Facebook is an eccentric preacher hyped up on pure cocaine. It is a space in which to share novel ideation. It values transcendent and euphoric events. It is a nerve center for the scope and mystery of human relationships, between people in separate states, countries, spheres—a myriad of connections that bend over one another like infinite webbing.
Facebook is a character profile—a view of the breadth of interests, the depth of the personality, the complexity of the overall being, the balance of extroverted and introverted moments. It is the rationale for substance. It is the rationale for getting laid. It allows for easily accessible and infinitesimal study breaks. Superfluous, infinitesimal study breaks.
Facebook is an outlet in which vulnerabilities can be annihilated. It is a device that can make presence nonessential. Facebook aggrandizes and romanticizes the most simple and the most complex human experience, and yet it still manages to be a window with a very narrow view.
Over a billion people buy into it every month. I was one of those billion. I was for a long time—Facebook swept over my middle school with a frenzy when I was in eighth grade, back when I couldn’t conceptualize something like social media. Intoxicating—that’s the way I would describe my early time with it. Rapid, highly personal communication. Satisfying a craving I didn’t even know that I had.
There are two options when looking to get rid of Facebook: deactivation and deletion.
An account can be deactivated in a couple of clicks, requiring little from the individual, but it tries its very best to be a somber process. “Are you sure?” the top of the page reads. “Your [insert number of friends here] will no longer be able to keep in touch with you.” “Person A will miss you.” “Person B will miss you.” Profile pictures of Person A and B are included, both looking attractive and happy. You must provide a reason for deactivating, and if you click “Other,” you must type up a response. “Your account has been deactivated,” the final page reads. “To reactivate your account, log in using your old login email and password. You will be able to use the site like you used to. We hope you come back soon.”
The account will then sit—inaccessible, but still gathering dust—until you cave and decide to warm the engine up again.
When deleting Facebook, the process is more direct. You are informed that you should download a copy of your profile information, so that you can always have the goods if you ever decide to come back. You are also informed that everything will be gone in 14 days. After that, the webpage cordially tells you that it “can take care of this for you,” referring to deletion.
And this sparks the slightest bit of confusion. “Well, yes, you better take care of it, because I don’t know what else will.” The confusion balloons, and there’s the realization that hidden between the lines of text for either process—deactivating or deleting—is the abysmal idea that moving away from Facebook is an act of personal sabotage. Delete Facebook, and you delete friendships, experiences, moments of joy, and opportunities for the future.
On a basic level, Facebook is a social media platform—a pedestal from which to propagate and a place on which to connect. It would be absurd to think that it could become any more intertwined with the life of an individual, to represent anything more than a space to share novel ideation.
But picture a college student. Guy or girl, freshman or senior, introspective or extroverted, it doesn’t matter. He or she is sitting and scrolling through Facebook in the library, in a dorm room, on the quad, in class, on a date, in the city, in the car, on the bus, on a computer, on a tablet, on a cellphone. You’ve seen this image close to a billion times—the individual’s search, subconsciously, between likes, lines of text, blues and whites.
I deleted my Facebook two months ago. My thoughts back then were plain: it is a waste of time, and I don’t want to waste time. But, stepping back, I’ve been able to get a more panoramic view of the presence and power that Facebook has.
Facebook is a farce. What sells itself as a tool for chatting seamlessly with friends, or keeping up with other lives as highly complex as your own, has become a solution to a question that doesn’t have an answer. I let Facebook run on autopilot in the back of my mind for so long that I didn’t even notice the transition.
“Come back soon,” that final Facebook page whispered. “Come back to exist again.”
Graphic by Jordan Pentaleri / Heights Graphic