My Big Facebook Mistake

Monday, May 20, 2013

I really love social media. Right? Obviously. No one's surprised to hear that the girl who joined Twitter way before anyone understood why Twitter was fun (Twitter hipster?), who turned her social media hobby into a full-time social media position, has an affinity for, uh, social media. In fact, a coworker recently said to me, "I just realized i have no idea what you do with yourself when you aren't working," & my answer was pretty much, "When I'm not doing social media, I do social media."

It seems that every blogger on the planet has written about taking a break from Facebook, & I've always read their posts, rolled my eyes, & clicked that X in the right-hand corner. I've never felt stressed by the online space (or so I thought), & I had no interest in ratcheting down my own use.

And then... that day came.

A few months ago, I started feeling burnt out on the Internet. For the last year, being active on social media has been my full-time job - & suddenly, I started to feel way overexposed. Look at all the shiny Internet things! They take up so much time & energy & effort! Also within the last year, my anxiety has level has ramped up close to its summer 2010 status, which is to say that I'm perpetually on edge & tense at nearly all times. When I was able to take a step back & try to figure out why the anxiousness returned, I had to be honest with myself: The Internet was overwhelming me.

I'm careful about my online presence, somewhat cultivated. I'm honest & raw, but I don't share everything - & I truly try not to overshare anything. But everything is just so public: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the blog, you name it. And with my anxiety worsening, I suddenly felt like the whole world was watching, like I'd let too many people get too close - & I decided I wanted to whittle down the audience.

On a whim, I deleted hundreds of people from my list of Facebook friends, trying to create a smaller space. I deleted almost everyone I work with. I deleted anyone I wouldn't feel comfortable wishing a happy birthday. I deleted almost everyone whose socio-political views make me angry. I deleted all the blogger friends I've never met in person. I deleted people I haven't spoken to since college, people I never really knew, friends or friends, my mother's friends... anyone who wasn't family, a close "real-life" friend, or absolutely fascinating. But you know what? I had so many "friends" on my Facebook list that I couldn't even get through them all without getting exhausted, so I began to just weed them out as I saw them, indiscriminately.

And then Elissa died. Elissa died, & I saw how her Facebook page blew up with love, with people who wanted to create a community around the sense of loss that her death left for us, whether we knew one another or not. At her funeral, her mom asked some of our friends to continue posting happy memories to her Facebook page so that the family could enjoy those stories & conversations.

Suddenly, I felt like I'd made the wrong decision. Why did I feel the need to delete so many people? Is not being super-close reason enough to remove someone from my life entirely? Facebook provides us the opportunity to connect with people we wouldn't otherwise be able to connect with - & so long as we're connecting with people we like being connected to, what's the harm? Does someone need to be my real-life best friend in order to make it onto my list of Facebook friends? Isn't there room in my life for other people, too? So long as I'm paying special attention - & outside-of-Facebook attention - to the people who have a real impact on my life, is it necessarily a bad thing to be connected to a number of people who only exist within my life in the online sphere?

The questions go on & on, & the answers aren't necessarily black & white. In fact, I'm sure many people have different answers to those questions than I do, & that's why disconnecting makes sense for them. For me, though, the answer has become clearer: I like connecting with people, & I like connecting with people through Facebook. If my anxiety is creeping up, it's on me to sort it out - but limiting my social circles, even my online ones, is not an answer to that problem.

This is all to say that I made a mistake, & I can't really undo it without looking like a moron. Luckily, some folks have already re-friended me, no questions asked, & I'm pretending like it never happened (unless they're reading this blog post, in which case... thanks, guys!). As for everyone else? Well, either they'll return or they won't - but if you're one of them, & you'd like to reconnect... forgive me? Pretty please? You know where to find me.

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