My Visible Life

I want people to like me.

I want people to like me, and understand me, and it stresses me out.

This is a problem I admit to having, and it is a problem that many people have. It is a problem because it interferes with and bogs down my ability to see real life in full-blown clarity.

The problem is not that I don’t like myself — I love myself, and I say that with maybe a little bit of narcissism but also with the genuine comfortability of who I am, and acceptance of my personality. I don’t always love what I do, but I do love myself. But I sometimes worry about whether or not other people love me.

Which is so dumb. There are plenty of people who show me that they care about me, but perhaps they’re not the people whose affection I search for — a fact that kind of makes me an asshole. I sometimes worry so much about everyone else liking me that it overshadows my respect for those who really do care.

This worry also prevents me from getting work done. For example, I spend so much time sitting on Facebook, thinking of something clever to post or liking other people’s posts… All that time could be spent writing, or going outside and enjoying the moment. But instead it is spent feeding myself to society, hoping that it will somehow improve my likeability.

Which has really been a problem in the past few days, because this week, I deactivated my Facebook account.

I plan on login back on at some point in the future; and I even still use the Facebook Messenger app (go figure, you can still contact any of your Facebook friends even when your account isn’t active). But I needed a break from the actual, physical thing that Facebook has become.

There were multiple factors in my decision — one of which is that I allow myself to get sucked into ridiculous comment-arguments that serve no purpose but to fortify the opinions that we already have, while looking down our noses at the “other” arguing against us. It’s stupid; it’s petty; and yet I continue to do it. It’s because I’m passionate about certain subjects; and I get that. I’m willing to deal with the fact that sometimes I act out of emotion instead of ignoring things that aren’t worth my time. But with that acceptance, I realize it’s probably not a good idea to put myself in those scenarios.

But deactivating Facebook has also led me to understand something extremely freeing: I use Facebook as a device to feel more liked, more connected.  This sounds great, given my desire for likeability and connection. But am I actually obtaining these things? Maybe, but in terms of quantity, not quality. Facebook allows us surface-level interaction with multitudes of people, but it never allows us to deepen our relationships. Sometimes we get caught up in the quantity part, and forget that depth is even a thing to be achieved.

In the three days since I’ve been on Facebook vacation, I have felt a pretty visceral amount of withdrawal. My fingers still automatically type Facebook into the browser when I’m bored; the amount of times that I’ve found myself on the login screen without even realizing what I’m doing is alarming. I’ve also felt at times like I’m missing out on things — I don’t see the updates of my acquaintances from high school and college, for instance. I could just message people and ask them what’s new with their lives, but I don’t feel close enough to do so — a point that is, actually, literally the point. I like reading about their lives, but I don’t want to interact with them.

The weirdest thing, however, is that not having Facebook sharply decimates the amount of people who know about my life. I have a Twitter, but only a handful of friends follow me there; in the past, I would always divide my attention between Facebook and Twitter, knowing that I garner a larger audience from Facebook. Now, I feel a slight tension in the fact that my life is going by nearly unnoticed.  To the eye of social media, I am nearly invisible.

That will be the truth even for this blog post. A lot of people would typically read my blog via Facebook. Posting now will significantly decrease my readership (as if it was actually significant in the first place).

Why am I saying all this? Am I bemoaning my decision to deactivate Facebook? Actually, no. It’s a freeing thing, to realize that the things I do now are for my own benefit, not for the world’s. Sure, right now it’s a bit painful, but I look forward to the time when that pain is replaced with liberation. I want to be a little bit more me, and a little less other people’s expectations. I want to stop worrying about whether something is funny enough to say, or will evoke the right amount of tenderness, or anything external instead of how it makes me feel. I want to start viewing life as something to look forward to, not as something to craft into something more visible.

So I’m sticking to my guns on the “No Facebook” thing. I’ll be back eventually… Just not until I’ve stopped viewing Facebook as a lifeline. Not until I strengthen the friendships of those who still keep in touch with me (read: those who are worth staying connected to). And not until I’ve steered myself to do better things with my time than worry about my visible life.

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