Duane Hoffmann / msnbc.com
Yes, Facebook is great for finding and keeping in touch with long-lost friends. But it can also become a burden, an obligation ... a domineering delivery service of unhappiness and guilt.
By InGame reporter
NBC News
updated 4/28/2009 6:21:20 AM ET 2009-04-28T10:21:20

There were 25 random things I needed to read about you and you and you. There were wall posts I needed to respond to, friendship invitations I needed to vet (wait, who are you again?) and instant messages that demanded immediate attention. There were vampires and zombies that had virtually bitten me, and expected to be virtually bitten in return. I’d been poked and the question begging to be answered: Would I poke back, or would I remove said poke as though said poke had never happened?

And then … I couldn’t take it anymore. Poking, biting, friending, chatting, posting, commenting, replying — the whirlwind of tiny tasks that together make up the networking tornado that is Facebook were threatening to chew me up and spit me out in byte-sized pieces.

I was desperately in need of a Facebreak. And so, I decided to pull the plug on my Facebook habit.

I love Facebook … and I loathe it.  Either way, there are times that I wish I'd never opened this Pandora's Box of virtual friendships and digitized pen-palery. Yes, it has allowed me to reconnect with people I’ve loved and lost track of, people I’ve truly and deeply missed. It’s allowed me to keep in touch with far-flung friends in a most vibrant and vivid way. But Facebook has also become something of a burden … an obligation … a domineering delivery service of unhappiness and guilt.

And so I've gone Facebook clean and sober for almost a month and a half now. Here are five reasons I decided to kick the Facebook habit.

No 1: The black hole

How many times have I told myself, I’m just going to sign in to Facebook for “a few minutes” … just need a quick fix … only to emerge two hours later, glassy-eyed, from the depths of this social networking bottomless pit, wondering where the time has gone.

When it comes to gobbling up the moments of our lives, Facebook is a black hole … siphoning away minutes, hours, days with its vortex-like pull. It starts innocently enough — someone asks to be your friend, and so you sign in to approve said friend request. But once you’ve signed in, Facebook has you in its clutches.

Now that you’re here, you find that you must snoop through your new friend’s profile, and then, of course, you have to post a witty comment on their wall (look how witty I am!), and then you have to check out who your friend’s friends are, and then you have to snoop through your friend’s friends’ pages, and then you have to play a round or five of Word Twist just to prove that you really are wordsmithier than your sister, and then you realize that your sister’s profile photo is prettier than yours and so you have to take a prettier profile photo of yourself and post it to your own profile (look how pretty I am!), and since you’re posting photos you may as well post a dozen or so photos of your adorable child so that everyone can see for themselves that he’s sooooooo adorable, and then you have to post comments about the photos of your friends’ kids hoping they’ll comment on your kid’s photos (confirming to you that he is, in fact, soooooo adorable)...

And before you know it, the birds are chirping and the sun is coming up and you realize you never went to bed.

It’s a testament to just how compelling an experience the folks at Facebook have created, and bravo to them.  But I need that time back. I’ve got an honest-to-goodness non-digital life to attend to. I’ve got a job, a husband, and a child. (He’s soooo adorable. Check out my Facebook page, I have the photos to prove it.)

No 2: Oy, the guilt

Let’s go back to that part where someone sends you a friend request and you have to decide:  Do I say yes or do I say no? Saying yes feels good. Really really good. Someone wants to be my friend and I want to be their friend and thus my ego feels light and fluffy and inflated as I bask in the glow of my friend-worthy place in the world.

But then there are those times when you really really want to say no to a friend request. You have your reasons: You don’t know this would-be friend very well, or you don’t know them at all for that matter, or maybe you don’t actually like this person and never did, or maybe you like them but, still, you don’t want them to know certain intimate details about you (the kind of intimate details that you stupidly sometimes post to Facebook despite knowing that you really shouldn’t post any intimate details to Facebook whatsoever … also, see No. 3).

The problem is, no matter how good my reasons are … saying no to a friend request always leaves me with a sickly sense of guilt.

Facebook survival guide for awkward adultsBut the guilt doesn’t stop there. Oh no! That is, now that Facebook allows us to stay in touch with everyone we’ve ever known throughout our entire lives, suddenly there are a lot of people to stay in touch with.

Yes, all of sudden, I’ve found that three-plus decade’s worth of friends and acquaintances want to have a chat or catch up or rehash old times. And I really want to chat and catch up and rehash old times too, because these are good people and I’ve missed them. But the simple fact of the matter is: I don’t have the time (see reference to kid, job, husband, life). And so correspondences go unanswered, invitations go un-replied to, wall posts go without the friendly responses they deserve … and my guilt over this growing list of communications I need to tend to but don’t have the time to tend to grows more and more distressing every day.

No. 3: Where has my history gone?

If you want your youthful memories f-ed with, then by all means … go get yourself an f-ing Facebook account.

So, there are these people you were friends with years ago, sometimes even decades ago — your BFF from middle school, your runner-up BFF from middle school, the first boy friend you made out with in middle school. With the passage of time, the bad moments between you and your various BFFs and BFs are forgotten and the good moments are remembered. With time, those friendships of yore acquire the warm shimmer of nostalgia and your experiences with these people take up a special (if not entirely accurate) place in your memories.

But reconnecting with long-lost friends in the crunchy depths of an online social network can be a jarring experience to say the least. Your friends have changed. You have changed. Sometimes reading their profile is a fun, fascinating journey of rediscovery. Sometimes … not so much. Sometimes, your friends’ political, personal and religious affiliations — so neatly summarized on Facebook’s Info page — don’t seem to describe the person you remember, but instead seem to describe a stranger … a strange, dislikable stranger.

That shy pal of yours who loved rainbows and unicorns in middle school — she’s now a high priestess in an asteroid-worshiping death cult. The first boy you made out with in middle school — he thinks the devil planted the dinosaur bones, and he sells Amway.

And suddenly you realize that your childhood BFF would never, ever be your BFF today. Worse yet, this new image of your old friend is replacing your long-held memories of them, bathing the dewy past in the unflattering light of the present for all eternity.

No. 4: Standing on the precipice of humiliation

Let’s face it, at any moment one of your Facebook friends could totally humiliate you in front of all your other Facebook friends, not to mention all of their Facebook friends. Yes, to open a Facebook account is to open one wormy can of vulnerability.

Every time I get a notification that I’ve been tagged in a Facebook photo, I get an uneasy feeling. Will I like the photo that’s been posted … the one that everyone I know and a whole lot of people that I don’t know will be taking a gander at? Or will it be that one photo from that one party back in college where that one thing happened that I really really wish had never happened?

No. 5: You can check out …

All this talking about Facebook, and suddenly, I’m craving a peek at … Facebook. Just one, teeny-weeny little visit. A quick hit. I won’t stay long, I promise.

Wait. Whoa. What just happened?  Oh, right, I just fell off the Facebook wagon … and lost two precious, productive hours of my life in the process.

Now that I’m back, I can tell you that in the five weeks I abstained from Facebook, I missed out on some important moments in my friends’ lives. One friend recently had a baby and he’s been keeping people up to date on his son’s arrival and the ensuing adorableness by using Facebook and Facebook alone, it seems. Meanwhile, old friends of mine came to town for a visit and then left, but I failed to connect with them because they tried to reach me via Facebook while I was taking my Facebreak. I haven’t seen them in a decade. Now, who knows when I’ll have another chance.

Which leads me to yet another reason I wish I’d never joined: Once you’ve checked into Hotel Facebook, you can check out any time you like … but you can never leave.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments