In 2004, I began my first year of college, which was also the birth year of Facebook.
Everything changed when Facebook arrived. Pictures could be shared and tagged; you could be Googled, and you could easily check up on an ex. (Remember the days of never knowing what his new girlfriend looked like? Yeah, me either.)
Unlike today, Facebook, in its simplest form, was a way to connect you to your classmates and other fellow college students. I used Facebook to check if the cute guy I met was “in a relationship.” I used it to group chat with classmates about an upcoming study group or to catch the homework I missed if I was absent from class that day.
Before Facebook was Facebook it was “The Facebook.” I recall typing into my computer (yes, there was no mobile site because phones hadn’t become “smart” just yet), www.thefacebook.com.
You needed college email address to even join. Before the days of parents "friending" you, Facebook had a targeted purpose: to connect you to real people.
Now, 11 years later, I no longer have a Facebook account, and I haven’t logged in since 2011.
Facebook and I had a good run, but I was turned off when it stopped being a place to chat with people I knew and went to class with, and turned into a world of self-absorption, a virtual soapbox for people to complain about very trivial things and a place to post uneducated comments on religion and politics.
From what I hear now, a person’s news feed no longer even resembles what it once was, and is now a hub of news links and ads with 751 of your closest “friends” telling you it is, in fact, snowing outside (in case you are in a windowless bunker somewhere).
It was my personal preference to remove myself. I quietly deactivated my account and haven’t looked back since. I had to disconnect from this virtual world that was always connecting. You would have thought I had decided to become a recluse at the time I shut down my account.
I would be out and friends would complain they could not "check me in" to the bar or movies or restaurant we were frequenting. They were genuinely upset they couldn't tag me on the Internet, even though I was still right beside them.
I began to wonder, if a memory is made, and a smartphone isn't there to capture it, does the memory exist?
Since the arrival of Smartphones, you can take the Internet with you. You no longer have to wait to get somewhere to log on, you are always wired in.
Carrying the Internet in your back pocket or purse has led to this generation, including myself, becoming addicted to social media, and Facebook was at the forefront of it all.
We are addicted to over-sharing, but it’s not even honest sharing. We have created personas of ourselves online where we share openly what we want to share, making our lives seems better (or worse) than they are to gain “likes,” not friends.
In fact, as I sit here typing this, I am hoping someone will read this on the Internet somewhere and “like” it.
Now, technology is great. Social media is necessary at this point, but I enjoy it small doses. I was never the person to update the Internet on every move I made throughout the day (“Good morning!” “Brushing my teeth.” “Ugh, traffic.” “Happy hour!” “Goodnight world”).
For every “con” of social media, there are five “pros.” It is great when men and women in the military are deployed and they can still access their social media accounts and keep in touch with loved ones. It’s wonderful you can share your child’s pictures with your family scattered all across the country or world.
My writing would not have the readership it currently does without the existence of social media. I realize this, and I would never hope for an alternate universe where there was no one named Mark Zuckerberg.
My issue with Facebook comes from the fact that social media isn’t really “social” at all anymore.
At first thought, our ability to connect to everyone around us, albeit an over-connection at times, should have naturally turned us into more social creatures. However, for some, it seems to be morphing into something entirely different.
We are not becoming more social where it matters; we are becoming more social where we want to matter: in the eyes of complete strangers on the Internet.
Should we still be calling it social media?
I feel safe in saying social media is actually quite anti-social. We are gaining followers, but losing friends. We are so over-connected to one another, we disconnect with the people who matter. We are wireless but wired in, leaving no room to see what is going on in the peripheral.
We FaceTime, only not with the person we are sitting across from at dinner. It has gotten to the point where words like “phubbing” (snubbing a human being in favor of technology) have been created to diagnose this addiction to our phones.
When was the last time you went to a restaurant, looked around and didn’t see a table of people with their noses buried into their phones?
Some are so overly consumed with letting others know what they are doing or where they are, they don't even take the time to appreciate what is happening around them and who they are sharing that moment with in real life.
I am not saying revert back to old ways; I would never want to. It's a foolish notion to even say we should go back to a time before the uprising of technology. However, every so often, put your devices down and focus on what is in front of you.
Experience things, climb mountains, jump in the ocean or go for a walk. Share an actual conversation with someone without emoticons and hashtags.
When you stop updating the world on every facet of your life, you will realize how much time that frees up to live.