There are two pieces of media on Netflix that I recommend to everyone right now if you haven’t already seen them. If you have seen them – rewatch them. Rewatch them together. One is “The Social Network” which outlines the invention of Facebook. The other is “The Social Dilemma” which brings you to what we have on social media today.
I was a reluctant user of Facebook from the start. I didn’t really see the purpose of connecting with people I didn’t talk to anymore. If I really wanted to talk to them, wouldn’t I have called them by now? I had moved away from my insular, small town for a reason. For me, there was a bigger and more diverse world out there that I wanted to partake in. I spent four years studying in Ann Arbor and after graduation moved to Chicago. It’s been, for me, the perfect ride.
And isn’t that just it? A ride. A world I want to partake in. Facebook has always been so amusing to me. The facade of a life that doesn’t really exist created behind a screen while sitting on the couch. I know this intimately because I had a beautiful Facebook life for awhile, and then separated from my first husband and later divorced. We had a lovely Facebook life. It was not an accurate portrait of what was happening behind the screen, but I have two amazing kids “IRL” to show for it.
It’s also dangerously political. I won’t go into how it’s influenced our elections, spread some of the most inane conspiracy theories I have ever read, and created divisions in friends and families. In 2020, we have learned the terrifying results of this misinformation machine. This monster spreading anti-science, and pseudo-historical truths to a semi-educated mass that now follows Facebook and Fox News blindly with no regard to the law or the constitution or any sense of decorum. We are all suffering the results.
I didn’t need to be reminded that many of the people I went to high school with are gun toting bigots. I respect their right to their Second Amendment, I truly do. However, after the FBI uncovering of the plot on the Michigan governor (my home state), I am perfectly happy with my decision to move away after high school graduation and never turn back. But here is the tricky thing about Facebook/social media, it likely helped fuel and build the terrifying plot against the governor, and at the same time it also made me face the reality of many of the people in my life.
This is the part that was painful, and also made me walk away from social media altogether. I recently upgraded to a new iPhone. I now have no social media apps. My accounts aren’t gone, but I don’t visit. I am methodically evaluating a lot of my relationships. Without the easy access, who contacts me? Who texts? Who calls? I haven’t really been surprised. The people I have real connections with have continued on as though nothing changed. Most of us didn’t use social media to communicate anyway. Many of us are teachers, work in the medical community, have loved ones in law enforcement or politics, and being on social media was actually becoming dangerous. We don’t need a falsely created reality to exist in our actual reality.
I also know there are people who won’t join me in my own post-2020 reckoning, and I am okay with that. I have always believed that some people are in my life for a season. Many of these people had a purpose and it is okay if they aren’t my best friends forever. I don’t need them to heart my post. Sometimes we can just part ways and know everything will be alright. Facebook and social media allow people to comfortably unveil things about themselves behind the comfort of a screen, and in 2020, without the chance of probably seeing anyone. Now that some veils have been lifted, I am glad I know the truth. These people are not really my friends.
My husband is still on Facebook and will vent about it to me. I remind him that if he wasn’t on Facebook he wouldn’t be annoyed. My favorite posts in my last days on the app were people complaining about other people’s posts. It was a weird circle of “I don’t like these posts because…” or “People should or should not post this because…” being sent into personal echo chambers of their biggest virtual fans because most people had unfollowed, unfriended, or blocked them by now anyway.