Leave me out of the social network, please

Contributing WriterMarch 3, 2014 

Do you have a Facebook?

Whenever I meet someone new, I dread the inevitability of that seemingly harmless question. I never know how to confront it. Why can’t a phone number suffice? Why not simply engage in a few hours of frantic Googling and evade the question entirely?

It is possibly my most scandalous trait, yet I’ve never considered it the most significant. Perhaps the more difficult question is, why don’t I have a Facebook? All of my friends do. My teachers do. Heck, even my mom has an account.

I don’t use Facebook because I’m stubborn, busy, paranoid, lazy and a bit contradictory. Even though I’m a conscientious objector, there’s no question that social networking has changed my life. I’m forced to have a rudimentary understanding of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram simply because I’m friends with teenagers. It is more than slightly strange to think that the people in my life lead different lives online, and that I’m mentioned in messages and tagged in pictures I will never see.

Thankfully, my failure to hop on the bandwagon isn’t enormously important; even friends whom I’ve known my whole life occasionally forget that I’m not on Facebook. It’s never prevented me from connecting with people I meet in person, although I guess there are theoretically billions of people I cannot possibly reach without Facebook. I sometimes wonder whether there is more to gain or to lose through my self-imposed isolation.

This is my expert and erudite opinion: Social networks are really weird. (Insane, I know.) On one hand, we are currently experiencing a cultural paradigm shift of a magnitude never before witnessed in history. On the other hand, why on earth would you want to watch 19 videos of yawning cats while simultaneously posting images of bathroom mirror reflections smothered under an out-of-control number of filters?

What counts as “real” these days? It’s always been nearly impossible for me to reconcile the idea with the reality. How can the same reactants that ignite revolutions also popularize duck faces and make “selfie” the word of the year? I find the entire phenomenon to be incredibly conflicting.

There are those who would question Facebook’s relevance, especially in today’s technology-saturated society that seems to possess the attention span of a goldfish. (No offense, society.) These curmudgeons fail to see the point: Facebook doesn’t need to be on the cusp of startling innovation anymore. It has already been neatly patched into the lives of more than a billion living, breathing human beings, and that is why it is here to stay.

I attend a smallish school, so I don’t need Facebook to see all of my friends every day. However, I often wonder how I’m impacted by opting out. Facebook in particular occupies such a singular place in day-to-day teenage lives.

We act out relationships, trauma and miniature sagas online. We can make friends we’ve never met in person. We can fall both in and out of love. We have the power to choose how we present ourselves to the world, but we are incapable of controlling how others view us. It is a testament to Facebook’s ubiquity that even an uninitiate like myself would be forced to recognize these truths.

Ideally, my ability to connect with others wouldn’t be altered by my absentee digital presence, but I know that’s not entirely the case. Sometimes I lose contact with old friends in faraway places. I miss out on birthdays, big events, and an infinite amount of random and stupidly hilarious stories.

However, although I’m not as available or as “out there” as I could be, the people I do know and the friends I’ve somehow managed to accumulate speak to the fact that some things never change. People are friends for reasons besides the clicking of a virtual button.

Will I get a Facebook someday? Perhaps. Maybe I’ll get one tomorrow, or maybe I will in 50 years. Maybe I never will. I might sign up right after I finish writing this column. Who the heck knows?

More importantly, who cares? I’m a teenager, and I don’t live on the Internet. So sue me.

Emily Ge, a junior at Charles Wright Academy, lives in Gig Harbor. She is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email her at geemily26@gmail.com.

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