By: Anne T. Donahue
Every one of us hates Facebook. You hate it. I hate it. The elderly woman who uses ski poles to power walk in my neighbourhood every day hates it (probably). If I ever heard anybody sing its praises, I would assume they’d recently awoken from a several century slumber and stumbled upon it while celebrating the majesty of indoor plumbing. Facebook is the worst. Which isn’t new information.
But I still felt semi-attached to it. After all, Facebook was the gateway into a world of staying in touch with every person I’d ever met. It was the introductory course into judging acquaintances based on their internet presence, and gauging their successes on how many people liked their status updates. It turned us all into amateur spies, scrolling through years of tagged photos to determine whether or not our crushes were interesting or cool or surprise-terrible, and it gave us the platform through which we could brag about our accomplishments or what our plans were after work. (Shout-out to 2009 and my gorgeous habit of listing the shifts I was working in hopes of enticing the boy(s) I liked to come visit me.) Facebook, for a little while and a long time ago, set us up for the way we present ourselves digitally. It was the way we stayed in touch with certain family members and childhood pals – and also, all of our photos from 2006 where there.
But that was so long ago that writing about it just now almost felt like I was making things up. Because at some point, Facebook morphed into what it is now: the online equivalent of the elephant’s graveyard, where we must never, ever go lest we crave death; a place reserved for terrible memes and worse opinions and statuses that rival Moby Dick in length. Hell.
And yet, for a long time I couldn’t get rid of it. Did I use it? Barely. Was it a way to look up people I’d lost tabs on? Not really. Did it connect me to long lost friends and family members? No, because we either used Instagram (another Facebook extension – but let’s not get into it) or realized there was a reason we’d lost touch and barely engaged to begin with. But it was still Facebook. It was still familiar. What if I needed to get in touch with . . . somebody? So I kept it, cursing it daily.
Until I got a message from somebody I barely knew, the contents of which annoyed me to my very core. Granted, it wasn’t offensive or rude or mean, but it was a shining example of that quote in King of the Hill: “Are you attempting to know me?” The tone was a little too familiar and the message itself was completely out of the blue. Plus, since it came from somebody I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years, it was annoying and it irritated me, which are two unforgiveable offences I’ll hold a grudge over until I’m long dead. So I deleted the message, did one last feed scroll, lit Facebook on fire, and salted the earth where it once stood.
Or, more literally, I deactivated my account and evolved into that meme of Nicole Kidman celebrating her divorce from Tom Cruise, those many moons ago. I was free. Free from status updates from that girl in first year who has intense feelings about her child’s daycare. Free from misspelled song lyrics. Free from videos accompanied by the “makes you think” caption or the surprise revelation that who you sat next to in grade 12 law champions a right-wing government. But perhaps even more importantly, I was finally free from the parts of my past that should remain in the past. Because as much as I love to reflect and remember, I love Don Draper saying, “My life moves in one direction: forward” even more.
Nostalgia is one thing. A perpetual high school/college/university/first-real-job reunion is another. It’s okay not to stay connected with every person all the time. We lose touch for a reason, and why is that a bad thing?
It’s not. But in the same way I once got FOMO scrolling through Instagram (I’m too old now – go to your parties, I’ll see you in hell), I had the fear of FOMO every time I thought about deactivating Facebook. What if so-and-so said a thing? What if someone had a baby and I didn’t acknowledge it? What if people I wanted to impress from 2008 didn’t see the work I was doing now? Well: too bad. It doesn’t matter. Because if someone is my actual friend, we likely have each other’s phone numbers or Instagram handles, and I am too tired to stick around a party I haven’t wanted to be at in a long time, anyway. Especially since it usually means I get stuck in a digital corner, fielding messages from someone asking for a free download of my audiobook. (It’s like, $10. Please just download it normally or honestly even illegally and leave me in peace.)
And I know none of this is a revelation. I know “I left Facebook!” isn’t some gold star-earning proof of being cool. But goddamn it, you guys, I’m so happy it’s over. I’m so happy I don’t have to see relics pop up, reminding me that ten years ago I had a DIY blonde shag and wore three polo shirts at the same time. I’m so happy I don’t have to sift through event invites to improv shows or stag and does. I’m so happy I’m out of the loop because the loop I’m still in is just fine. I’m so happy I get to be Judy Garland in that clip of her singing “I don’t care.” Because I don’t! I don’t care. Maybe I’ll miss bananas-level status-announced news. Maybe I’ll wish I could see that photo what’s-his-name posted alongside lyrics to a song that’s oddly dramatic, but peppered with Emojis that don’t relate. Maybe I’ll be less of a voyeur (probably not), and learn to keep my eyes on my own paper (until I have to consult somebody’s tagged images on Instagram).
But also, who cares? I do not. I haven’t for a long time. And while I would love to end this with some profound revelation that I left Facebook for any reason other than it annoyed me, I cannot. Because ultimately, I just wanted to stop caring about something that didn’t matter. And I finally have. At least until I get bent out of shape over someone I thought I was cool with unfollowing me on Instagram. But that’s an essay for another day.