I'm Back on Facebook, But It's Still the Devil
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO—Three years ago, I made a coincidental New Year’s Resolution: I got rid of Facebook. Sitting on my couch, idly flipping the channels and lazing around, basking in the glory of the first cold, rainy January morning in New York where I didn’t have to work, I found myself logged onto Facebook.com. Realizing there was nothing worthwhile in the perusing of status updates, I closed out of the page, immediately pressed CTL+T to open a new tab, and typed www.f, auto-filling to facebook.com, followed by enter, finding myself on the exact same pointless page I had closed out only a split second earlier.
At that moment I Googled how to deactivate Facebook, and got rid of it. Checking my Facebook page was a tic; an addiction that had to be beaten. I took the stance that many who shy away from Facebook will support: if someone really wants to see me or get in contact with me, they’ll find a way. There’s always email.
I lasted for a long time. Sure, there were things I missed out on—some dank Internet memes, random invites to parties at which I’m tangentially connected to the host—nothing big, in the overall scheme of things. Without Facebook you won’t be without company on Thanksgiving, but there are tangential friends that you might have otherwise kept in touch with, should you have stayed.
It’s 2016, and we all rely on our iPhones and the connectivity they give us. When we’re off to somewhere we’ve never been, we don’t think twice about jumping in the car without a clue as to where we’re going: we can just get directions from Google Maps on our phones at the next stoplight. We’re all guilty of it. We rely on technology to the point where we’ve lost the inclination to use our brains to solve problems. We simply turn to the small, magical device in our pockets instead.
People use Facebook the same way. If you meet someone traveling, it’s assumed that you’ll connect on Facebook. Very few people will take the pain to trade email addresses, phone numbers, or physical addresses, because Facebook is the default method of communication in the 21st century. It’s like the Yellow Pages in the good old days—if you wanted to be found, you’d list yourself. If you didn't want to be found, you didn't list yourself. And if you didn't list yourself...well, people didn't have much of a way to keep in touch with you, did they?
Over the past year, I’ve reluctantly reengaged on Facebook for this reason. I see it as a necessary evil—it’s a forum for communication, but it's essential for keeping in touch with people. It’s a place to post that I’m in San Francisco for the weekend, to see who else might be there. It's a forum for connecting with someone that I met at a party, and want to play poker with the next week. It’s how we millennials communicate, and I don’t want to miss out on that. I do want to be found, I just don't want all the bullshit that comes with having a Facebook account.
I’m already tired of Facebook’s antics. Ten years ago, when I first created an account, it was strictly for networking by college students. When I logged in and saw a little red notification, it meant something exciting—that someone posted a new picture of me, or that a friend shared a music video on my wall. Perhaps there was a party that weekend, and I was being invited. Logging on to Facebook was a great way for people to communicate with each other individually, and that’s how it was used: when I got a little red notification, it meant someone was looking to contact me.
Today when I log onto Facebook, I always have a little red notification…but it’s also always meaningless. It’s alerting me to someone’s birthday, or that a friend posted on the wall of a group I’m a member of. Maybe someone “liked” a comment on a thread that I had already commented on…or it could be a Farmville request. Yes, I know, I can go into my settings and disable this stuff. But to me, it’s an indicator of how we as a society use Facebook. We use it to waste time, and we use it to communicate with our Facebook community as a whole—not just our friends who are on Facebook.
It’s a vital tool for communication, and one that I’ve decided I don’t want to be without, but its “purpose” has gone far beyond keeping in touch—it’s now where people while away hours, debating politics in forums terrifyingly unsuited for such conversations, mindlessly scrolling through photos of “friends” they don’t care about, or clicking on advertised links to read news articles they’re uninterested in, all the while sharing content with the community as a whole.
Facebook has changed little since I got rid of it three and a half years ago. It’s still a time-sucking vortex that people become overly addicted to, including myself. I find myself mindlessly logging on, an impulse that I do my best to control, but as a society we’ve become addicted to the point that it’s difficult to not be a member of this network. If you want to stay in touch with your friends, especially as a traveler, having a Facebook account is a necessary evil—even if it is the Devil.