Many months ago, I accidentally embarked on a Facebook experiment. I have read numerous articles by others who have left Facebook, removing their apps and deleting their accounts. They are usually fueled by an emotional experience like anger or impatience driven by the negative or even unknowingly upsetting remarks of others. Or sometimes they are planned cold-turkey events in which the user realizes how many better things they could be doing with their time and so, off they go on their path to self-improvement.
I am sure we all know someone who has tried this or perhaps have tried it ourselves. It usually goes along the lines of a grand announcement of why said person is leaving (the newly dubbed "flounce" or flaunting one's bounce), a few weeks of absence then the gradual save-face return in which they are hoping no one will question what happened or why they gave up their sabbatical. If questioned, they all have their stand-by answer:
"Facebook just makes it easier to keep in contact with distant friends and family."
This statement is easily accepted and understood by all, as they sit with their silent "I told you so's" (or "I informed you thusly's" for any fellow Big Bang Theory enthusiasts). This sequence has become so common that it really is a laughable event as we watch others go through it. A slightly humbling or even embarrassing one if we've been through it ourselves.
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What Led to My Diminished Use
But for myself, while I have had many instances in which I would swear off Facebook for a day or two because some stance upset me or I was sick of "unnecessary drama," my more recent accidental Facebook leaving did not seem to go the flouncing route. I am still on Facebook. I still have both professional and personal accounts which I have no desire to delete, but my mentality has changed dramatically leading me to hardly use either account. Not really out of conscious decision, but out of lack of need and a changed frame of mind.
It all started when my status updates diminished. I found myself, as an active homeschooling highly introverted parent, far too drained to find the brain power for composing a couple of sentences to tell the world about what I baked or cleaned that day, what cute thing my child said, or how my husband is clearly sweeter than everybody else's. Not only did I not have the energy to write them, but I really started to question why I was writing them. If something exciting and positive happened, what would sharing it vaguely to a couple hundred people serve? To make them feel better? Worse? Jealous? Happy? Some may be interested, but would others really care? If something upsetting or negative happened, why would I share that? What would be the purpose of adding more negativity to the day of someone else not to mention, fueling my own?
Between questioning my motives and my slow lack of desire, the status updates just stopped. Not purposely, but rather through circumstance.
Once I stopped posting, the notifications slowed causing my need to "hop on for a minute" to dwindle. I found the only purpose was to jump into some discussions in groups or scroll briefly through my newsfeed. But most groups in which I am involved are filled with a hodgepodge of people so inherently chock full of bickering and "judgements." I was finding that pulling up positive articles or picking up helpful books on a topic in which I was interested was far more intriguing and beneficial than any information the groups were giving me. So those quickly went away, again, not by conscious choice, but just because they no longer seemed to serve a purpose to me.
After a short while, I found my newsfeed to be irrelevant. Since I was no longer posting status updates, I found myself texting, messaging and calling people to share news thus leading to conversations filled with the same information I would find in my newsfeed, so why waste the time doubling up?
Before I knew it, I was hardly ever on Facebook.
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When True Friends Emerge
There were some people that I thought about and realized I had not spoken to for a while so I would text them or send them a private message. Some reciprocated and we continue to have many meaningful conversations on a regular basis that do not include a "like" button or a convenient comment visible to others. Other Facebook friends did not continue to reach out, and I found that very telling.
Then I started to realize how many of my Facebook friends were only friends because it was convenient, for myself as well as for them. Once it was no longer convenient, it was not worth the effort. And once their names were no longer placed right in front of me, I found some of them escaped my mind often. This is not a negative thing. It is, in fact, the natural progression of relationships which social media has made quite blurred.
But don't we deserve better than that? Do you really want to exert energy on people who only want the relationship if it's easy? When someone on your friends list flounces and leaves Facebook for a time and you do not reach out to them and they do not reach out to you, then why is their return to Facebook "because it's easier" to connect with you make you feel like friends again?
Let me give you some examples that you may be familiar with in your life as well:
One day not too long ago, I was bored so I hopped on Facebook and took a bunch of Which character from [insert random TV or movie title here] are you? quizzes and posted the results to my newsfeed. With fifteen minutes, three people reached out to me through personal message and even a phone call when they saw my name show up in their feed. A couple were just to say hi which led me to believe they forgot about me until they saw my name. I must admit, I did not feel very warm and fuzzy from that. But the third said something that really stuck with me. They said, "I saw you back on Facebook so I guess whatever was bothering you must be all right now." This person has my phone number, email address and even physical address. They assumed something was wrong but never chose to reach out until whatever was wrong was solved. Is this the kind of friend I want? Is this the kind of friend I deserve?
Another Facebook friend was always very active in clicking the "like" button and making funny comments on updates. When I was not on Facebook much, they were one of the first that I reached out to through text message. They responded and we chatted for a moment, never to hear from them again. That is, until I posted something on Facebook months later and there they were with an excited "lol." I became convenient.
Lastly, there was someone who I really enjoyed chatting with through Facebook statuses and my only mode of contact was Facebook so I did not want to lose that friend. I chose to send them a nice long message, sharing information, asking questions and attempting to deepen the connection. After one response, I have not heard from them again. I noticed recently that they are posting on Facebook three or four times a day sharing quite elaborate statuses. It was a very big sign of where I stood on their priorities list. Again, this is not a negative thing, but a very important piece of information when it comes to relationships.
We Deserve Better
I decided that I deserve better than that. My friends deserve better than that. You deserve better than that.
There are friends of whom I texted, called and personally messaged. Even some I sent actual snail mail greetings to. They responded, reciprocated and have continued to reach out regularly. I know what is happening in their lives and they know what is happening in mine. I find out big news through conversation instead of a mass-produced announcement. I can elaborate on thoughts and feelings beyond a couple of typed sentences limiting misunderstandings or upsetting assumptions. Our relationships have deepened and flourished. That is the kind of friendship everyone deserves.
So without a need to flaunt my bounce (in fact, without a need to bounce at all), Facebook is becoming an occassional form of entertainment. My newsfeed is now mostly filled with celebrity posts like a custom built magazine. However, my inbox and cell phone are booming with true friends and loved ones with whom I have never felt closer. When someone reaches out to me or I to them, we know it is because we want to. We are thinking about the other person. And we are willing to reach out despite whether or not is seems convenient or easy.
No more reaching out en masse. Just reaching out with love.
And that is the friendship we all deserve.