For many of us, Facebook has become a way of life. I don’t know about others, but the first thing in the morning after washing my hands and brushing my teeth, I sign on Facebook to see what’s happened since I went to sleep. I scroll down on my wall with the eagerness of a drug addict ready for his next fix. I notice the few new postings (a new selfie, a cute dog, an historic picture of manly women from the 1920s, and a rant about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). Just like a fully fledged narcissist, I check how many likes my latest post received. Usually, the number is disappointingly low. But what is even more disappointing is acknowledging just how much I have conditioned myself for this type of validation.
So, I have made a New Year’s resolution to break the habit. Starting January 1, 2016, I will no longer be on Facebook.
Facebook has become a familiar presence in my life that I know will be hard to leave behind. Perhaps too hard. But it’s worth a shot. I know that the people who truly care about me will want to stay in touch. We still have email addresses, don’t we? I still have my hardly-used Twitter account that I will use more now that I’ll have no status updates until I decide to cancel it as well. Not being on Facebook may lead to more phone conversations or texting. And then, there is the old fashioned way of communicating that seems as ancient by now as smoke signals: writing letters.
Why is it that I no longer feel the need to post more news items every day I find soul-shakingly important? Because by now, my acquaintances and friends know all too well my positions on the Middle East, on politics, and on life in general from the many comments and posts I have made in the last few years. In fact, they must know my thinking so well that they have practically stopped providing any feedback on my posts at all. Then again, it may be for other reasons the likes and the comments have dwindled to close to zero lately.
Still, it pains me to see the minimal (or no) likes on posts I intended to carry much weight, only to see dozens of likes on rather frivolous ones. After all, why don’t my Facebook friends react to my outrage when I see the biased media coverage on Israel? Why don’t I see more feedback on news about my work into which I had put so much energy and effort? Why doesn’t anyone care about my posts on the political cesspool that is Hungarian politics today? The habitual lack of feedback infuriates me. And therein lies the problem.
It should not!
Facebook has prompted me to seek instantaneous feedback, to post my thoughts, not to mention images of myself and my family, more quickly than I would ever do in a more contemplative mood without Facebook. And to what effect? The rare occasion my posts garner a sizable number of likes translates into a fleeting and insubstantial sensation of pleasure or resentment that threaten to lead me into inflating or deflating my own sense of ego. Of course, I tell myself that I have a more healthy sense of ego to let such things affect it. Still, my awareness that I give it a second thought at all it makes me want to take action now.
Therefore, I resolve to spend more time concentrating on my work and selecting more fulfilling entertainment. Learning, reading, writing, correcting essays, researching, writing emails to friends and family who care to stay in touch, taking walks, meditating, praying, exercising, and making music are all infinitely more important than staring at the familiar blue and white screen that is increasingly being populated with “suggested posts” as Facebook launches into its money making phase. It was bad enough trying to see what posts mattered. The Facebook experience will likely worsen as Facebook users are made to navigate around a stream of paid advertisements even as fewer and fewer people on one’s friends list actually see genuine personal posts with more filtering built into the system. Even now, I have no idea how many people on my friends list actually see anything I post.
Certainly, I may end up missing some truly touching updates about tragic personal losses, or wonderful news of various life cycle events. But I know I will survive just as I did before 2006. What’s more, I will thrive once again by doing what truly matters in life.
Deactivating my Facebook account will be a stab in the eye of the growing monster of misplaced narcissism I fear Facebook has been feeding in me lately. It will also spare me from having to see how some of my “friends” are moving farther down the road towards losing any sense of compassion and humanity as they take positions on current political events that are totally antithetical to mine all the while refusing to be engaged in a meaningful debate. (As if meaningful debate were even possible on Facebook).
Friends, Acquaintances, and Strangers! Lend me your ears. Please don’t take this personally. It’s not really you. It’s me.
I hereby collectively “Like” all of your future updates about yourselves, your poems, your children, your parents, your political rants, your perspicuous readings of events, and even of your dogs and cats. Of course, this very last paragraph is enough of a testament to just how narcissistic Facebook has allowed me to become. Here I am, worrying about how you’ll feel once I am not on Facebook when the sad fact is that you will not even have noticed my absence if not for this self-promoting newsflash.
On January 1st, I will no longer check in to see in the morning to see what happened over night on Facebook (and I will be on time for the morning prayers).
Where Facebook ends, life begins.