How many of your Facebook friends would meet up for coffee? Photo: Louie DouvisIt wasn’t until I decided to “leave” Facebook, to deactivate my account, that I realised just how insidious and sect-like this social media phenomenon is.
With the help of a friend, and due to the fact that I still wanted to retain my Facebook business page, the process of shedding this part of my life took a good 45mins. I’d forgotten how many other applications and websites I needed to access that needed my Facebook login.
I was shocked by the persuasive tone of the Facebook alerts as I made my way through the deactivation process “Are you sure you want to deactivate your account???” “These friends will miss you” (insert image of some of my most regular “friends”).
It reminded me of Roger Sterling, the character in the series Mad Men, going out to try to retrieve his daughter from the Hippy Cult she’d joined. There was subtle pressure, but there was also clawing and gnawing – emotional blackmail and roadblocks.
Status: It’s complicated. But would my “friends” really miss me? The truth is no, most still probably don’t even know I’ve deactivated my account. And the ones that have noticed; they don’t miss me. Not like when your best friend goes to live overseas, when your partner goes away for work for a week, when your beloved dog goes missing, when you haven’t seen your man-child in two weeks, when your heart tells you you’re overdue to spend time with a friend, when a colleague transfers to another office, when someone you love goes.
Facebook and its starry-eyed habitual users would like to think that our Facebook friendships are real, our “missing” someone is a true pang, and our connections deep and resonant. I’ve left Facebook for perhaps a less common reason than most people have for leaving. I’m not leaving because I felt my privacy was being compromised, and I’m not leaving because comparisons are odious. I’m not leaving because it took up too much of my time, and I’m not leaving because I felt it had become too compulsive.
I’ve left Facebook because it made me feel lonely.
And that’s very interesting coming from an extrovert who is well-balanced, has a great social life, a strong romantic relationship, a steady happy family and a job that gives me plenty of opportunity to meet interesting people as well as work alone.
Facebook made me feel lonely because I could see many (many) “friends” on my account who I’d like to be (or continue to be) real friends with. You know – chat on the phone, go for coffee, invite over, receive invitations from, have dinner with, and go on holidays with. So many of these people on Facebook, these “friends”, I wanted to call me and say, “oh Hai! Just called to say Hi, and see what you’re up to”; “Oh hello, been thinking of you, when can you do coffee?”; “Hey Nat, I just had the weirdest dream about you”; “Hey, we’re in the area, can we pop over and visit?”
I’d begun to notice that the friends I’d had in the past who’d done this sort of thing (telephone calls, coffee, dinner, weekend shenanigans, holidays, special events, even texts and emails) just had gone AWOL on the real friends activity roster.
They had become absent. And they hadn’t become absent because they purposely chose to distance themselves from me. They had stopped doing these things because they truly believed they were playing their part in maintaining our friendship by “liking” a post, commenting on a post, tagging me in a post or worst of all just lurking around my posts knowing what I was doing but not even interacting with the posts.
My “friends” believed they were still being good friends. That made me feel lonely. I longed for true human connection with these friends. I wanted authenticity. I wanted honesty. I wanted true friends, warts and all, bricks and mortar.
I can hear your say, “Perhaps it’s not Facebook that is the cause of your AWOL friends, perhaps it’s a symptom of the new and very fashionable state of being “so busy”?” Yes, I can see where you’re going with that. But the plain fact of the matter is that these friends are still finding the time to dwell in the Facebook world, scrolling, liking, sharing, responding and lurking.
And for most, this isn’t a once-a-day, fleeting visit. For many of my friends it may be five times a day. So why can’t we pick up the telephone? Because – confrontation. Because – laziness. Because – Facebook.
It may be morbid, but lately I’ve been imagining my funeral. A simple coffin (empty because I’ve left my body to science) with my friends all gathered around it, dressed in black, all holding a single red rose, and tearfully saying “I only just yesterday liked one of her posts” “oh I haven’t seen her in two years but I loved her Facebook rants” “I will miss commenting on her posts” “I met another Facebook friend through her” “I didn’t even know she was sick, I just saw she was still on Facebook” The curtain closes – and they all update their Facebook status (not to the intensity of Bowie’s passing but with some poignancy) to ensure their “friends” know that they are here, with me, being real friends. Nat Duncan is location manager of Queensland Film Locations.
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