We really need to have a serious chat about our relationship. I’ve been with you for many years, and though, deep down, I don’t want to give you up, I feel like the spark I first felt for you is no longer there. What started out as a passionate love affair—a deep infatuation, if you will—has now become a love-hate thing. I know this may be difficult for you to hear, but I need to be honest about my feelings.
I eagerly hooked up with you when you were the new guy on the scene. I thought you were so fantastic! Those others; IRC, Usenet, Myspace—they couldn’t hold a candle to you. You helped me to connect with family and friends from all over the world, and you didn’t mind keeping my photos in albums for me or making sure my friends and family knew what I was up to. You let me know when they gave me the thumbs up for what I was doing, or even sent hearts or exclamations! So yeah, I felt an instant connection with you, and thought you were pretty amazing. In return, you made me feel pretty darn fantastic.
You showed me new places to hang out. Introducing me to groups of people like me, who read the same pages I did; the latest celebrity gossip, for example, or finding special offers on my favourite products. You opened up my world and it all felt so exciting and dreamy. I was very happy with how things between us were going.
But really, dear Facebook, I must admit that I’m just not happy with you anymore. Despite the magic that you and your cousin Twitter brought me, you also made me feel a little bit desperate, like I couldn’t live without you. The closer we got, the more I craved. More friends, more validation, more of that connection that was somehow missing, even though I was more connected than ever before. I couldn’t leave you alone. I found myself checking on you when I was waiting for an appointment or out shopping or just feeling bored, to see if I missed anything good.
And it’s not just me, turns out that this is even a proper thing, called FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a sense of anxiety that can even cause withdrawal symptoms—just like any love affair! I started to feel like I needed you around all the time to make me feel special.
From what I’ve learned, I’m not alone. You have charmed so many other people so much that they are addicted to you. They are so caught up with you that they forget that there is a real life out there, away from you. They have got to the point where they can’t enjoy things without sharing them with you, like they are desperate for love and acceptance, but they don’t know how to get it except through you. And don’t get me started on all the selfies that people want you to spread around. Why can’t they just enjoy a mountain hike or a lovely sunset without taking a photo of themselves with it and posting it and wanting to get a whole bunch of likes?
I shouldn’t be too critical, though, because I am also guilty of wrapping myself up in you too much. Heaven forbid if one of the friends you’ve connected me with unfriends me. I feel so awful and I end up wondering what I did to make them leave and I feel like begging them to please come back—for them to tell me what I did wrong to make them leave and wanting to fix it somehow. I know this isn’t healthy, but I just can’t help it.
You know what else? You didn’t keep secret what I shared with you. You took my personal information and used it for your benefit! That is just not cool! I know it is an open secret that you do this, but I was willing to overlook it because you are just so there for me, and you keep me in touch with my long list of friends. But because of this, I stay discreet and am careful what I tell you. I try not to give you too much information, like what I had for dinner or where I’m going on vacation. I need to keep some secrets, after all!
But that is why I’m feeling uneasy with our relationship. Honestly? You make me feel inferior. Everything you tell me is about how everybody else is happy all the time and how everything is great and they have an amazing and exciting life. I think that they think if you aren’t constantly showing people their amazing photos and updates, then maybe others you talk to will think they are boring (hence the selfie thing). And I get it. I also kind of feel this way. But pretending and keeping up the façade is hard for me, and it makes me feel like I am living a lie, that this isn’t the real me.
I wish I could say all the things that I really want to say, like how I’m struggling or having a hard time. But I can’t, because I don’t want you to hold that information against me. I also think that none of my friends want to know about negative stuff because that would stop them liking me. Sure, you’re always urging me to share more, but you’ve created this thing where my self-esteem becomes based on how many people want to hear from me. I often feel like I just don’t measure up! But at the same time, I’m not good at being dishonest with people and I want to be more real and authentic with them. So, I guess I’m starting with you.
And you have to admit, our relationship has been a bit one sided. Even though you are called “social” media, I’m finding out that you are just not all that social. I wouldn’t call you “anti-social” but maybe we’ve become a bit codependent. You need me and my information to give you reason to exist, and I need you to keep in touch with the people I know. But here’s another thing you’ve done; you’ve replaced real-life relationships in a lot of people’s lives. Because of you, they no longer interact with each other face to face.
Call me an old-fashioned gal, but I’ve realized that I like receiving handwritten cards and letters, not just virtual birthday greetings. I don’t get many proper phone calls anymore. And to be honest, I’d much rather chat with someone over a cup of coffee than chat with them through you.
So where does that leave us right now? My personal relationship status with you is “It’s Complicated.” I really wish I could just up and leave. Goodness knows I’ve tried, but can’t. I keep coming back to you over and over again—and then I feel guilty for thinking about abandoning you because, lets’ face it, you are what links me and my friends. I don’t have their real-life emails or phone numbers or snail mail addresses, so I am resigned to the fact that I am stuck with you. I also totally admit that I’ve been guilty of spending too much time with you at the expense of other things in my life and I don’t know what to do about that. I feel empty when I can’t check in with you first thing in the morning and before I go to bed. It’s sad that you have that effect on people, but it’s just the way it is so I guess I’ve just got to accept it.
So, what do I need from you going forward? I honestly don’t know. I would like to have a more casual relationship with you and to not hang out with you as much as I used to. I feel restless because I’ve grown as a person and I need other things to fulfill me. You are no longer the most important thing in my life.
I know I keep making threats to leave but I am not breaking up with you. Not yet. But to paraphrase that famous line in the film Brokeback Mountain, “Facebook, I wish I knew how to quit you.” Because as much as a try, I realize that I just can’t.