In the spring of 2008, shortly before I graduated from college, I made my initial foray into social media by opening a Facebook account. Fourteen years later, I deleted it. If Meta is to be believed, it was permanently erased on July 31. I had several reasons for deleting my account, from concerns over privacy to Facebook’s complicity in spreading misinformation, but the main reason is that it wasn’t fun anymore. And the truth is, I had been feeling that way about the platform for several years.
Going through my account and revisiting my earlier posts reminded me that I hadn’t always felt this way about it. When I first joined in 2008, I marveled at my ability to connect with people from different stages of my life. I talked with elementary school classmates I hadn’t seen in over a decade, reconnected with high school acquaintances, and found a convenient way to stay in touch with college cohorts after graduation. I took silly personality quizzes and filled out those “20 things about me” questionnaires so that I could share my results with friends. I even used that pirate mode for a while. Facebook, in other words, was what it purported to be: a fun social network.
But the novelty wore off, and as time went on I noticed that my social interactions on Facebook remained largely superficial. It turned out there was a reason why I hadn’t stayed in touch with all those people from my childhood and adolescence. We’d grown and changed so much over the years that we didn’t have much in common anymore beyond our history. Watching my colleagues get married and post endless baby pictures reminded me how different our respective life goals had become. Status updates about restaurant visits, vacation destinations, or errands became a nuisance, feeling like filler on my daily feed. I realized I just wasn’t all that interested in following the everyday activities of my Facebook friends, a feeling I’ve no doubt was mutual.
The increasing politicization of the platform and the advent of advertising further distanced me from Facebook, and I found myself sharing less and less information about myself. Instead of looking forward to seeing how everyone was doing, I found myself dreading it, knowing that someone would be posting some incendiary material designed to rile up the right or the left. For me, Facebook eventually became little more than a platform for sharing blog post updates, as I knew that most of my readership relied on it for notifications. But this year I decided that I’d rather have fewer readers than keep a platform I hadn’t enjoyed using for the last decade.
I had the opportunity to observe the history of my Facebook use as I downloaded old photos and other information worth keeping before deleting the account. As I scrolled back through time, I noticed that my account went through different eras as my uses for the platform changed. I’ve broken them down as follows:
- 2008-2009: Comment Board. This was my account in its purest form as a social media page. I’d post daily updates about my life and moods, and friends posted on my wall about upcoming events, funny things they’d read, and so on. Texting replaced this function.
- 2009-2013: The Album Period. After I got a digital camera I started making photo albums on Facebook. For every photo, I’d post long, informative captions that no one probably read. My blog and Instagram would take over these roles.
- 2011-2013: Social Justice Warrior. When I lived in Vermont I got more politically conscious online, sharing articles and statistics from various liberal sources. These days I volunteer and donate to the causes I care about.
- 2013-2018: Announcement Board. I started distancing myself from my account when I moved to Roswell. Aside from living in a more politically conservative area, I was now a city employee and didn’t want anybody scrutinizing my account. I focused on sharing work updates, such as exhibition announcements or upcoming events. While I did write a few longer posts on various subjects, I reserved most of my personal writing for my blog.
- 2018-2022: Blog Updates. This has been Facebook’s main role for the last few years, letting people know that a new post is up and providing a link.
One major reason for these changing functions was that I started using more specialized social media platforms. Facebook was initially useful for its all-purpose approach to social media, offering a space for text, images, video, and more. It was a place where you could quickly check on friends or share lengthy confessionals. As I started using other platforms, however, I found that they performed their specialized roles better than Facebook. Blogging, first through The Fanciful Lobster and then through this website, especially changed how I used Facebook, as I now had a space where I could tell longer stories without clogging up the feeds of those who didn’t want to read them.
But my Facebook account reflected more than my changing use of social media: it also showed how I had changed. Through Facebook, I had inadvertently created an archive of my life throughout my twenties and early thirties, as I went from insecure graduate student to young professional to experienced curator. My photos and status updates documented not only what I was doing, but how I regarded myself at that particular moment. Not surprisingly, as I got older and more conscious of my professional image, my content shifted, focusing on work-related material rather than personal feelings or insecurities. Photos of parties and hangout sessions gave way to work-related events such as talks or exhibition openings. It also became an increasingly impersonal account, as I reserved my sillier moments for one-on-one conversations and texts with friends and family. In a lot of ways, Facebook taught me the significance of boundaries, and that I didn’t need to share everything with everyone all the time.
I’ll admit, it was surprisingly moving to see these posts I hadn’t read in fourteen years. Just as I had experienced when I downsized my library a few years ago, or when I sorted through my old college papers a few years before that, it’s bittersweet to encounter earlier versions of yourself and to recognize that your dreams and aspirations have shifted over time, some out of genuine interest, others out of necessity. Yet there’s a reason why I hadn’t looked at these posts in so long. Sure, I enjoyed college, grad school, and my first jobs, but I wouldn’t want to relive them. I may have had some good times, but I was broke and highly insecure about myself. I also didn’t have Brandon in my life then, and I wouldn’t want to go back to a time when he isn’t there. Despite the existential dread that’s become nearly incessant thanks to climate change and other events, I’d rather keep looking forward than look back. At a time when we’re constantly subjected to the past, or more accurately romanticized imaginings of the past via nostalgic franchises and reboots, I try to keep moving onward.
In essence, Facebook outlived its usefulness for me. Just like there’s no point in maintaining friendships with people you no longer relate to, the disadvantages of keeping the account outweighed any benefits. We may have been close once, but those days are long gone.
So goodbye, Facebook. It’s been an experience.