About two-and-a-half months ago, I came to a disturbing realization: I had become the worst kind of Facebook user. Facebook is meant to be used to exchange information: I post on your wall. And you post on mine. I had removed the former: however, when I would go on Facebook, I would rarely post anything or even chat anyone. Mostly, I would scroll up and down my newsfeed, occasionally clicking on links or creeping on people’s photos. I had become a Facebook ghost. I was still there, still observing, but since I never contributed anything, I was unobservable, and thus, invisible. So, one day, I decided to do what many thought impossible. I made a clean break and am proud to report I haven’t relapsed either. Hi. My name is Ezer Smith, and I have gone 70 days without logging in on Facebook.
The more time I spend away from Facebook, the more I realize how few real advantages I actually reaped from it. Sure, it was a quick and easy way to communicate with friends (not “friends”), because they would usually be on at the same time I was. But now
that I think about it, there were very, very few times that I couldn’t also have reached them via email, text, or by a good-old-fashioned phone call. Most of the time I spent on Facebook wasn’t even enjoyable. As soon as I would open my computer, I would feel compelled to pull up Facebook. And I would just sit there, staring, drone-like, and not even aware of how much time was passing.
So, does Facebook have any real advantages at all? Sure, if you’re the marketing director of a small business, if you’re organizing an event, or if you communicate with people internationally or across time zones in general. Facebook is a really useful marketing and advertising tool, and it can help one keep in touch with others who are far away. But for most high school students, it’s really just a luxury, a time-waster.
The funny thing is that most time wasters, like video games and movies are an escape from the routine of daily life. Facebook is a stylized version of that daily life. On Facebook, you can create not only a copy of yourself, but also an idealized copy. You can choose the best picture of yourself as your profile picture, which details of your life others can know about, what links, statuses, and pictures you post, and what groups to join. All of these contribute to a “you” that probably isn’t accurate. Yes, it may be true that you play soccer and that your favorite TV show is The Colbert Report, but that picture of you scoring a ridiculous goal doesn’t show the many times you’ve missed. And you probably don’t want to mention that your favorite cooking show is Rachael Ray. Why? Because it’s all about image.
I remember a few times last year when someone posted a status on Facebook that contained a controversial opinion. This was a big deal. Why? Because it was a crack in the perfect armor that we put on when we create a Facebook profile. We like to see mistakes on Facebook because it makes us feel better about our own profiles, which is utterly ridiculous. There’s even a website where people can post stupid things other people say on Facebook, called lamebook.com. In fact, people’s mistakes on Facebook often get more attention than the ones they make in real life, because on Facebook, everyone is expected to be an ideal version of themselves.
My biggest mistake where Facebook was concerned was that I took it all as gospel. I assumed, erroneously, of course, that what I saw on someone’s profile was the complete, unadulterated version of who he/she were. Everyone looked like they had so much fun! Their posts and statuses were so thoughtful, and funny, and interesting! I began to walk down the hall at school and think, “Oh, here’s _____. She just went to the Justin Bieber concert and had A LOT OF FUN, and she hangs out with their friends all the time, and she plays volleyball. That’s ______ in a nutshell.” Looking back, that seems absurd. Rather than comparing what I personally knew and saw of them on a daily basis compared to their Facebook profile, I was doing the opposite. The stylized “them” had become the real “them,” and as a result, I began to think I was walking around in a school full of perfect people. I began to compare myself to these “perfect people.” Why couldn’t I be so good at sports, or so funny, or so intelligent? I was caught in a web of posts and pictures, statuses, and updates.
Of course, that’s just me. I could be the only person who has used something I saw on Facebook to define someone I see in real life. I could be the only person who has ever tried to “patch up” some spots in his Facebook resume. But I don’t think that’s the case. Socializing on Facebook has become as much a part of our social lives as socializing at school and at football games. In a way, it has replaced our real-life interactions, and I think that’s dangerous. When the line between the real and the fake is blurred in our social lives, that line becomes blurred in our mind as well. High school is already such an amalgam of boasts, facades, and carefully drawn images. It doesn’t need any more artificiality than it already has. Now that I am off Facebook, that all seems so clear. What’s most incredible to me is the difference in how I see people. I no longer think, “Facebook profile” when I look at someone, because I honestly can’t remember anything specific that anyone posted. Maybe that’s because that which is real naturally sticks in our minds better than that which is fake. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Written by Ezer Smith’13