Right now, I have a very love-hate relationship with Facebook.
I still remember the morning that social media entered my life. It was 2005, and my then-boyfriend and I were house-sitting for his parents, and it was back in the day when I was still working weird shifts as a 411 operator and had a random weekday morning off. Alone in the house, I made myself some coffee and sat down at the computer in their den to check my email. I had an invite from a friend to some website called Myspace. I had no idea what social media even was, but as I curiously set up a profile and began searching the site I discovered that a lot of people I knew were also on it. People I worked with, people I’d gone to school with – the majority of them also had Myspace profiles.
For years afterwards, I really enjoyed Myspace. It was so frivolous and entertaining. You could customize the backgrounds on your page and select a song that would play when anyone visited it. There was a section where you could publish blog posts, which was how I first got into blogging. And on the bulletin board people would fill out random surveys and silly quizzes. I never got tired of the site, but over time fewer and fewer people were actually using it and it got a lot less interesting. By 2007, pretty much everyone had stopped posting on Myspace and migrated over to Facebook, and not wanting to lose touch with people I followed.
Facebook has evolved a LOT since I first joined it. The ‘On this Day’ feature that lets you see your posts from the day’s date in prior years is a humorous reminder of what the experience used to be: the reactions to posts was limited to liking (at first you couldn’t even comment, people would post on your wall and you’d go post on theirs to carry on conversations). The post feature always started off with “so-and-so is” so all our posts followed that pattern and the older posts are always such gems as “Veronica is getting ready to go to Costco”.
Ahhh, simpler times.
Now personal posts are actually rare and my Facebook timeline is filled with people sharing articles they find interesting, mixed in with some photos of pets/kids/the trademark homemade banana bread of the pandemic. There’s a lot of squabbling. People who don’t even know each other call each other snowflakes and libtards and all sorts of other stuff in the comment section of an article shared by the New York Times. I wish there was a way to hide comment sections so I couldn’t even see them. I’ve made a habit of keeping my friend list smaller, because over time I feel less like knowing the opinions of people I worked with fifteen years ago. It’s not because I don’t like those people anymore, it’s that it’s impossible to maintain emotional connections with so many people. There’s a theory called Dunbar’s number that says that human beings are only capable of maintaining a maximum of 150 connections at once. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad to have a thousand Facebook friends if that’s how you want to use social media, but for me it’s overload.
I have accounts on Instagram and Twitter too, and neither one of them ever makes me unhappy like Facebook does. I think that the reason for that is probably partially because of the way I use it and because I have fewer friends, people who I tend to be closer to, and so it bothers me more when people I love are hateful, narrow-minded, racist, or when they behave badly online. In the past I scolded my dad more than once after he left rude complaints about his service on the Facebook page of the company I worked for, reminding him that I didn’t appreciate him doing that because the company literally paid all of my household bills and that he could let me know he was having a problem and I’d get him in touch with someone to help him.
It probably seems like I just hate Facebook now and should deactivate my account instead of complaining about it, and I actually did do that but only lasted about a week before I got sucked back in. Every single day, someone would ask me if I’d read or seen something on Facebook and then I’d remind them I didn’t have an active account but I was missing out on the things that I actually did want to see, like photos of my friend’s new puppy and an invitation to a Zoom happy hour. I like those aspects of Facebook.
For now my compromise is that I’ve deleted the app on my phone but left my account active and set up email notifications if someone tags me in something or invites me to an event, so that I don’t miss anything but am not tempted to mindlessly scroll and find myself wound up either.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing those Myspace quizzes, though.