After dinner, we found a bar – a gin distillery, actually – and I ordered something apple flavored. Trained to ask questions, we picked apart each other’s lives far into the night. When the bar closed, he grabbed my arm and said he didn’t want to stop talking, so we didn’t until we had to attend early-morning meetings.
It was the last time, and really the only, that I saw him because I always make the decision to go. Years later, some of the things he said that night stick with me. He believed so much in his spot in the world at the moment, his job and friends, and he was committed to making the most of it. I told him about missing home, leaving out the detail that I was about to return, and that things like Facebook (I’d discover Twitter later that year) helped me stay connected to my former life. He told me that he rarely checks his account and that he doesn’t want it in his life.
“I want to focus more on my relationships here. I want to focus on the people right in front of me,” he said
That statement has long stayed with me – when another man broke my heart a few months later and I needed to disconnect for a week, when I saw the life I wanted to lead on others’ social media profiles, when I saw my old life continue on without me, when I actually couldn’t be online without electricity or internet.
And, again, this June.
Two days before I left D.C., I deactivated my Facebook account. It’s something I had been thinking about for a long time, but wasn’t sure I could do. A FB message from someone that I wanted to keep in my past and an encounter on the street confirmed my decision that it was time to go. And this new transition seemed like a perfect opportunity to make a clean break.
I didn’t tell anyone, except for a few people that I had wanted to connect with in the upcoming weeks, and I made no announcement. As soon as I hit the confirmation button, a wave of relief filled me. It’s like I dropped a heavy bag that I had been carried and I would no longer be haunted by pasts and potentials.
It also allowed me to come to Chicago with a clean slate. I am focused on the people in my life, whether in Chicago or not. I want to give the attention and love to the people that honestly matter in my life, and I feel that Facebook adulterates my interactions with them. Sure, I’ve missed weddings and babies, but I eventually get the news and I feel that my words are more sincere when not thrown into a heap of comments or likes. The people who truly care about me have found ways to connect with me, and new friends don’t even know me as a Facebook persona, which is sort of charming. I thought I would miss it on my birthday, without the hundred-some greetings, but I was actually so overwhelmed with love for those that remembered without Facebook telling them because I am terrible about that and forget birthdays all of the time. (My sister-in-law would be quick to point out that I had a month-long countdown and it was hard to miss.)
The worst part, and the part that will drive me back eventually, is that Facebook is how I keep in touch with many of my Basotho friends and I feel really terrible that I just disappeared on them.
I’ve promised myself that I won’t go back to Facebook until I won’t use it as a filler for real life, and I am not sure I’m to that point yet. I know that I do like the long emails and phone calls with friends far away or the hours I spend with new friends talking about pieces of life I could easily get from a quick Facebook profile scan. I also spend less time scrolling through my phone in public and often refuse to even look at my phone when I am with another person.
I know that I will go back at some point, but now I enjoy living life outside of profile pictures and status updates. I am focusing on the people in front of me because I want these moments to last as long as they can.
If you have noticed my absence on Facebook, bless your heart, especially if you found a way to reach me (I am actually not that aloof). If you still can’t figure out how to reach me, try firstname.lastname@example.org.