My Problem with Facebook

Dedicated to two beautiful sisters of mine whom I want to let know how much I really appreciate our friendship:
*Sara, who always understands what I’m saying even when I’m not saying it understandably to my own ears.
*Sirine, who for the past 10 years that I’ve known her, has this knack of saying a tiny phrase that gets you thinking for hours! (So much so that here I am, writing a blog post about it)
 3 benches

On January 1, 2012, I quit Facebook “for good”.

Eleven months later (what do you know!)… I’m back on.

A lot of people prefer flattery over honesty, and I suppose in some cases a white lie is called for. The reason, I think, that brutal honesty is not favorable with many people is because it is often a blow to the person’s ego, or they automatically assume that the critique himself is arrogant and hence giving his personal and uncalled-for opinion.

But when you know someone well enough to know that, without a doubt, they love you for the sake of Allah, and you are on good terms with this person and have no reason to suspect they want the worst for you, a comment that would’ve enraged you from a stranger is taken as a tasteful spoon of food for thought from them instead. This is the missing link from feedback-givers and receivers, why so many people feel like the world is out to get them– there isn’t a meaningful bond of respect, friendship or even trust among the two individuals. Of course a negative criticism by a stranger will be seen as an attack, regardless of the real intention behind it– what else would it be? Generally speaking, anyways.

Thankfully I have close relationships with people who mean well and I know it. Sometimes, just as things get lost in translation from one language to another, so can things get lost in translation through use of tone or misinterpreted facial expressions. Which is why giving the benefit of the doubt is crucial in any relationship.

I am very thankful to God that I have friends that I like so much I don’t even have to give the benefit of the doubt to, because they don’t need it. I already know they have hearts of gold, there is no doubt about that.

A dear friend of mine (who was never enthusiastic about Facebook’s existence 😉 ) , recently joked around with me that I had “weakened” to come back on the social network.

fb woodennn

Let me make something clear before I mention my reaction: all I’ve been getting since coming back to Facebook is congratulations left and right; actually, it sort of felt like a success in some way. This is actually really ironic because to me, success would’ve meant sticking with my goal of never logging in again– and in less than a year, my resolve broke. Although said in a very subtle and humorous way, Sirine was still the first person to call my return to Facebook, as I was thinking to myself the whole time, not a success– but a failure.

My first mental instinct was to get defensive, and to declare that I had my good reasons, and anyways it wasn’t anyone’s business, and I did nothing wrong, and so what even if it was, and yadi yadi yada (you know that annoying devilish voice in your head that is always quick to react!) But I quickly reminded myself that she wasn’t offending me–  she wasn’t accusing me of anything– she was merely making a statement and teasing me. But it was honest. It’s her honesty that I’ve long admired and respected because so few people are comfortable or know you enough to be honest with you like that. (You need that one person who knocks sense into you sometimes, and Sirine is the perfect person for that, even when she doesn’t know she’s doing it.)

So instead I just shrugged, smiled, and said, “I confess I am a human being and I weaken. My weakness is books. If there wasn’t a closed group on FB for a book club, I would not have returned.”

So I don’t really regret being back on Facebook. In fact, I would’ve instead regretted stressing out on my science courses in my last year with no Purification of the Heart and Life of Pi and Autobiography of Malcolm X discussions to brighten my days. Additionally, now there’s a Facebook group for the basketball girls’ teams, and it’s a really good thing I’m back on or I’d be confused when we’re meeting and when practices would be!

So I don’t regret being back on Facebook. But after her comment (which I’m sure she did not see a blog post resulting from it) I did begin to ponder on the reasons I left it in the first place. And a good thing I did, or I might have fallen into the same traps again. So why did I leave Facebook? There were, oh, so many reasons, but the two main ones were 1) waste of time and 2) uncertainty in intentions.

TIME

I was always running out of it. Time flies by so fast on Facebook. And yet I wasn’t the type to post up every photo of every dish I ate, nor did I keep updating my statuses about the toothpaste I used, the number of snowflakes falling outside and what time it was [okay, slightly exaggerating]. On the contrary; I used Facebook as a source of enlightenment, as a place to post up inspiring quotes and heartwarming pictures and relevant articles, to share my interests and joys with like-minded people.

… Which was the problem itself.

Now don’t get me wrong; I do NOT think posting up quotes and pictures is wrong. I still do it from time to time, and I like people’s statuses, and I comment on people’s pictures. They’re not crimes.

The problem wasn’t with the principle, it was with me. Did I say time flies by on Facebook? No, scratch that– in my case, time flies so fast for Facebook’s sake. I was uploading a minimum of one stunning image off Google with a matching inspiring quote on a daily basis, or finding an incredible video off Youtube to share with the world. Why? Because I almost felt like I had a responsibility to. People kept sharing them, I got so many likes and comments and positive feedback that I almost felt like I was fulfilling people’s needs. [The way your ego tries to make you feel good about yourself…]

(Aw, ain't this cute?)

(Aw, ain’t this cute?)

