Ahhh...the freedom; the sweet, silent freedom of being gone. So many voices, so many updates, so much stuff I don't need to know! I'm talking about Facebook. After being on there since 2009, I deleted my account a few days ago. I haven't even missed it.
A year ago, a good friend wanted to sign up and get an account. She asked me what Facebook was like, what to expect. How to explain it? The best answer I could give her was to imagine she was in a room full of people from all facets of her life, past and present. Now take a microphone and talk to the entire room. What would you say to all of these people? That's how it is on Facebook; hundreds of people (some even have over 1,000!) all staring at you, and you have to say something that fits, well, everyone. It was overwhelming, and rightly so. She deleted her account not too long afterward.
Looking back, I can't believe I lasted so long on there. I have to say it was surreal. No status update would be appropriate for every single person on your friends list. There was always something you could write that would offend someone, somewhere. Saw a movie you liked over the weekend? Someone HATED it. Write a slight complaint about summer construction traffic? "How would you like to live in MY town?"
It was quite strange, actually. I'm not sure God meant for our brains to hold so much unimportant information, especially about perfect strangers. The news feed would contain bits of everything: a video of an abused, crying elephant that I couldn't watch because I knew it would make me sad for the next hour. Immoral celebrity gossip about stars I didn't even know or care about. A photo of someone's loved one lying sickly in a hospital bed (that always struck me as odd and very personal for several hundred eyes to see). Families on vacation documenting every gift shop, palm tree, and tourist trap. A plate of eggs, pancakes and sausage—someone's Sunday-morning breakfast. Up-to-the-minute updates of someone's feverish, vomiting child, complete with description. A photo of a takeout cup of coffee and a muffin. A quiz to see what part of the country you should be living in. An announcement that someone was craving bacon. "News" that, it turned out, was actually rumor. No wonder I was forgetting items at the grocery store, misplacing important papers, or forgetting what friends in real life had told me: My brain was, unbeknownst to me, holding bits of information from the Facebook news feed that I was never meant to know in the first place, like the fact that someone had grilled chicken for dinner and it was sooo yummy! Too many bits of inane information cluttering up my brain! The reality is that you can't just scroll down and digest this stuff for a minute; it ends up sticking in your head whether you like it or not! What a brain drain! And even though I tried not to, certainly I was guilty of contributing to it all with my posts as well!
Messages to Facebook "friends" would somehow surprise me by going unanswered, and then these same people would request that I vote for them in a contest. I was too Catholic, or not Catholic enough, in my posts, so I'd get unfriended. I ended up signing off feeling sad and out of sorts for reasons I couldn't explain. I found that these superficial friendships were stealing my joy, my peace. Sure, there were absolutely lovely people I had connected with. I will miss them and their nice comments and uplifting posts. I made sure to keep their contact information so that we can remain friends and keep in touch. I have met some amazing people, like the young seminarian in Uganda who will be ordained to the priesthood next month. Deacon Larry is an inspiration to me and I am so blessed to have met him through Facebook. Now we correspond through e-mail and I can still celebrate his joy with him. There were Catholic authors who are doing great things for evangelization and were so supportive of each other and of my work. I will miss these people, of course, but if our friendships were meant to be, I believe they will continue even though I am off Facebook. I wish I could see them in person, and perhaps one day God will arrange it.
For a while, Facebook was a blessing. And it can be helpful for keeping in touch with those who live several states, or an ocean, away. But it's nice to be back in real life, with real-life friends. Now I don't know what 684 people I don't even know are having for dinner, or if they've finished ironing shirts, unpacking suitcases, hailed a cab, bought a jar of local jam on vacation, or burned their toast. And that's okay, because maybe some stuff you just really don't need to know on an hour-by-hour basis. Maybe, just maybe, there is such a thing as too much information.
It's much quieter in my world now, and it feels good to have turned off the microphone and left the big auditorium that is Facebook. Now I think I'll pick up the phone and see if a good friend wants to meet with me in real life, for a real cup of coffee, and a real chat. And I'll ask her what she's cooking for dinner, because I really do want to know.