Since I rather reluctantly jumped on the Facebook bandwagon in 2009 (after my contacts migrated from Multiply), I’d succeeded in quitting the site for a longish period of time only once, in 2011. I still felt like posting a lot about my life then, and Facebook didn’t have the Friends Lists option that allowed one to limit the audience for one’s posts. I got protective of my privacy and disliked the culture of exhibition, incessant articulation, and spectacle of the self that the site encouraged (and now made the norm), so I quit FB. I lasted three months before I was persuaded to activate my profile again by new friends from various parts of the archipelago I met while traveling.
Everyone and everything seems to be on Facebook these days, from my mother, kindergarten crush, and random-people-I-hiked-with-once-on-some-mountain, to my favorite authors and bands and small businesses, to organizations I belong to or work for. FB is supposed to be a tool for fostering social connection (and personal or product marketing, haha), but I don’t really use it as such; I use it primarily as an archive of interesting stuff I find or make online and offline. But though I don’t spend much time browsing or commenting on the posts (brainfarts, Thought Catalog links, selfies and other photos of food, posh getaways, food, lovey-dovey dates, food, throwbacks, food, etc.) of Most Other People (i.e. neither one of my close friends nor object-of-admiration-or-desire), I still find myself spending an incredible amount of time on the site clicking on Things of Interest from news articles and thought pieces to webcomics, Buzzfeed lists, YouTube videos, memes, and puppy GIFs.
The volume of my activity on Facebook is inordinate. Overwhelming. Unhealthy. Sometimes, it keeps me up at night or takes time away from work or a workout (I tend to finish what I started reading, which is problematic in the context of click-baiting and multiple tabs). But it’s unhealthy in emotional ways, too. Like I said, I don’t really use Facebook to “connect”—indeed, it’s more like a fender to connection for me (in our age of different time zones, varying work shifts, and myriad tech, to connect on a more intimate level—to call someone or meet up and talk face to face—takes gumption and effort, and who has the time for that these days?). When I miss someone, I stalk his Facebook page rather than ask him how he’s doing. When I’m upset, I read a gazillion poems and flood my timeline with excerpts and links, and not talk to anyone. Instead of getting to know people, I browse their posts and decide whether or not I like them on that account. I say you can’t ascertain my humanity by browsing my Facebook profile (since I hardly ever talk about my feelings or social life there), but I find that the more time I spend on FB, the less like a person I feel. Instead of reaching out, I build this digital wall of distraction around me so I feel like I don’t need to dip into the mess of human interaction to be sufficiently amused—or even happy.
This is not to say that I’m doing away with Facebook altogether, because I have found it delightfully functional for documentation and archiving, and I have nurtured meaningful friendships using the site. But I want to get away from it for a bit to recalibrate my standards of what is necessary, what is unnecessary but expedient, what is neither necessary nor useful but isn’t harmful either, and what is downright stupid, and to restrain myself from engaging in more of the latter. I think of this hiatus as a little housekeeping for my virtual mindspace. Here’s to hoping I’ll find the will to let go of clutter.