The sabbatical ended early. The plan was to take a vacation from Facebook for the month of November. Why? Facebook guilt. I think it started when my daughter said she doesn’t read all my Facebook posts because I post too much. So I began to feel self-conscious. Didn’t want to be that guy. The over-poster. The poor guy who, having no life in the real world, spends all his time on Facebook, sharing his navel lint with hundreds of quasi-friends. I wouldn’t want people to think I’m a narcissistic loser.
I also told myself I was tired of the negativity. Political debates with my Facebook friends tend to get me all worked up and have me shouting at a laptop. Why subject myself to unnecessary stress? Then there’s the time I waste reading pointless comments from people I barely know, “liking” various internet memes, and clicking on links to cat videos. I should be more productive! Get out from behind that computer and get a real life! I can stop any time I want! Just watch me!
So it’s been two weeks. I had expected to discover a newfound productivity. By now I should be enjoying fulfillment living in reality. Calm. Peace of mind. Freedom from the addiction of the all-consuming evil that is Facebook. But that’s not what I discovered. Instead, I discovered that I miss my friends.
Facebook is not separate from “the real world”. My Facebook friends are real people, living real lives. They have real feelings, real opinions, and real emotions to share. Just because our conversations are typed on a screen and not spoken face to face does not mean they are any less genuine. Some go overboard with the sharing, some are overly dramatic, some say mean things, and some display lack of judgment and/or basic intelligence. But you know what? That’s life. Go to work, or Walmart, or church, or wherever you go in “real” life, and you’ll find the same thing.
In primitive societies, people rarely came into contact with others beyond walking distance. As technology advanced, boats, automobiles, and airplanes shrunk the world and allowed cultures to mingle, and human knowledge and understanding grew as a result. Radio and television allowed us to experience the whole world without leaving home, and humanity advanced even further. Now the internet brings human interaction to a whole new level, one unimagined a generation ago. We now hang out with people based on common interests and values, no longer limited by geographic proximity. We connect with old friends, make new friends, share our values, and discuss important issues. We celebrate together and we mourn together. We keep up with family and get to see photos of our precious far-removed loved ones.
So today I asked myself why I needed a vacation from Facebook. Why arbitrarily remove myself from my friends as though they were a bad habit? I could think of no reason. Sure, we all need a little vacation from our regular surroundings once in a while. But two weeks was plenty, and I’m glad to be back.
So… what did I miss?