One of my resolutions for 2014 (besides the annual “This year, I will quit smoking, drink tons of water and actually attend the spinning classes I spend $150 a month for”) was to quit Facebook. My intent was not to break up with the social media site to assert some “I’m too cool to even be on the grid” hipster mentality; I’ve just realized how much Facebook has been messing with my mind.
There comes a certain point in a woman’s life (i.e. when you turn 30) when all of your social media platforms are filled with pictures and status updates of baby bumps, marathon races and vegan pot-roast recipes. And then it suddenly hits you: Facebook is boring because you’ve become boring.
Back in October, Jimmy Fallon joked about the recent Facebook downtime. “Don’t worry,” he said, “Here’s what you missed: hayride, Halloween costume, sunset, sunset, baby, dog, baby, cat, cat, cat, sunset.” Haha, Facebook is predictable. Very funny like TBS is “Very Funny.”
So that got me to thinking: Why do we waste countless hours on a boring site that just broadcasts the mundane of our everyday lives? It used to be that we only presented the best aspects of ourselves on the Internet – leading spectators to believe that our lives were a 24/7 party, complete with glitter, exotic trips to Bali and unicorns. But now, we advertise everything online, right down to the nitty-grittiness of bowel movements and breakups.
I first logged onto Facebook as a sophomore in college. This was right in the thick of the MySpace craze, so Facebook had yet to become a household name. Almost 10 years later, I’ve recognized that the site grooms us for our audiences, asking us to jump through mental hoops, double-checking what version of “you” you broadcasted. During my college years, I only posted pictures of me doing keg-stands and status updates lamenting that my fake ID had been confiscated. This was a way to fit in with my peer group, to seem popular.
As a 30-year-old writer now, I have to rein in my posts, making sure that they are professional, positive and proper. My Facebook “friends” no longer consist of just co-eds anymore, but my 70-something parents, former bosses, ex-boyfriends and present coworkers. My Facebook sphere stretches across vast cultural boundaries, umbrella-ing folks from the Philadelphia heavy metal scene, from the evangelical South, from mommy-land, from the Tri-State area publishing world. Trying to play up to such a diverse audience left me feeling fragmented, scrambling to find out which one of the “me’s” I presented was the real one.
Last week, I chose to take a “mental health” day from the Internet. I unplugged myself from my laptop, my iPhone, my iPad, and any other electronic device I have and ventured out into the world. I drove down to Valley Forge National Park, about 35 minutes outside of South Philly, and just wandered around. At one point closer to the evening hours, as I was trekking back to my car, a doe crossed my path on the walking trail. She came to a standstill mere feet from where I was and froze, trying to decide what her next move should be. I gazed at her plate-sized mahogany eyes, the dainty concavity of her face, the wide, flicking ears. She toe-danced in front of me for a second before lunging into the woods, tail erect, flagging others that a human was near.
Arriving back to my car, I frantically fished in my purse for my iPhone, desperate to update the world about my epic encounter with nature. Then, realizing I had purposefully forgotten to bring it, I smiled, realizing that some moments are better left to be appreciated in silence, like a magic garden only for oneself.