When he said the words, “I deleted my Facebook,” I thought I was in an alternate universe.
“I’m sorry, what?” I dumbly asked again, convinced I had misheard such a ludicrous declaration.
“Well, I, like, decided to delete it. Kind of. On a whim. I wanted to see if I actually had as many friends in real life as I do virtually. It turns out I don’t.”
This wasn’t the first time I had encountered such claims. Deleting a Facebook, or going sans social media, appears to be an increasingly popular trend among my peers. Like, Veganism or rompers. This was probably about the third instance within a week where I had either met someone and wanted to exchange contact information, or an already-friend declared their Facebook had been deleted with a sense of colonial liberty. Half because they were sticking it to the universal “man”, and half because they were trying to look cool and nonchalant about the Internet.
On one hand, I get it. Facebook lends itself to a faux sense of popularity. Exhibit A: I have well over 1,000 “friends” on the popular social networking site. That’s a lot compared to most of my friends. When I post a status update, or a photo, I typically garner somewhere between 10-20 “likes” on that action – sometimes getting into the 50’s, on a good day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bragging. It’s just what I do. (I mean, I like to think that I have a decidedly unique snark about my posts that elicits comments, likes, and other digital kudos; but really, it all just happens.) If I don’t receive what I consider to be an appropriate response to the content I’ve posted, typically I either (a) cry, (b) eat my feelings or (c) listen to Tori Amos on repeat. Okay, so I don’t really do any of those, but there’s an obvious feeling of rejection that can’t be ignored.
I make this point to illustrate: If I walk into a bar, I guarantee you that 50 guys aren’t going to “like” me. The thumbs up I receive on social media aren’t a real litmus test for my popularity in the real world.
Many of the friends that I’ve witnessed delete their Facebook and/or other forms of social media, when asked to describe their post mortem experience, use phrases like, “Never been happier,” “So relieved,” and the best one, “I had to learn how to talk to people again.”
One woman I asked even said, “You know, it was scary. I immediately thought that I had no friends.”
Now let me go back to the guy that I referenced in the beginning of this post. We met a few weeks ago at a social networking event, and we hit it off immediately. Nothing romantic here, but it was seriously like kismet. We just had one of those “old soul” connections, and I could tell instantly that we were going to be good friends. So, when I asked him for his Facebook information (after I had already gotten his number), he confidently replied, “Oh, I don’t have a Facebook.”
“Why?” I asked. “Well, because I like to try and develop real, lasting friendships with the people I meet.” I took this as both a compliment, and a joke.
Sure, okay, whatever dude. I kind of rolled my eyes, and sloughed it off. He was an out-of-towner, and though I’ve just sung his accolades, I knew that without a Facebook friend request to formally bind our kinship we would forget about each other completely within mere days. So, okay, I told myself, let’s try this little experiment.
To my surprise, it worked. He was right. First there was texting. You know, just stupid stuff. Shared LOLs. And then phone calls talking about our – what? – lives. Sincere, honest-to-goodness phone calls. I know right?! Who calls each other any more? And now, four weeks later, we’re keeping in touch on a fairly regular basis, and I would consider him to be in the inside circle of my social life. Without Facebook.
So, what does this mean? I don’t really know. Honestly, social media is so deeply ingrained in my professional life, that I can’t possibly imagine getting rid of it. However, it does make me think back to simpler times of land line phones, passing notes in class, and the ability to jest in more than 140 characters. There’s a twinge of jealousy that I harbor for my friends that have gone Facebook free. It’s kind of like when all my friends did the Atkins diet, and I kept eating donuts. They’re probably better off, because if Facebook is the carbohydrate of the Facebook world then I’m in trouble. Between Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram I’m typically proud to say that connect 24/7. But now I’m not so sure if that’s claim to tout with quite such confidence.
I don’t think that Facebook is going anywhere, anytime soon. But I do think the next wave of social media is going to be have to be more organic. Something that fosters actual friendships, and not aspartame affirmations.
So the next time someone tells me they’ve deleted their Facebook, I’m probably still going to look at them like they’ve lost their mind – don’t get me wrong. But, now, I’m definitely going to give a little more pause to their claims, and take time to value the extra effort they’re giving their social lives.
(And curse that that’s one more “like” I won’t have on my wall.)