Breaking Up With Facebook: Q&A with a Teenage Facebook Defector
As much as my generation seems to support Facebook, I believe that underneath all that tagging and friending, there’s a deep-seated resentment that we’ve had to grow up in a world where it’s the norm to share your relationship status with strangers.
I’ve blogged before about the issues I think Facebook creates for teenage girls, and I’ve heard a lot more of my peers agreeing with me about the perils and annoyances of Facebook. My Facebook blog last year received more comments than any other piece I’ve posted, and it seems that many others share my attitude about Facebook: I wish that Facebook didn’t exist, yet I still have a Facebook for several reasons.
I hope to debunk the myth that all teenagers are drinking the facebook Kool-Aid and pose the question: will my generation ultimately defect from Facebook? Believe it or not, grownups, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a kid my age say they “love Facebook,” a two word pairing adults seem to imagine us uttering all the time. Clearly, despite its popularity, Facebook still strikes a lot of people in my generation as having negative impacts.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why I keep my Facebook. In a nutshell, I have a Facebook because I’ve always been afraid that deactivating it would cause my friendships with certain people to suffer. I have a lot of friends who I don’t go to school with, including friends from other countries who I’ve met through international programs I’ve attended. I also use Facebook to communicate with classmates about schoolwork and organize logistics for clubs.
Finally, I use Facebook because no one in my generation checks their email! Teenagers reading this: WTF? Like, maybe I’m being retro and old in saying this but email is a great way to communicate—and if any of you used it, I wouldn’t have to be so dependent on Facebook!
A few weeks ago, I set out to interview my friend, and Rachel’s former teen blogger, Lilly about her recent disappearance from Facebook. That’s right…Lilly is a Facebook defector. I went into my conversation with Lilly especially curious about three topics: friends, schoolwork, and email.
Lilly told me she abandoned Facebook this September, but that she’s wanted to do it for a long time. She’d resisted because she’d always thought that after she got to college, deactivating her Facebook would make it difficult to keep in touch her high school friends, a concern I definitely identified with.
I asked her about the strain on her friendships with these people. Lilly told me that she still communicates with many of them through text messaging and email (woohoo! What what!), but that it’s certainly true that she’s lost touch with some people by deactivating her Facebook. “It’s been very indicative of who my true friends are,” Lilly told me, “My birthday was on the 31st and it was definitely interesting to see who remembered without facebook there to remind them.” Lilly said she didn’t want to be part of such vapid measurements of relationships and that quitting facebook has helped her do this.
Lilly also talked about the pressure to cultivate a perfect persona through one’s Facebook profile or as she puts it, pressure to constantly be your own PR person. “The whole language of Facebook stalking really irks me. That’s so sad that that’s what our interactions have become. They’re so diluted. No one says on their profile…‘I’m really messy and I sorta suck sometimes.’”
Lilly said she still finds out about school events, clubs, and homework assignments, although she said she is sometimes the last to find out about parties. “Sometimes it means, you know, showing up at a party and not realizing it’s a costume party until you get there,” Lilly said, laughing. But, these are small issues Lilly is more than willing to deal with.
“It was just taking up so much time. I didn’t realize until I got rid of it how instinctual checking Facebook was for me.”
When I asked Lilly if she ever thought she’d return to Facebook, she told me that, although she had been planning on going back over winter break, she really doesn’t want to. “I don’t think I’ll ever want to go back to having it,” Lilly said, “And when I tell people I don’t have a Facebook, they sort of get this look on their faces…like they get it.”
After my conversation with Lilly I felt both more tempted to ditch Facebook and more frightened to do so. Facebook is such an integral part of all of our lives, yet many of us seem to be noticing its flaws more and more. I’m still not sure if I’m big enough to take the plunge…are you?
Fiona Lowenstein is a high school senior, weekly guest blogger and Girls Leadership Institute alumna. Read more of her work here.