“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I broke up with Facebook. Temporarily, at least. Why? Because I’m nosy, oversensitive, and probably am deeply in need of therapy/a life coach/a reality check. Hey, I can admit my flaws. It all started with a status update about somebody else’s business. Intrigued by some tidbit of news shared in said status update, I got all up in my feelings. I just talked to them, so why didn’t they tell me this? and Since they didn’t tell me, I guess we aren’t as close as I thought we were. And my curiosity carried me on a wild goose chase through the Facebook profiles and google searches of friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, you get the idea. It was all topped off by a case of “the comparisons.” I started questioning my own goals and accomplishments, thinking that maybe I hadn’t done enough with my life. I started comparing my life to this person’s life – and comparing my life to an imaginary cadre of ideal and fabulous “other people.” As crazy as it sounds, it didn’t even matter to me that I didn’t want this particular Facebook friend’s life. I felt as if I should want their life. And the fact that I didn’t desire the same things and hadn’t achieved the same things was proof that I had failed in the game of life. All of this stemmed from obsessing about news that someone hadn’t even called me personally to share; news that wasn’t my business to know in the first place. I can admit my craziness.
I knew this way of thinking was ridiculous and unhealthy. So, I suspended my Facebook account. But, I also began to reflect on my FB experience over the years and the role of FB in our lives. Facebook taught me five lessons:
- Oftentimes, folks don’t want to engage in real discussions on Facebook; they just want attention.
This is just a reality. Know it. Own it. Embrace it. I remember the day I learned this lesson. It was the day a FB friend posted something about a recent breakup. This FB friend was someone with whom I had gone to junior high and high school, although we had not seen or spoken to each other since graduating. One day, he sent me a friend request and I accepted.
Fast forward to the day said FB friend posted a series of status updates about a recent break-up with his boyfriend. In response to one of these posts, I asked him a question about the breakup. Said FB friend promptly responded by deleting my post and ignored my question. Well, that’s too personal a subject to ask someone about or Perhaps he didn’t feel like sharing his personal business with you, a reasonable person might say. To that, I would respond, You’re absolutely correct. Except, said friend was the one who put all his dating business on front street. Pardon me for thinking it was an open topic for discussion. In any event, I realized that what he wanted was attention and sympathy – not to talk about the actual break up.
We’ve all seen variations of this theme: the angry soul who posts cryptic messages such as, “These Bi–hes are fake” or “Don’t no real men exist no mo’. Why dudes gotta be lyin’ and cheatin’ all da damn time?” or “Man, folks at work get on my last good got-damn nerve! I swear I had the day from hell!” And then when you ask them what’s wrong or what happened, they respond, “I don’t wanna talk about it.” Yup, I learned my lesson. I just ignored these types of posts. Why would they even waste time posting? Because they just want attention. My FB friend who posted about his break-up also used to post about such fascinating topics as the number of gray hairs he has, the new pimple he popped, and his adventures in nose picking. Yes, attention whore. This leads to lesson number 2.
- Facebook creates a false or shallow sense of connection and friendship.
Sharing is not the same thing as caring. Just ‘cus we roll together on FB whenever Scandal is on TV doesn’t mean we’re real friends. Whenever I needed some friend therapy, there were only a handful of people (i.e., five or less) I would call – out of 100 FB friends. Well, who are the other 95 people, you might ask. N.A.P.s! (Nosy Ass People). Don’t act like you ain’t never known or been a N.A.P.
- Facebook is a way for folks (i.e., N.A.P.s or random people you don’t talk to very often or at all) to be nosy.
Please get off your high horse. We’re all guilty of this. I am straight up nosy. I’m the old lady in the window who will lean over and tell you, “Now, I’m not one to gossip, but HONEY I was on Facebook the other day and guess what I saw . . . .” I’ve checked out the profiles of ex-boyfriends and the pages of their spouses/significant others/third cousins twice removed by 5 divorces and 8 baby’s mommas. And folks have done it me. I saw that you moved and took up sky diving and naked yoga, someone might tell me. You stalk my profile, but I haven’t seen you in 10 years and you never give me so much as a drive-by hi on Facebook, I think to myself. Honey, Facebook is voyeurism for the masses! But, everybody doesn’t deserve a front row seat in the goings on of your life. Some folks don’t even need to be in the nosebleed section. Sometimes, ya just have to deny admission. But, this has its own challenges.
- Facebook makes it harder for you to take definitive stands about your relationships with folks.
I’ve always been pretty decisive about most FB friend requests. Like the one I received from someone who molested me when I was a child. I had an emotional meltdown as I remembered incidents long buried deep in my subconscious. And then I denied her friend request and blocked her from ever contacting me again. Ma’am, what on God’s green Earth would make you think I’d EVER want to be friends with you? Oh, you thought I forgot, huh? To the left, to the left sicko! The chick who bullied me in junior high and high school, and who I later ran into as an adult? I accepted her friend request, in part because we frequently saw one another at professional events. She was a chronic over sharer, and I found her posts to be annoying. Each time I read one of her status updates, a deep hatred boiled up in my stomach and my face twisted into something out of a horror flick. I had to be honest with myself. Let’s face it: I didn’t like you as a teenager, and I still can’t stand you. Delete! Like Ms. Molester, I guess Ms. Bully suffers from amnesia or some other memory disorder. I think I still have some of Granny’s Alzheimer’s medication they can take. And I almost never friended family members. I have a strict non-internet-fraternization policy with relatives – some of whom are crazy and have made me consider entering a witness protection program.
But, there are also those gray areas. The times when you wonder if unfriending someone will cause more drama than it’s worth. Folks take “unfriending” seriously out in these streets. A family member once sent me a nasty inbox message because I unfriended her. Is there a problem? she asked. No. You’re just a nosy, drama magnet, I thought. She didn’t know me very well. People who know me well know this about me: I will ignore crazy until Jesus cracks the sky. Keep waiting on that response, boo! A friend had major beef with me because she thought I had unfriended her. She didn’t realize that the reason she couldn’t see my profile was because I had suspended my account – not because I had unfriended her. But, she didn’t even bother to ask me; she just assumed. There are those folks you feel ambivalent about unfriending, even if you no longer speak or you’ve have grown apart, because you run in the same professional/social circles or might see each other at Christmas dinner. The pressure is just too much! At the end of the day, you must water your friendships like plants. Facebook can’t do that and it’s just too damn difficult to separate the weeds from the orchids.
- Real friendships are nurtured in real life.
In taking stock of my friendships on Facebook and in real life, I realized that I only interacted with a handful of my FB friends in real life. The people I talk to the most and am closest to either don’t have Facebook accounts, or I never talked to them on FB because I was too busy being nosy and checking out what was going on in the lives of the people I didn’t talk to in real life.
Nurturing real friendships and maintaining connections with friends takes effort. Rather than scrolling through status updates, I actually have to call or see folks to find out what they’re up to. But, those friendships are deeper and more substantive.
I haven’t been on Facebook in months and don’t miss it. I will reactivate my account at some point, so that I can retrieve pictures and review posts that will make great material for my writing. In the meantime, I choose to focus on my real life and my friends in real life. Rather than comparing myself to others, I am learning to focus on my own journey, accomplishments, and blessings. My life may not look like the next person’s, but it’s the only life I have. I may as well make it a great one, and live on my own terms!
Any other Facebook refugees out there? How’s your journey going? You ever get a case of the comparisons?