I took the plunge. I finally found the strength to deactivate my Facebook. It was hard knowing a) I would essentially be unreachable by my friends b) I wouldn’t know what every acquaintance I’ve ever had was doing at all times c) I would acquire hours and hours of free time, which I needed to decide what to do with. Before pulling the plug on everything, I made one last status. DEACTIVATING MY FACEBOOK. PLEASE DON’T FORGET ME AND EMAIL ME AT MARIA.YAGODA@YALE.EDU.
The sad truth is that I wasn’t being melodramatic—without Facebook, you’re essentially cut off from a second life, that is perhaps almost as important as your real one. Your status updates will no longer be sent to hundreds of people, your message on your friends wall will no longer be sent to hundreds of people, and your profile—with all of your interests, quotes, movies, books—will no longer be read and judged by hundreds of people. I withdrew from the only celebrity I’ll ever have a shot at. I think that’s what scared me the most about Facebook. I found myself becoming obsessed with myself. As much as Facebook is about reconnecting with old friends and staying in touch with current ones, it’s all about you. Every time you log on, your eyes rush to see if you have any new notifications. Who posted on my wall? Look who liked my status! She commented on my picture! Why didn’t he comment on my picture? When there were no new notifications, my stomach would sink. And strangely, I would concoct ways to increase the likelihood of receiving notifications by increasing my interactions—writing on friends’ walls, coming up with clever statuses, looking through my profile and making sure it’s exactly how I want people to see me, posting links, etc. And that frightened me. I wanted constant connection and interaction and approval and recognition. Like a puppy or a toddler. Yet somehow all of those things don’t satisfy. Perhaps because of the sheer ease with which we can receive it all on Facebook.
Some would argue that these connections are better than nothing. And it’s true, I will no longer be in touch with many people who I only really interacted with on Facebook. I won’t be able to know where my 7th grade lab partner went for spring break, or whether the girl who sits behind me in French is liberal or conservative. But I am willing to take that risk, because I have faith I can find deeper connections. When I want to contact someone, I will send them an email, call them, or meet them. There will be no replacement, however, for the instant recognition, the quasi-celebrity that everyone gets to have on Facebook. And I’ll just have to deal with that. If I really want everyone who I’ve ever met to see the pictures from last night’s party, I will send all 500 of them photos in the mail. And if they want to comment, they can send me a letter back. If they wan’t to “like it,” they can call me up and let me know, or send me a big letter that says LIKE. Drastic? Of course. I’m not trying to make a statement, or reject the digital world and the ease it brings. I’m just trying to find a balance. Trying to even out the time I spend interacting with people on a screen and in person. Trying to fight back against this budding obsession with myself and how I’m perceived. And trying to gain a little time, to read, to write, to talk, or just to think and sit.
So what does this have to do with higher education? Well, a life without Facebook can greatly change the nature of one’s college experience. I bet there are 4, maximum, people at Yale without Facebooks. Isn’t that crazy? And they really are cut off from this whole other college experience–being invited to events, seeing pictures of what people are up to, messing around on Facebook during lecture, posting on someone’s wall whether there’s homework in Astronomy, etc. So I would say this has a lot to do with higher education. Or at least a little.