Stepping back: gaining perspective on Facebook

By Memory Jade |

On Aug. 1, I elected to take a month off and forgo my duties as a Facebook entertainer. My main goals in doing so were to reset my mind, strengthen my active relationships and impact others by encouraging them to question how social media is affecting their lives.

It is difficult to gauge how successful an experiment is without hard evidence. What I can say is that deleting my Facebook was the best and worst decision I ever made.

Before I deactivated my account, I was desperately struggling with my identity. I did not have answers to important questions like what I wanted to do after college, where I was interning, if I was traveling or if I had updated my resume. If I did have an answer, it was the wrong one. Instead, I was spending ample amounts of time comparing my raw, real, physical life to the successes that my peers were posting on Facebook.

I am not going to talk about privacy issues, wasting time or negativity, because that is the equivalent of reading the side effects on the back of an Advil bottle. You know it could destroy your liver, but you are going to take it regardless.

The true issue with social media is that its purpose is to create an alternate identity. It’s you…but better. Users post their most attractive photos, articles that present controversial issues, statuses that make them sound funny, all in attempts to be the perfect person.

So here is the truth: Wherever people are in their lives, they will still have failures, vices, baggage  and these weaknesses are not going to be presented to the public. Ever. Nobody can be vulnerable enough to show who they truly are, whether it be on Facebook or in real life.

My second issue with Facebook, and social media in general, is that it diminishes the authenticity of relationships. The benefit of having online connections is that people can communicate, no matter the distance. It brings people closer – so to speak.

However, in my month of self-restraint, relationships with friends and family – both near and far – seemed to only grow. I had no choice but to visit, call, write or even text. It brought integrity to the relationship. During my experiment I kept up with about 50 people at the max; this included people I worked with, friends from school, old friends from home and family. Out of 743 Facebook “friends,” I kept in touch with a humble 50.

As my month of living without Facebook came to a close, I realized how much I enjoyed not being plugged in or consumed by another world. I was living in reality, where nothing else mattered but me.

Is it selfish to want solitude? People have been doing it for years.

The unfortunate truth is that Facebook is the now heart of communication. It connects you to clubs and events. It keeps you constantly up to date with friends and trends 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It allows you to send out a hundred invitations without licking an envelope.

Facebook fits into this era’s pace of quick and convenient. In this rat race, it really is survival of the fittest, and if you want to get anywhere, you need the tools to get there. The key is to learn how to use the tools properly.

When I deleted my Facebook, everyone asked me why I did it. I told them it is an excellent resource, but one that should be used with reservations. Having an account comes with responsibilities.

I challenge those who use social media to rely on it just a little bit less, to call a friend instead of “like” their status, to delete the app from their phone and check it once a day (if at all). Take photos because you want to savor the moment, not because you want to impress your friends online. Most importantly, take time to disconnect virtually and reconnect face to face.

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