I quit facebook last year around July. Facebook is astoundingly hard to quit, not just because they hide the controls to do it and then don’t actually erase your data or delete your account so that you can, at any time, log in and everything is exactly the way it was when you left, but because even in a country like Japan which came relatively late to the facebook party, massive quantities of social life and business take place exclusively on facebook.
There are a few people in my community who do their primary marketing and public communications on facebook. I want to help them and be a part of their projects, but it is difficult for us to communicate because I refuse to use facebook and they refuse to use non-facebook. We end up only ever making plans when we run into each other at other events, or if one of us goes out of our way to chase the other down. This specific group of people frequently and unrelentingly try to get me back on facebook and usually the only way to shut them down is to remind them that I quit because it triggers my depression.
Not so long ago I was added to a group on facebook that I desperately want to be a part of. It is a closed group, joinable only by invitation, and it disseminates information about biking that I am most literally starving for. Suddenly I have a reason worth logging in for. I have browsed a few times in the last weeks, hungry for updates from this group, but still wary of the ill effects that facebook has on my mood, and it dawned on me exactly what it is about facebook that triggers such strong depressive states in me.
First, let’s all agree that baby photos, photos of your food, and political campaign messages are universally annoying. Beyond that, however, is a problem so very unique to facebook that I honestly do not know a solution, or even on whom the burden of solving it should lie. The problem is the following. In my life there are dreams I have carried for years that have not become accessible to me. Lately my focus is on bicycle related dreams, but there are many others. My friends are all people who share some sort of dream with me — you know, you make friends with people with similar interests — and so their facebook posts tend to be about the things that I dream about. This would be a good thing except that when I see my friends achieving what I have always wanted, but never figured out how to have, it shreds my confidence in my own abilities and qualities as a human. Furthermore, I often find myself wondering, “They know that this is something I’m desperately yearning for, and yet they don’t share it with me? Why not? Do they not care? Do they not want me as part of their life?” It doesn’t matter if I know that my reaction is more to the nature of facebook posts than to the people themselves, it still hurts. It hurts tremendously.
I hate facebook because it forces me to repeatedly see other people acquiring the things of my dreams and doing it without me. It hurts. I hate it. Naturally any non-insane person would know to stop doing something that hurts for sure, and so I tried to quit facebook, but my friends all want me back. What to do?
The most difficult aspect of the facebook dilemma is that I want my friends to achieve their dreams. I want my friends to be happy and I want them to share their happy with me. Moreover, if my friends acquire what I dream of, then I can ask them how to get those things myself, and as a result those things should become more accessible to me, too. Somehow, though, the latter never happens. Even though objectively I wish for my friends to go right on doing what they are doing, because they share on facebook and not to me in person, I always end up feeling left out, like I wasn’t invited to the party.
But what do you do? Do you tell your friends not to post about their successes? Or the fun they have? Of course not! Then facebook would ONLY be baby photos, food photos, (photos of edible babies?) and political hate speach. That can NOT be an improvement by anyone’s standards.
My only solution has been to walk away from facebook. I feel more isolated because I literally cannot join my friends in activities that they only advertise through facebook, but at least I do not incessantly hurt myself when I am alone and feeling vulnerable. And I can use the excuse that I don’t use facebook to make my friends tell me about their lives in person. Hell, I can even go chase them down and say, “Hey! What’s going on in your life? What have you posted on facebook for everyone else to see that I would be interested in knowing?” And you know what? Most of the time, they tell me! It’s hard, I won’t deny it. It’s stressful to always have to be the one to initiate contact. For sure, though, it’s better than the alternative.