I ended up deleting my Facebook account earlier than I planned. I’ve had a really hard time with Facebook since I signed up for it many years ago. I am exactly the type of person it’s terrible for. I love gossip, and I also love helping people. I easily get sucked into dramas or giving my opinion or advice – and even when it’s asked for – does anyone really want it? Will I really change the mind of the racist man whom was once my 7th grade boyfriend? No. Do I need to be constantly embarrassed and dismayed by the ignorant Trump supporting posts by my family? No. Do I need the constant bombardment of collective dismay and bad news posted all day by people I love and admire? Nope. The thing is, I’ve known all this for years. What it took for me to finally understand just how gross social media is, was a good old-fashioned mean girl.
Thing is, I’ve found it easy to allow the negativity wash over me. The cliche frog in the boiling water. So many #Metoo – none of which I was surprised about – but each like a tiny knife to the heart nonetheless, they became a blur. Mass shootings, murdered children, gofundme for basic medical care, Nazi rallies, and don’t get me started on 45. Yes, most of it is rehashing of news, but an endless stream with endless analysis all day. Still, this wasn’t enough to get me to understand how harmful it was to my brain. There are definite bright spots to Facebook, like the ability to keep in touch with people that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. And there are lots of funny things too. But all in all, it was a time suck that wasn’t good for me, and a bad habit.
Finally, last week, I finally had enough when, on a rather benign post about a local grocery store closing, a woman called me a bitch. Look, I’ll be 40 in a few days, I’ve been called a bitch many times, and honestly there are times when I deserved it. But this was different. I’d corrected this woman on some false information and asked her not to spread rumors, since I’d just spoken to the owner. She countered by calling me a bitch. I was astounded. There was nothing unkind or rude about what I said. Other people had also corrected her. I told her she was out of line, and it escalated from there. Basically, she continued to hurl insults at me in a weird and unhinged way. But, here’s the thing. This woman had publicly insulted and spread rumors about me before. A few years ago our neighbors sold their house to someone who turned it into a massive dog kennel. Our town let this happen with no oversight or regulation. Despite attending numerous meetings and trying to work things out – basically to get minimum business regulations which the town didn’t have because they said a kennel is agriculture – three town officials told us to get a lawyer. We did. The local paper published a story about it, because it went to court. The owner of the kennel, and this other woman took to spreading rumors about myself and my husband. It got pretty nasty. We ended up selling the house and moving. Anyhow, I reveal all of this because the woman, in this exchange on Facebook claimed not to know me. I had seen her a few times around town and at the kids’ school, and had decided to let it all go and had moved on. However, this exchange brought back a tidal wave of anger and pain. When I reminded her that she did, in fact, know me- by cutting and pasting her nasty comments about me that she’d posted on the local paper’s website – she responded by another raft of insults, claiming not to remember that either, and blocking me. I admit, this is all very small town and juvenile. But it’s what finally made me realize just how nasty Facebook can be. I deleted my account that day.
I’ve thought about this a lot. Either she’s lying and remembers me, or she’s not lying and she doesn’t remember saying nasty things and spreading rumors. Frankly, from the private messages I received after the exchange from people that know her and are ‘friends’ with her, this is pretty regular behavior, so either explanation could be true. Cheryl Strayed frequently mentions her mother’s advice to, “put yourself in the way of beauty”. For me, Facebook was putting myself in the way of nastiness. Yes, some people are just sad an nasty. I am old enough to know this. That doesn’t mean I need to put myself in their way as an easy target.
I haven’t gone cold turkey on social media, but nothing else had the hold or made me feel as bad as Facebook. I’m trying to figure out what this will mean for my blog and promoting books. I’m not alone either. Almost every day I talk to someone else who has deleted their account. I’m already happier. I wonder how I’ll feel in a year?