I’ve been wanting to do a post in defense of Facebook for a while now. It’s an ironic time for it, since I’m actually taking a break from Facebook right now. I don’t have much of a plan, except that I’ll be off at least until October. Maybe until November. Maybe the rest of the calendar year. I don’t know.
I do get all the hate about Facebook. Boy, do I. There’s the issue of privacy. There are the studies hinting that Facebook makes us unhappy. There are arguments that Facebook makes us lazy in our relationships. And, of course, there’s the fact that most people, when posting on Facebook, are carefully crafting an unrealistic online presence that makes us feel like we’re miles behind those people and doing things all wrong.
That last bit was my primary reason for taking a FB break. Envy is my greatest struggle, and what with feeling really shitty about being single right now, the weddings/engagements/updated relationship statuses and the photos of all the nauseatingly adorable couples doing nauseatingly adorable couple things is turning me into a bitter old hag and … I just needed to step away and take a few deep breaths.
Then there’s the other, non-relationship stuff I’ve touched on before. People are moving on to new jobs, getting advanced degrees, purchasing houses, traveling to exciting places, and doing other things that make me look around my semi-messy one-bedroom apartment where I spend the day working in my pajamas and eating Brussels sprouts and chicken fingers and swooning back and forth between Tom Hiddleston and C.S. Lewis and wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life.
However … even though taking a break from Facebook has been good for my envy struggles, it has been detrimental to my emotional well-being in other ways. I don’t have many close friends, geographically speaking. Making new ones is difficult. As I’ve said before, all of my local friends are married, which adds even more constraints for spending time together. Facebook has always been vital in helping me keep in touch with the 97% of my friends who do not live in the same metropolitan area as I do, and I’ve cut myself off from that. I feel more isolated without Facebook. I don’t like it.
Sure, maybe I’m one of those people who has gotten lazy from using Facebook. Maybe it’s an abusive relationship I’m addicted to. But the major factor behind the pain of my withdrawal is that, despite all its flaws, Facebook is incredibly helpful for me. I’m working through this withdrawal at least, by sending out personal emails to individual people I still want to keep up with outside of Facebook.
But still … Instead of writing long emails with the same content to different people, I can post a few sentences in a status or a link to my blog or write on their profiles or send them a FB message, all from one website. I can read an article posted by Friend A and use the handy ‘share’ button for Friend B. And if the couples get too annoying, I can always hide them from my newsfeed, or unfriend them entirely (only in extreme cases, of course). And I’m not the kind of person who has 783 Facebook friends, the majority of whom were added after 5 minutes of acquaintance and then never spoken to again. The people I’m FB friends with are people I actually want to talk to (…most of the time). Yes, a few of my FB friends are people I’ve never met in person, but there is always some other connection, like a mutual friend.
For all its flaws, Facebook does help me feel less lonely and more connected. If that makes me a pathetic shut-in, okay then. If you don’t get that same experience from Facebook, if it’s not your cup of tea, if you can’t get over some of the other annoyances, I will not judge you. But since it’s somewhat fashionable to hate on Facebook, I just wanted to clear my throat and speak up a little in its defense.