I had a facebook account for about two and a half years, a time during which I used it, as many of my friends did, for the bulk of my social planning and interaction. For a while, mainly in mid-high school, I accepted it as the status quo of social life.
The reason I originally stopped using Facebook, back in October, was that I felt like it was becoming too much of an artificial world for me personally. That is, I started to notice that a lot of the social constructs it creates that were causing me anxiety were, in fact, totally artificial and unnecessary for my social life. Like I’d meet a cute girl in real life and then immediately be worried about how long I should wait to friend her on facebook, or why she hadn’t written on my wall yet, or something like that. Facebook was becoming way too much like real life, in the sense that its constructions were affecting me in a very real way.
I understand that the type of issues that I mentioned aren’t the fault of Facebook at all, but rather a result of the manner in which I was causing myself to experience it. They all stem from some deeper issue with me, I’m sure, but I noticed that a convenient way to get rid of that issue was to just delete my facebook. So that’s why I don’t have one anymore.
It just occurred to me that I would be a decent subject for a study on what happens to a mildly social internet person when you take away his facebook. Going in, in October, my first thought before actually doing it was that I would be completely free of the restricting online atmosphere I found myself in, that suddenly cutting my lifeline to my social network would cause me to happily revert to the use of phones and email to do my socializing. This was initially the case after I went through with the deletion, but, predictably, it lasted for about five days. That was how long it took me to realize that I needed some kind of online presence (for what reason I don’t know) and to set up this very blog. Also, about two weeks after that, I registered on Twitter. It would seem that, although I fully expected at the outset to be more or less content with no internet life, that ended up being very far from the truth.
The week of no social networks and my continuing lack of a facebook have both helped me appreciate telephony more than I ever had before, both for its convenience and its intimacy (compared to text-based internet communication), and this is a continuing process. Despite that, it seems that I was, for whatever reason, compelled to reassert my online identity hardly a week after ridding myself of it. The question on my mind now is why did I feel that need, and why am I now compelled to collect and hoard Twitter followers and blog readers, just as I hoarded facebook friends before? Is it a psychological issue that some segment of the population suffer from that causes us to seek the approval of people we don’t know? Quite possibly – I’m not at all ready to throw out that hypothesis. But what I’m more inclined to believe is that this issue is something that many (if not most) of my generation experiences. I don’t know, but I imagine it affects (or will soon start affecting) younger generations as well.
I feel like my generation (I’m lumping into that category people who were in middle or high school in 2004, the year that Facebook launched) have developed a compulsion to be connected to the world at all times, mostly through the internet. A lot of web companies started to blow up right around the time that socialization was becoming important to people my age, and the influence of organizations like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Myspace, Bandcamp, and Wikipedia is clearly visible by the impression they’ve left on our worldview. In a sense, these organizations have grown up with us. It’s uncommon these days to find a person between 17 and 25 who doesn’t have a facebook account, and even less common to find one who doesn’t use any social networking services. The point isn’t “check out how many people in this age group use these sites”, but really it’s “why do they all use them?” And that is a pretty good question.