This week, my guest blogger is Leah Fessler ’15. As a Narrative Journalism Fellow and contributor to middbeat.org and the Campus, she’s learned a thing or two about interacting face-to-face. Please join in the discussion; your comments are always welcome. —Shirley M. Collado
“I’m actually not on Facebook anymore.”
Not too long ago, I’d roll my eyes upon hearing this statement, instinctively dismissing the speaker: their loss. When I entered high school in 2007, Facebook was a rite of passage, a patiently awaited privilege. I undeniably associated my acceptance to “the Wellesley High School Facebook network” with maturity and social opportunity.
Six years later, I frequently receive vexed looks upon announcing I’m seven months “Facebook free.” Many deem my social media “breakup” hypocritical. Maybe it is. Nevertheless, it appears that I’ve joined a rapidly growing “trend” of college students deactiving their Facebooks.
I hesitate to label this recurrent pattern a “trend,” because I’m somewhat irked by the mindlessness it implies. But some people do believe that it’s just the “next cool thing to do.” Many argue that students are now getting off Facebook for the same reason they got on: because everyone else is doing it. On some level, they’re right. Any social movement requires an impetus, and the “if they can do it, I can too” mentality only increases as more people hop on board. But beyond friends’ positive reviews, I, and most who have deactivated, acted with cogent reasoning.
I “logged off” because I believe interpersonal interaction on Facebook is, largely, an allusion. As social beings, we’re fundamentally motivated to be connected, whether to friends, family, crushes, exes, acquaintances, etc. It’s far too easy to feel as if we’ve sustained such connections with 10 minutes of minified scrolling, photo swiping, or wall-to-wall reading. Yet, these actions truly entail little to no thought or effort, and, at least in my experience, can be more honestly classified as “acceptable” procrastination. Intentions may be sincere, but the majority of Facebook “interactions” fuel one-sided relationships. I found myself viewing friends’ abroad albums, crushes “liked music,” or my little cousin’s high school escapades, and feeling, whether consciously or not, closer to said person, despite their utter absence from the “interaction.” So, what did I receive? Instant gratification: the root of most addictions.
I don’t mean to come off as the psycho anti-Facebook crusader, either. Facebook is useful for “checking in” with acquaintances, event planning, and news publication.
But recent studies show that, on average, Americans spend an astonishing eight hours per month on Facebook (compare to two hours on Google). I sincerely doubt the majority of these hours are spent on event planning or news literacy. Despite its guises, Facebook truly cures two ailments: boredom and laziness.
We’re all busy. But why not spend your 10-minute Facebook “break” calling a friend and actually conversing? I’ve found a few minutes of tone, inflection, and laughter (or lack thereof) communicate far more than a wall-post, photo, or even a lengthy inbox ever could. Why not grab a meal with a Midd friend, or chat for a few minutes face-to-face? We live in (overwhelmingly) close proximity. There’s really no excuse.
I’ve got no agenda to tell you how to live your life. But having experienced life “off the book” and the more genuine social interactions it’s forced me to pursue, I’d strongly suggest trying deactivation. Even a temporary break can help develop healthier communication habits. You have nothing to lose.