I am a recovering Facebook addict. I have not made a post in three days. OK, not that impressive, I get it. Still, if you knew the lengths I have gone to and the gravity of the situation from which I am recovering, I think you’d understand.
It all began six years ago, way, way back in 2005. I was in my senior year of high school. My sister was a cool college freshman and had just discovered a new networking tool that was quickly devouring sites like Xanga, Livejournal, and even Myspace. They called it Facebook. The only catch? You had to be invited by a current member.
When I got my invite, I felt like I’d gotten backstage passes to a U2 concert or VIP seats at Paris Hilton’s hangout. I was on top of the world. And what’s more, I discovered, during an experiment of friending about two dozen of my sister’s acquaintances, that you did not even need to know people to be considered their friend!
Though I wasn’t actually in college and my number of friends was a lie, I still felt good knowing that I was part of something. I had a status. I had 54 friends, and by golly, no way was I turning back.
From there, I began posting incessantly. I quickly discovered that it didn’t mean anything to say what a great time you had at the fair unless you had a picture to show what a great time you had at the fair. I began uploading everything from my main course to my new hair style. Everyday activities became publicity stunts formulated to advertise what a wonderful life I had.
Picture uploading was merely one of the unspoken rules. Status updates were made for the sole purpose of getting others to “like” them and/or comment. They essentially didn’t exist if others didn’t acknowledge that you wrote them. And of course, if you weren’t in a relationship, it was better to pretend. Forming romantic attachments with friends was a viable option, of course. Then there was the “it’s complicated” feature, which was vague enough to keep people guessing.
Likes and comments became food for my soul, a pat on the back for my cleverness and insight into everyday life. Of course, after college, I began to work more and my opportunities to post on Facebook became fewer and fewer. Still, I made a valiant effort, commenting on friends’ posts, updating my status when I got the chance, logging in to Facebook only to refresh the page moments later, hoping for recent activity.
It was around this time that I had my breakthrough. I started to feel disappointment when a status or two went without a single like or comment. I began to look at others’ posts with jealousy. Every party, every promotion a friend highlighted, I looked at with envy, wondering, “Why isn’t that happening to me?”
A friend of mine uploaded a picture of a beautiful ring her boyfriend had gotten her. I asked mine why he never bought me anything. I saw photos of friends hanging out and asked myself why I didn’t socialize more often. It was then that I realized: I was putting more energy into my fake life on Facebook than participating in my real one!
I discovered that I can enjoy a party without everyone knowing I attended it. It is possible to take pictures and not upload them for the world to see. And when I realized this, I began to see everything more clearly. And when you think about it, no one posts every job loss, every argument with their significant other, every ailment. They want people to see the good stuff. It was then that I accepted that I was, well, normal.
Someone could be sitting in front of my profile page right now, envying my trips, my family, my boyfriend. But I no longer care. I see Facebook for what it is, and yes, I still log in daily. However, as I continue my road to recovery, I am appreciating more and more just how exciting my life, outside Facebook, really is. No comments or likes necessary.