I’ve been fasting from Facebook for Lent and let me just tell you, I think I’m much happier without it. But I don’t know if I could ever get myself to delete it. Besides, Facebook makes it way too hard to delete your account. You can deactivate it, sure, but to delete it entirely is a process of steps, clicks, links, Captcha codes, social security number, waivers signing your crap away, etc.
Plus, I can’t compete with my friends in Bejeweled Blitz if I delete my Facebook. Gee, first world problems.
Anyway, it got me thinking — the social media world has grown so huge that if one person in London tweets that they just saw Adele riding a bicycle, seconds later, thousands of people can be retweeting that from Tokyo to Peru. More and more employers are now shoving your name into Google Searches, Facebook searches and Twitters searches to find out if you are truly as awesome as you say you are on your resume.
I have a confession to make: I stalk people. Not really though, not in a way where people need to put a restraining order on me. Basically, if you have an online profile somewhere, anybody can access it. This is why privacy settings are so important.
Back in the day, before the world of Facebook and even MySpace, there was a little blogging community called LiveJournal that I was obsessed with. It was blogging before blogging became cool (I guess that makes me hipster). Users could add friends, friends could comment, comments could become threads, and so forth. It became so big (for me, at least) that I even had someone recognize me in public and call me by my username. There were privacy settings, but being 16-years-old at the time, I really wanted my life to be way too public.
I had a friend tell me that everything I posted on my LiveJournal was like I was yelling it on a bullhorn in front of millions of people — not that millions of people were reading it, but that it’s easily accessible to throngs and throngs of people. Do I really want to be posting about my menstrual cycle, my love life, my girl friend drama?
The bullhorn theory is still true today: do you know how many random ass people I have access to on the Internet? On Instagram alone, I can see tons and tons of pictures belonging to unsuspecting young teenagers who think if they post one more in-the-mirror photo, they can get more followers. But why? Why do we want so many followers? What ever happened to privacy?
At the end of the day, the root of the problem of oversharing, of gathering followers, of creating online personas is that we really are social beings that need to be affirmed. We want to know how many people “like” the fact that at 3:21pm we are currently eating a burrito. We relish in the comments on our newest profile picture and we somehow think that 124 profile pictures of ourselves in pretty much the same pose is still not enough.
When I return to Facebook after Lent, I think I’m going to go on a deleting frenzy. Erase the albums, erase the status updates, erase the notes. I can’t get myself to delete Facebook (honestly, my score on Bejeweled Blitz is like over 600,000) but I do want my privacy. I don’t want people finding out about how I am through social media alone. I want genuine friendships where people ask me, “Hey, have you tried out that new burrito place?” instead of merely giving me a virtual thumbs-up for posting a picture of a half-eaten burrito.