A few weeks before my 24th birthday, I deactivated my Facebook account. I didn't think it was that big a deal. I thought that anyone who was truly important in my life would be able to find another means to stay in touch.
But then my blessed anniversary rolled around, and it was radio silence on my cellphone, email and computer. I began to wonder just how important Facebook was to my personal social network.
I'm not really big on birthdays. It is a combination of being uncomfortable with attention and growing up in a family that didn't put much emphasis on these types of celebrations.
Growing up this way made me think I was above the whole “birthday thing.” Pretentious, I know. So I was surprised how mad I got about the void of well wishes.
Is remembering a birthday even a sign of friendship anymore?
I used to think true blue friends just remembered. They would always know and be there for the important things in life. As a child, all my closest friends' birthdays were enthusiastically scribbled into my agenda with brightly colored gel pens next to pictures of clowns holding balloons.
In my mind, a real friend would never forget, and if they forgot, they weren't a real friend. But with the onslaught of adulthood and the complications life brings with age, people need a little more prompting. Everyone is pretty busy these days, stressing about things in their own lives. Who am I to get mad if they need a Facebook alert to remember my birthday?
The months that followed were filled with great conversations that washed away any residual doubt of connection. Even if the messages weren't there that day, the love was — and still remains — which is what really matters.
This little experience has changed the way I view social media. In some ways I have always wavered on the whole post-your-life-and-thoughts-online thing — as seen by my sporadic Tweets and my formerly moderate Facebook presence.
It just seemed like all the social media sites where driven by a disingenuous quality — a fakeness spurred on by competition to have the most interesting yet effortless life. But after years of just existing on these platforms, they have become entwined with my world IRL.
Social media is one of the only ways I can easily figure out what everyone I care about is doing.
It is the way I talk to my college friends — who are now spread all over the world, or how I lurk acquaintances and potential future friends. I've started collaborations for work projects from late-night Facebook chats and have joined groups that are integral to my career.
Only after 2 months of deactivation do I feel like I am regaining the connections that were established via Facebook. Although the communication I have now feels more authentic, it does take more effort and sometimes convenience outweighs quality.
I know this sounds like an ad for Facebook (like Zuckerberg needs it), but the truth is we have let this site and sites like it become integral to communication and the modern-day human experience.
For better or for worse, they have become instrumental in the moments that count — which is simultaneously exciting and scary.