week, the New York Times reported on a new survey
by the Pew Research Center’s
Internet and American Life Project that found most Facebook users have taken
a break from the site at one point or another.
Overall, “61 percent of
current Facebook users admitted that they had voluntarilytaken
breaks from the site, for as many as several weeks at a
to the , which went on to report about the following
generational differences in Facebook use.
“Young users are spending
less time overall on the site. The report found that 42
percent of Facebook users from the ages of 18 to 29 said
that the average time they spent on the site in a typical day had decreased
in the last year. A much smaller portion, 23 percent, of older Facebook users,
those over 50, reported a drop in Facebook usage over the same period.”
College Relations student
writer Anne Berman ’15 took a more
extreme action. Berman deleted her Facebook account last
year, along with her connection to more than 1,000 friends.
“I liked the idea of starting over,” Berman says. She recently wrote about
her thoughts on leaving Facebook.
Anne Berman ‘15
Facebook seemed strange and
wonderful back in ninth grade, when I picked out a flattering
photo of myself for my profile and read about how my crush
fixing cars, gud music, girls, and NOT to kill a mockingbird.”
Back then, I thought the little
red notifications that popped up in real time, stroking my
ego and building up my fragile sense of self with their bright
concreteness, would never get old. I wrote long, rambling
posts about my day on my best friend’s “wall,” knowing
that plenty of the people who I could not talk to about my
day would also see my posts. I “friended” people who I’d
talked to once because that was what was done.
Then, last year, I deleted
my Facebook profile permanently.
I loved the
ability to seemingly demystify acquaintances and crushes
without actually talking to them. After all, human interactions
can be messy and time consuming. But I had just seen the
2010 movie The Social Network, and was haunted by the final
image of Mark Zuckerman repeatedly hitting “refresh,” waiting
for a beautiful woman he’d only just met to accept his friend
request. I recognized in his face a robotic sadness that
social networking sites can create in us when we hide behind
edited pixels because it’s easy.
Facebook is easy. It has
got a lot going for it, like the convenience of staying “connected” to
friends doing fabulous things on the other side of the planet.
You know, those people you meet one summer who change your
life and are kindred spirits, but then suddenly the summer
is over and you don’t see each other every day anymore? You
become friends on Facebook and you talk about seeing each
other again, but you’re busy and you feel guilty and your
relationship will probably never be the way it was before.
I’ve had a lot of
those people in my life.
Not having a Facebook means
realizing sooner whether a faraway friend is someone you
cutting yourself off from, because there are only two options—calling
or not calling; making plans or not making plans. There is
no more kind-of-connected, no more writing on your wall,
seeing your picture whenever I want, or seeing what you type
in real time.
Not having Facebook means realizing
that just because someone means the world to you for a little
while doesn’t mean you’re obligated to stay in touch forever. People
should be able to enter our lives and leave them without
pain and guilt and question.
If Facebook makes it hard to
let go of casual contacts, it also makes staying in contact
with those people you don’t want to let go of more of a priority.
Now that my life is quieter, I realize I only really want
to know the fun you had last weekend if we are friends enough
to have regular conversations. When I go out, I don’t want
to have to take pictures every second. And I don’t always
want those pictures to remain on my profile and remind me
of who I was three years ago. I don’t want to spend time
thinking about which status updates people might “like.”
I want to be fully present,
surrounded by the people I love, not checking Facebook on
my iPhone. I want to spend time with the people I think I
might fall in love with, but I don’t want to see pictures of them with their exes, and I
to only see the version of them that they want me to see.
Wanting to keep a record of
good times and wanting to look amazing are human. But so
are the complex, intangible interactions that change everything.
And those can’t happen in little
blue boxes on shiny screens.