Sometimes when I tell people I’m not on Facebook, I get a look comparable to what I’d get if I said my girlfriend just impregnated me and I’m due next week. I can just see the gears spinning, not catching, in their minds. “What?!”
And then there’s the rare non-Facebooker, and we leap into each other’s arms, high-five, and revel in our camaraderie – all in good fun and just joking, of course.
This wasn’t always the case, though; that’s for fucking sure. I lived on the site until about two years ago, when I deactivated. Day and night, first thing, last thing – it was a challenge for me to leave an event undocumented, a comment ignored. And years before that, I was all about MySpace. I hand-coded my page full of young, gothy, dreamy, sexually confused angst. I loved it.
Aside from the obvious explanation about Facebook being a time-suck in an already jam-packed life, my decision to quit was more than that for me.
I have this personality trait (quirk? hindrance?) but when someone tells me a story, my attention is fully on. I listen. I absorb. I usually remember. As far as conversation goes, it’s disorienting to be spread out between numerous conversations at once. At a party or a concert, it’s all fun and silliness – not actual topics that matter – but Facebook is generally not like that. People often want to communicate something of importance, whether they’d admit it or not. Sharing their life, their memories, their passions – all in real time.
On Facebook it was nearly impossible for me to ignore the passing stream of lives of the people I cared about most: my family of friends. In my epic and endless strive for balance (I’m listening to Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope” as I type), it tipped the scales too much. I felt an obligation. In retrospect, it wasn’t healthy. I was occupying my time, so I didn’t use those moments (read: hours) to assess my situation.
In full disclosure, all that explains why I haven’t gotten back on, but not why I deactivated it when I did. I shut it down almost immediately after I started the process of annulling my brief marriage and marching my sexual orientation through the Colorado court system.
Just a few weeks before that process began, my Facebook page was full of candid wedding pictures (not the professional ones – I never saw those), congratulations from everyone I knew, all the lead-up posts about the upcoming nuptials, and everything related. Talk about an out-of-body experience.
While all of that was occurring in my real life before coming out, Facebook almost provided a looking glass through to the life I thought I should have. It’s a representation of how I wanted my relationship to appear, though I had no awareness of that at the time. It’s easy to buy into the existence that’s up there – picture-by-picture, update-by-update – on the infinite scroll. Not in every aspect, of course – my page had tons of pictures of my amazing friends, genuine experiences, albums of my gorgeous nieces and my family – but there was this aspect that was almost wishful thinking. I could almost reflect on it and be convinced. And after everything went down, it was so intense to see dichotomy in living color once the veil fell.
I’ve briefly signed back on a couple times since to make sure privacy was at the max and to snag a few pics, and it was nothing short of time travel. Everything was exactly how it was: frozen in time.
That’s the thing about Facebook. No deletion, just deactivation. Shut off your profile and it always exists in the ether, no matter what, and it would take weeks to delete everything from day one.
I’ve been through so much since then, and there’s no real record like everyone else has. It’s amazing – no matter how deep I’ve dived personally, my Facebook account is still sitting behind the scenes just as it was. Maybe that’s good for me.
Facebook adds color, communication, connection and ease – I do miss that. Maybe I’m missing out, but for now, I’m content.
It’s funny – when I discussed the concept of this column before writing it, I got a lot of “That’s a lot to say about Facebook. I don’t know if it’s that important.”
But when not on it, I am frequently asked to defend why not. I guess this is my answer.