I'll admit it: when I originally deactivated my Facebook account in fall 2011, I did it to hide. I'd chickened out of graduate school abroad. My first "serious" relationship had come to a spectacular end. Explaining myself to almost everyone I had ever known was a terrifying prospect. In my own small way, I chose to emulate my teenage hero Richey Edwards and simply disappeared.
It's been almost a year and I can't say that I miss Facebook one bit. Sure, I lost touch with some acquaintances but that was inevitable when I moved to the other side of the country. I have a new found appreciation for emails and Gchat. Certain friends I converse with almost daily on Gchat; others I hear from every few weeks in the form of a lengthy email or old-fashioned phone call. I'm still in contact with my closest friends. I've got Twitter (under a pseudonym) to keep me abreast of interesting things happening in San Francisco.
While it has been debated, studies have shown that Facebook contributes to depression and feelings of extreme loneliness. Even some of my most well adjusted friends have commented on the constant stream of engagement and wedding photos making them question their own life choices. How could it not? Instead of being happy with our own lives and focusing on personal timelines and milestones, we're constantly bombarded with the news of our friends' accomplishments. While we can be happy for them, it's exhausting when we feel like we have to keep up.
Our online identities are carefully crafted. We choose only our most attractive photos to display on our profiles. We write status updates about the exciting things we're doing, places we're going and people we're with. When you're sitting alone in your room on a Friday night listening to Morrissey, it's easy to forget that your Facebook news feed is only a tiny fraction of what is happening in your friends' lives. It's only what they choose to share. Most people don't share the bad stuff. I know it's silly but I fell for the Facebook fiction. I felt like everyone had these fabulous, fulfilling lives while I was on the outside looking in.
Horror stories have been published about employers asking for job applicants' Facebook passwords. Recently, psychologists discovered that employers frown upon applicants without a Facebook presence. The lack of a profile raises many red flags: is this person anti-social? Was once tagged in too many party photos? Is he or she just pretentious?
It's clear that the work/life balance we once had is gone. Most employers used to respect an employee's personal life. Now, it can make or break your chances of being hired. In 2010, I landed my first post-college job. My boss joked that he almost didn't hire me because my Facebook page was unsearchable. Now I think he may have actually been serious.
With all of the negative press against Facebook (going public, anyone?) I can't help but wonder if it's slowly but surely going the way of MySpace. Facebook is no longer just a social media tool; it's overrun with advertisements and games. I loved Facebook while I was in college. It was a great way to keep in touch with my friends at different universities. It made organizing campus events a breeze. Now that I'm in the real world, Facebook just grates on me. Like Noel Gallagher once sang, "Am I cracking up or just getting older?" I don't think I'm alone in my feelings as it's gradually becoming cool to not be on Facebook.
Deactivating Facebook is incredibly freeing. I still have an Internet presence -- you can find me on LinkedIn and if you dig hard enough, even Twitter and Tumblr. I'm not trying to pretend like I was a Facebook saint when I had it. It's embarrassing now but I was the queen of "vaguebooking." A combination of passive aggression and sad song lyrics, I never wanted to directly address things that made me upset. It's a typical mindset when you're 22. Without Facebook I have more time to cultivate close friendships with people, even ones on the other side of the world. While I still maintain an Internet presence, I can focus on my professional appearance rather than my social one.