I’m in a relationship that follows me everywhere. We’re together at the gym, in class, and sometimes while eating breakfast and dinner. We’re at our strongest while I’m trying to study, and usually have a go right before bed, and sometimes first thing in the morning. While this relationship may seem overly “connected,” I think you’re in one just like it. This relationship is with Facebook, and we’ve been together for so long, that I wouldn’t even know our anniversary date if Facebook didn’t publicly display it. Facebook and I are together so often, that I’m not even sure if we’re having fun anymore. Facebook has just become a distraction, a sort of mindless daily task, one where I’m not even sure what I just gained from our five minutes of scrolling. Looking at that white and blue newsfeed page has become such a habitual part of my daily life, that I barely comprehend that I’m doing it anymore.
Like any relationship that seems to be getting “stale” with time, coming to terms with reality is tough, and may even cause you to do a bit of a personal reflection. Has Facebook changed, or have I? Why do I not get the same thrill I did when thirteen year old me first featured my new side-bangs in my profile picture? Better yet, why am I still getting the same thrill I did nine years ago, but from my new and “artsy” profile pictures?
Sitting back, red wine in hand, I decided to look back at my own Facebook page. I was a little shocked and very embarrassed, partly by my intense pre-pubescent “punk” phase, but mainly by the fact that I’d been logged onto Facebook since 2007. Facebook had been a part of my life since I was twelve years old, and it was scary to even think how many hours in those 9 years I’d probably spent with the social media site.
Think about it, would you still be dating your 12 year old playground boyfriend? If yes, then that is adorable, but the majority of us have left our preteen (as well as teenage and adult) romances on the playground. So why has Facebook not also been left on our playgrounds, or at least beside our high school lockers?
Was I alone though? Were my friends in the same boat as me? Had we all been a part of this blue and white public relationship since our pre-teen years? More importantly, had any of us successfully quit it? Even more importantly, had anyone managed to completely avoid hopping on the Facebook bandwagon in the first place?
Setting out on yet another large surveillance of the personal lives of my friends and peers, I asked how long they’d been in a relationship with Facebook, and whether any of them had successfully hit it and quit it.
The majority? While it may coincide with when the webpage was gaining popularity, most of us middle of the road university and college students were between the ages of twelve and fourteen when we first started our online profiles. For most, logging onto Facebook seemed to correspond with the years of starting middle school and high school. There was a thrill in being able to use the webpage to “define yourself” online, and connect with all of your new peers. It was a place where you could post a better picture of your latest hairstyle than you could on your MSN account. It was where you could “prove your cool” by sharing YouTube links to the latest Down With Webster or angst ridden Green Day song. However, like most items from our teenage years, those side-bangs and cringe-worthy music favourites got left behind upon our arrival into “adulthood.” Facebook, however, stuck with us like the couple who got engaged after high school.
I was surprised to learn how many of my friends had attempted to leave the site, especially during their teenage years. Despite all the times they’d chosen to “deactivate,” every single one of them had eventually returned, whether after days, months or even years. For many, leaving Facebook was like deleting an entire group of friends or abandoning a social world. Of course, most of your closest allies have other means to get in touch with you, but what about the study group you just made for your poli-sci class, and the international friends you made on your semester abroad in Sydney? Facebook allows you to keep up-to-date on the lives of your friends back home, and connect with practically everyone you’ve ever met, including your grandma. For some, the most important part of sticking with Facebook is that it makes you FEEL connected.
Our relationships with Facebook are a little similar to the Rachel and Ross “we were on a break” story. Is this feeling of connectivity why we stay with Facebook or keep coming back to it? Just like our preteen selves, we still update our profile pictures, share our latest musical discoveries, and the latest and greatest Her Campus articles. Facebook is so much a part of our world, that it is worrisome to think that it actually IS our world. Our relationships with Facebook are making us just like the friend we never see because she is always with her boyfriend. It’s coming to the point where we’ve invested more time and effort into this webpage than most of our friendships.
A recent study conducted on college campuses across the United States, has shown that college and university freshman are more depressed than ever before. While not yet the proven main causation for this rising depression, researchers believe that a part of this problem is the current necessity to maintain a public image online. Two recent articles from the New York Times and VICE, discussing this rise in depression amongst young adults, suggests that the issue lies within the fact that we are spending more time socializing with our peers online than in real life. Our Facebook page has turned into a new way to evaluate ourselves, and the pressure to appear a certain way is too high to manage sometimes.
So what is to be done? Do we cut things off cold turkey? It is unrealistic that any of us are goin to cut Facebook out altogether. Even if you do “deactivate,” Facebook isn’t going to forget you, and will always let you know that it will be there waiting for you to come back, just like nothing has changed.
So what’s the point of this, besides pointing out our obvious social media dependencies? Well, while none of us are probably ready to break it off with Facebook all together, maybe we can start to slow things down and take some time to focus on ourselves. Maybe we can hit up the pen and paper, revisit things with our diary and journal, have a fling with Reddit or Tumblr, or maybe read a great Her Campus article. It could be time to try something new, and reflect on why we’ve stuck with Facebook for so long. And by the power invested in me, and through the strength and support of Ryan Gosling, I think we can do this thing.