When I first started using Facebook, I was a freshman in high school. Like all the other pubescent teenagers around me, I took to the social media site to avoid being left out of the digital conversations my peers were having at school; everyone was on Facebook and, if you weren’t, you were an outcast— plain and simple.
So-and-so visited Costa Rica; went paint balling; is in a new relationship.
At first, Facebook seemed like a dream for my insecure teenager self. I was able to control how others were able to see me. In the real world, I was constantly worried that the other kids were judging everything about me, from my short stature to my bony arms, and I didn’t think the real me was good enough. I certainly wasn’t a ‘cool’ person in the realm of reality, but online I could make ‘cool’ a little more plausible. I now had a cooler, digital identity.
Unsurprisingly, I got hooked to Facebook very quickly.
Each day, I spent around four hours online. I looked at my friends’ profiles and felt bad that my page didn’t make me look as good as I thought they looked. I looked at the profiles of the kids that were mean to me, then brewed in anger and contempt (you know, a very healthy thing for a teenager to do for hours on end). I looked at the profiles of the girls I had crushes on, bringing me the closest I could get to the people I could never work up the courage to talk to. Day in and day out, I would compare my life to theirs.
Fast forward four years and I’m in my freshman year of college, miles away from my high school classmates. I don’t know when exactly it dawned on me, but I suddenly realized that, outside of a select few, I did not care in the slightest what these ‘friends’ of mine were up to (and those that I did, I texted regularly). It was time to take a long look at myself and how I used Facebook. And, after a week or so of contemplating, I took what felt like a deep plunge into the unknown and deleted my account entirely.
What followed surprised me, in a good way.
While I was first worried about feeling left out again, that feeling quickly resided. I soon felt liberated, as if a heavy weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Instead of feeling like an outcast, I felt more like a rebel. No longer distracted by all my peers, I started focusing on myself, my aspirations and goals. I got off the couch and started writing for my school newspaper; I started going to the gym consistently; I started reading books again. Pretty soon, I had something my former, Facebook-addicted self desperately wanted: confidence.
It would be quite a stretch to say that quitting Facebook was the sole reason for my boost in self-esteem (most of it was working on self improvement and striving to meet my goals), but it certainly helped. Giving up the social media site taught me to let go of thinking about others’ perceptions of me. Plus, I realized that, just like mine, the digital identities of others were not a true representation of themselves.
After a two-year break from Facebook, I created a new account in order to keep in contact with my real friends at school while I prepared for my semester abroad. I do not worry about adding lots of pictures, or making lots of ‘friends,’ or receiving many likes. I hardly ever use it, checking in every couple of days and only staying online for a few minutes. I plan on deleting my account again when I return home.
With my experience in mind, I recommend that everyone give up Facebook — at least for a few months to try it out. Though Facebook currently has over one billion users, and it may feel tough to cut yourself off from everyone else, trust me, you won’t miss out on much.
Email Stefan at [email protected]