Do you remember what your life was like before Facebook?
I can’t explain exactly why, but I’ve been thinking about this for almost a week and I can’t stop. I think my generation (or even more specifically, my age group) is kind of unique in that we’ve lived half our lives in one world (before social media), and the other half in another.
Social media wasn’t really a “thing” until the tail end of my high school career, and I had already been married a year before a few friends told me I needed to join this new site called “Facebook”. Back then it was exclusively for college and university students, and you even needed an active post secondary school email to sign up. Even then it was really just a profile with your basic details and nothing more.
Before that, it was MSN and ICQ. Myspace was around, but no one I knew ever really got into it. Everyone had a “page”, but the real social networks were the chat sites… where you would anxiously await the sound of the ICQ “Oh-oh” as someone logged in and sent you a message, or the ding of an MSN message coming through. It was nothing to have 10 chat windows open at once, shifting tabs back and forth like a pro as you had real time conversations with all your friends.
Before that it was super cool to have a sweet Hotmail email address (or three) that you used to send emails back and forth. A few friends and I also had “anonymous” online journals where we would detail our hopes, dreams, crushes and heartaches.
Somehow, it all felt so much more… interactive. In reality, with how social media is now, we are technically more “connected” to people than we ever have been before.
…but at the same time it feels like it’s at an arm’s length. We are “connected”, but are we really “connecting”? Beyond a Facebook or Instagram “like”, are we actually interacting?
I’ve pondered this before, but somehow it’s been rolling around in my head for a few days and I can’t stop thinking about it.
I mean, do you remember what your life was like before social media? I know it was less convenient to get a hold of someone, but I also feel like the connections were more authentic. To know what was going on in someone’s life, you actually had to, you know, ask them about it. Have a conversation. Write an intentional letter. Make a connection.
I don’t think I was less happy before Facebook, Instagram or any of the other social media networks out there, and I don’t think that I was lonelier either. If I’m being perfectly honest, I think social media can actually make people feel more lonely if they are constantly scrolling past happy pictures of friends or family together and they aren’t a part of it.
I often wonder about the time I’d get back if I didn’t have social media– I find Facebook so addictive. I’ve been quite open about my struggles there, and lately I just keep asking myself why I’m even on it. It’s so mindless… I enjoy seeing the photos and updates, but it’s all littered between advertisements, youtube videos, articles and a host of other things.
I just keep thinking back to the days of handwritten notes passed between friends (I still have a full binder from high school), long email updates to catch up with a friend, and spending hours on the phone reconnecting with someone you hadn’t heard from in a while.
Mostly, the idea of letting go of the fear that I’m “missing” something if I haven’t checked Facebook in a while just sounds so appealing. I know it has made finding friends and connecting with people so much easier than ever before… but I also feel like it’s changed the way we interact with people.
Sometimes I dream about just shutting it all down and going dark. I have a few friends who don’t use any social media and they seem really happy with their choice. I find it interesting. Intriguing. I don’t know if I could ever walk away completely–it has been very helpful for me at times–but I think about it sometimes.
Anyway. These are my big thoughts for tonight.