I joined Facebook on December 31, 2007. My first two status posts were that I was going to see the movie “National Treasure 2,” and that my golden retriever died, both downers in their own way.
I had resisted Facebook for about a year, and after hearing friends raving about how great it was, I finally gave in and joined the bandwagon.
In the beginning, it was great. The thrill of finding someone I haven’t talked to for twenty years, having really entertaining discussions and a feeling of being connected with friends. But in the five years since then, I find the value diminished, and that Facebook changed me in ways that I don’t like.
It made me think more about myself. When I log on to Facebook, the status field says “What’s on your mind, Joel?” or “How are you feeling, Joel?” I found myself thinking more about myself, and the more I thought about me, the worse I felt. Even reading other people’s status updates frequently made me think about myself and compare myself with them, especially if they were doing something more exciting that I was.
I found that Facebook makes small things big and big things small. It puts a tsunami and the Superbowl on the same level. It creates many mini controversies where people get all fired up about something for five minutes, before moving on to the next controversy. When everything is a crisis, nothing is important. Getting caught up in all of these mini controversies takes a lot of energy and usually doesn’t solve any problems, and distracts me from seeing the big picture and what is really important.
Facebook made me like people less. It came to the point where you could not have a serious discussion on Facebook without it breaking down to a fight, with everybody making points to back up their side and nobody listening. Nobody’s mind is ever really changed by a Facebook discussion. Even people whose political views I share irritate me on Facebook. It feels like everyone takes themselves way too seriously, and people have lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. If your identity is so wrapped up in your political affiliation that you will lose a friend over a conversation about tax policy, you need to get out more and read some things other than websites that agree with you.
So I wound up removing the more opinionated people from my newsfeed, which removed the discussions, but then left me with a very bland newsfeed, filled mainly with people complaining about not being able to sleep or being sick.
I found myself looking to Facebook “likes” for affirmation. Posting something witty and having a bunch of people like it gave me a rush. When I posted something and nobody “liked” it, I would feel down. I found myself obsessively logging in to Facebook multiple times per day and looking to see if the little red notification number was displayed. I felt like I had to log in when I got up in the morning, just to “check Facebook,” and that became like a job (which didn’t pay anything) and took my focus away from the things that are more important.
So between the obsessive “I have to check Facebook” feeling and fishing for “likes,” Facebook has become for me a weird combination of a job that doesn’t pay and a bad day at middle school worrying whether or not people like me. Of course, your experience may be different. Maybe you can use Facebook as a productive communication tool. For me, I need a break.