SAMA: Life without Facebook

I had been flirting with the idea of deactivating my Facebook account for a while. Increasingly convinced that the website was an unhealthy preoccupation, I would waste hours scouring my profile, imagining how it would look through the eyes of the beautiful women who I knew must be stalking me. I’d scroll through absurd numbers of photos and wall posts, carefully crafting witty comments that I thought would generate the most “likes.” The monotony of it all began to get to me, and so I concluded that taking a brief hiatus would be an interesting experiment.

After three months of life without Facebook, I am genuinely surprised at how little I miss it. I now (rather anachronistically) rely on text messages and emails to communicate, wait for personal invites to events and actually depend on my memory to remember birthdays (naturally I have forgotten just about every single one; thanks a lot, Mark Zuckerberg). Sure, I feel out of the loop when my friends gossip about crazy photos from Harvard-Yale or joke about a hilarious YouTube video of fainting goats that I never saw. But while I’m aware of what I’m missing, I find that what I’ve gained from being off Facebook is significantly more meaningful.

No longer do I wonder about what is or isn’t worth sharing online. Thoughts about profile pictures and status updates no longer linger in the back of my mind. Deactivating my Facebook account has forced me to enjoy life as it happens, not as I want it to look on Facebook. It has also helped me avoid the world of insecurity that arises from comparing my life to the selectively manicured representations of reality that people choose to display online.

Getting off Facebook, on the other hand, leaves much more up to the imagination. One interesting and unintended consequence of my diminished online presence is that it has added a certain intrigue to my persona. There’s something mysterious about someone who chooses to zig when the world zags. Besides, how cool can something be if over a billion people are using it? When my grandparents set up their Facebook accounts, I figured it might be time to move on.

As I’ve started to consider career options, I have become sensitive to the vulnerability associated with sharing information online: a potential invasion of privacy that is intrinsic to Facebook. In fact, one of my father’s friends told him that if any potential employer were to gain access to my Facebook profile, it would amount to professional suicide unless my ultimate aspiration was to make it as a nightclub promoter or male prostitute. The last thing a Yale undergraduate needs is to be denied an amazing job opportunity because of a stupid photo of him streaking across Old Campus or shotgunning a Natty Light in the DKE basement. I am convinced that one of my closest friends will head the CIA one day, yet his Facebook profile is riddled with photos of him blacked out. I can only imagine what the Chinese secret service would do with that material decades from now.

Perhaps the most common criticism of Facebook is its tendency to promote procrastination. To some extent, I agree. Without Facebook’s endless stream of information to distract me, I am now able to do things I previously thought I didn’t have time for. I now read for pleasure more than I have in a long time, make it to the gym more frequently and (most crucially) manage to squeeze in those few extra games of FIFA into my weekly schedule.

Facebook is sort of like the Matrix: an alternate reality where we can project a virtual image of ourselves. And while life in the Matrix or on Facebook can be rather nice sometimes, neither can compare to living in the real world. So as much as I miss the convenience and the social connectedness that Facebook provides, I’m enjoying my time offline too much to even think about getting back on anytime soon. At least for now, I’m going to choose the red pill, and I invite you to do the same. Welcome to the real world.

Samir Sama is a sophomore in Morse College. Contact him at samir.sama@yale.edu .

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