For starters, I never felt like I got to enjoy my final semester of school, as I was plagued with questions on "post-grad plans" the moment I returned from winter break in January. I had none when I obtained my degree, and the more I saw my Facebook friends announce in status updates that they'd landed their dream jobs or had solidified plans to move to some awesome metropolis away from perpetually hot Arizona, the sadder and emptier I felt.
So during a family trip to Cape Cod two months after graduation, I deactivated my Facebook account via Blackberry, my beloved mobile device at the time. I remember doing it in the car and informing my sister, who'd been Facebook-free for months, after my mom and I got back to the Cape from a local grocery store. My sister was reading a book when I shared my news, and she congratulated me.
"You'll get a lot more reading done now," she said, glancing down at the novel before her.
The first week away from Facebook felt liberating. A lot of people were starting to do it, as there's no timesuck quite like the social networking site, and I loved that I couldn't just look at the profiles of my friends who were still in college, therefore much better off than me, a rudderless ship with big dreams yet no plan in mind to actually accomplish them.
I was nursing a broken heart, and it seemed healthy for me to avoid the Facebook page of the person I could no longer have. I couldn't check to see whether he'd added any new friends, specifically females, been tagged in photos, or received any more cryptic wall (pre-timeline) posts from girls who may or may not have had a thing with him. I didn't have to obsess, and I didn't have to compare myself to everyone else on my list.
Of course, my Facebook deactivation didn't change the fact that I a). still hadn't landed my first post-college job and b). had yet to move on from said former paramour. My birthday is in late July, so because I wasn't on Facebook at the time, I received fewer messages from friends and acquaintances. I didn't mind that, but I did wonder whether I'd made the right move when a friend from another country emailed me to see what had happened to my Facebook page.
I'd stayed with her family in Europe a month after graduation, so when my Facebook profile disappeared, they were confused. I explained that I just needed a break from the site, not my friends, but that showed me I was alienating people who cared for me. They may have lived far away, but by cutting myself off from Facebook, a popular site in all sections of the word, I was essentially saying I didn't care to stay in touch with the folks I'd gotten to know abroad. Pushing others away hadn't been my intention, but that was exactly what I'd done.
Though I started to miss Facebook by week four, I did use the extra time I would have spent fuming over what I believed to be my shortcomings to look for places to live in Washington, D.C., my dream city at the time. I'd interned there two years prior with my friend Anna, and we both made a big decision to relocate there sans employment.
I flew out to D.C. one weekend to apartment hunt with her, and after we found one in the northern Virginia area, I went out to Georgetown to meet my sister's college buddy Adam, who is now one of my closest friends. I told him I'd been off Facebook for nearly a month but that I finally felt confident enough to get back on it again, as I had a semblance of a plan. He agreed that would be a good idea and promised to accept my friend request once I fired one his way.
So, once my mom picked me up from San Francisco Airport the following day, I reactivated my Facebook page, happy to tell all my friends that I'd come back swinging and felt good about the path I'd chosen for myself.
Naturally, I looked at all of the things I'd spent a month avoiding when I returned to Facebook, but I'm only human, and sometimes I just can't help liking punishment. Once I had Facebook again, I could organize outings and get-togethers with my new friends in D.C. I also recognized that not everyone on my friends list was walking on air all the time. I'd been through "Facebook depression" before, but isolation was much worse.
The Verge writer Paul Miller recently wrote about quitting internet for a year, and though I'm not even going to pretend to understand that experience, I did choke up at the final pargraphs of his piece, which won't sell you on the idea of abandoning the interwebs:
"I sat down with my 5-year-old niece and tried to explain to her what the internet is. She'd never heard of 'the internet,' but she's huge on Skype with the grandparent set. I asked her if she'd wondered why I never Skyped with her this year. She had.
'I thought it was because you didn't want to,' she said.
With tears in my eyes, I drew her a picture of what the internet is. It was computers and phones and televisions, with little lines connecting them ... I showed her my computer, drew a line to it, and erased that line.
'I spent a year without using any internet,' I told her. 'But now I'm coming back and I can Skype with you again.'"
The internet can be annoying and turn into a timewaster, but never underestimate the value of connection, whether in person or via internet.
Would you quit Facebook and/or other social media sites? Let me know on Twitter: @LauraDonovanUA.