I often got asked where I got my pictures from, which websites, where did I get the quotes, and I received inbox messages from stranger-like-friends-of-hi-and-bye-convos to tell me “oh Aya, you’re such a wise person mashaAllah”–

Excuse me, excuse me. “Wise person”?! I was copying and pasting words. Downloading and uploading JPEGs. It is an effortless act the ignorant can do. The only criteria required is a keyboard.

Despite the simplicity of it, however, it was extremely time-consuming. It can take one five minutes to share a quick worthless quote, but it can take an hour to, for example, look up a quote that is really meaningful to me and that I think can be meaningful to other people, and yet another hour to find a picture off Google that sort of applies to the quote and that is heart-meltingly glorious to look at.

INTENTIONS

It later made me highly uncomfortable that I was spending so much time thinking about enlightening others that I was neglecting to use all this free time to enlighten myself. What happened to books? I love reading, but never had “time” for it. What happened to exercising on a daily basis? I love jogging, but there wasn’t any “time” for it. What did I have time for? What everyone always has time for: Putting up so much stuff on Facebook it looked like I’d swallowed a library’s worth of books to start with. And instead of showing my gratitude to God for my health by getting healthier, I just took my good health for granted and decided sitting for hours in front of a screen wasn’t so bad. But as 2011 drew to a close, I asked myself, what’s the point of sharing a bunch of advice that you don’t apply consistently? What’s the point of seeming smart and intelligent when you know you’re really not any wiser than the person you’re ‘teaching’? I do recall I was reminding ‘myself’ first and foremost, but really, was that all? (I mean, I already have a diary for that.)

notifs

Furthermore, to my embarrassment [and possibly yours if you dare to admit it], there was something oddly satisfying with that red notification number at the top of the page. Maybe because it’s red and that’s my favorite color (maybe)… but the sense of pleasure, that tiny thrill of yes! I got every time I saw the red bubble appear, makes me sick now. Not the number itself– just the effect it would have on me. (What drug was I on, the ‘notifications’ drug?) Gosh. Glad I’ve set my priorities relatively more straight now.

I’m sure there’s a lot of weird thoughts being expressed in this blog post, and I know it’s bizarre, and possibly ludicrous. It’s past midnight right now as I write this, so you can’t blame me. If I shared this on Facebook, I probably wouldn’t get many likes. If I shared it on Twitter, I probably wouldn’t get many re-tweets. Hence the magical world of blogging was discovered, where receiving notifications or compliments or even any attention is not, was never the purpose at all, but just reminding myself of where I’ve been to keep focus of where I’m going is.

 I am glad I left Facebook for those eleven months
because I would never have searched for a way to fill the void in me that wants to express, express, express, even when the expressing makes no sense.
I would never have miraculously been able to devote two hours a week minimum for exercise.
I would never have suddenly had enough time to read books on top of the education course readings I was doing.
As a result, I would never have been able to give a 2-week crash course “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers” during my last internship to my grade eleven students who claimed it was one of the most useful things they’d learned in high school because it was relevant.
I would never have appreciated the sincerity and bonding that results from truly meaningful emails between me and dear friends.
I would never have been– well, need I say more? I think I’ve said enough.

Basically:

I would never have properly realized that living life was so much more refreshing than merely stalking everyone else’s online.

In a nutshell:

  • Twitter takes care of my obsessive need to quote everything I hear and read.
  • Facebook takes care of basic communication. There may well come a day that I will deactivate for good once more– when university book clubs and girls’ basketball teams are a thing of the past.
  • Emailing takes care of nurturing my relationship with people who really matter to me, when I can’t see them in person, that is. There is a sort of purity, increased honesty, and depth to emails hidden from the world except to the people exchanging them… as opposed to a message on your Facebook wall that can be seen by 500 others. (Then again, maybe I’m just old-fashioned.)
  • And last but not last, blogging takes care of me.

surreal winter

I’m not sure how to end this post; I’m so bad with goodbyes. Perhaps I can end it all with a laugh on your part. Here is a hilarious 5-minute episode of Bath Bayakha (in Arabic only) that is centered around Facebook. The episode is called “Face Abook”:

Have a fulfilling lively day! 🙂
-A.S.
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8 comments on “My Problem with Facebook

  1. Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullah Sr. Aya.
    Firstly, I’m so glad i came across your blog. And, this particular post was such a wonderful read, MashaAllah! I can relate to almost each and every thing that you’ve mentioned up there regarding facebook. And no, you’re thoughts are not bizarre or old-fashioned in the least bit, I would say these were wise wise words, rather! SubhanAllah. This post deserves a re-blog! Do you mind me re-blogging it?
    I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading more of your stuff, inshaAllah.
    Jazakillahu Khair! 🙂
    P.S. I love your idea of occasionally inserting pictures in between. Nice! 🙂

  2. Walaikum assalam Maryam!
    Jazaki Allah khair for your kind words! Yes you are free to re-blog it 🙂 Look forward to reading your blog, too! Just followed it. 😉
    Take care,
    Aya

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