been my biggest competition – Alice, you can do better. You can eat better, you can feel better, you can study harder, you can get better grades, you can speak better Spanish, you can get a better job, you can have better pay. I’m my own motherf*cking cheerleader and my own worst Pageant Mom.
You could scroll through LinkedIn for hours through people who you or sort of know, people from high school you’d never dream would be gainfully employed, now they’ve got the word “Executive” in their job title and a receding hairline. And for some reason I start rabbit holing, start questioning why I don’t have an Exec level position at 27, whether I should have traveled less, whether they’re breaking even at the end of the month or eking out of their college loans, whether or not they cramp up in the middle of the day from the stress or dip out of the office food a good afternoon cry-around-the-block? (Okay, it’s not that bad all the time, but on the days when startup life gets rough, it is, and I wonder if everyone experiences such tumult in their job on a daily basis).
It’s too overwhelming for me to be competing with myself – Alice, you can make this happen, you passed Belgian statistics, you can project cash flow, you can’t sit in a cubicle for the rest of your life slinging software to people with dialup – and then to then be competing with the shadows of lives past, and their connections, and all their connections. The big Latin-based words we throw into our resumes and workplace bios, the euphemisms – “Ethan taught high school English in Baltimore, MD after graduating from university. He then transitioned into pharmaceutical sales to leverage his communications and business skills…” Are you joking?? Ethan left his Teach for America job at an inner city school in Baltimore because being a pharma sales rep pays hella cash and you don’t have to walk through a metal detector every morning to teach a bunch of hardened youth why they should care about Ethan Frome!!!
Am I still on Instagram? Hell yes. I can discreetly choose to follow whomever I want to follow, and share the beautiful, Instagramable parts of my day or week with people who appreciate them. I can share with other photographers and architecture enthusiasts with Beauty in Buildings. Do I still have this blog? Do I still have Gmail? Yes to both. I’m not trying to disappear from the cyber world, I’m just trying to find my footing on my own, my memories of who I’ve been and who I’ve been that person with, how it felt to get to know someone and never see them again, to sit around and wonder who or what they’ve become. To concentrate on what I want to be and what I want to create without getting sucked up into comparing my intelligence, luck, degree or connection with some random person who isn’t even doing what I dream of doing.
Two weeks in and the only real backlash I’ve had from deleting Facebook was missing two friend’s parties because I hadn’t remembered to transfer them to my real life calendar. I have an urge to check it when I want to procrastinate work – But I can’t! I literally just end up doing more things. So so far, so good. My phone is full of the numbers of the people I want to text or call, my computer full of photos of all of them, of memories I’ve made, things I’ve seen, people I’ve loved, buildings I’ve passed. And they’re all just for me.