David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), writing about why he left facebook years ago:
I quit Facebook back in 2011 for a lot of reasons, but perhaps the most crucial was to rebel against its core mission: Connecting the world. I was over-connected with the world, acquaintances and friends from the past, and I wanted out.
In my own reviewing of my use of facebook, I’ve realized just how little it adds to my life. Since that time, I’ve looked at it about once a week, just to see what it feels like. The little red dots become more insistent. “You’re keeping a new friend waiting,” the dot informs me. “Your friends haven’t heard from you in a while”, another dot says. A red dot with an increasingly large number beckons for my attention. “Here’s what you’ve missed since you last signed in.”
The feeling I get without all that? It’s better than the feeling I get when seeing it. It’s a relief to close the tab and move on.
Regarding DHH’s point about acquaintances, I’m “friends” on facebook with people I’ve met once, or perhaps twice. Our paths crossed through other friends, and maybe we enjoyed a good conversation at that point in time. Despite not ever seeing each other since, we still see each other online, though we don’t interact. I often ask, “How do I know this person again?” They’re great people, of course, but it’s a marvel to realize the cognitive effort needed to remember someone, then make sense of whatever they post about.
I started using facebook when it first started out in the world, when I was in college. I connected with new college friends, and some high school friends. I’ve never been to a high school reunion. Facebook tells me all I need to know, but more than that, I didn’t really enjoy high school and have no need to go back and relive it. I don’t keep up with friends from high school, even on facebook. So what am I waiting for?
Here’s DHH again:
In real life, this force [of losing touch] is mercifully thrust upon you at critical moments for self-discovery and evolution. You leave university, and you automatically lose touch with most of the people you knew there. It’s not an affront to anyone that this happens. It doesn’t take any effort. Everyone accepts that it’s a natural process.
Different people play different roles in your life. Those roles fluctuate with time, and if you drift apart, there’s no reason you can’t reconnect later, should your paths cross then. I’ve noted that often in that instance, we pick up right where we left off. Or we pick up in new place, realizing how much we’ve both grown.
Maybe the fear of letting the past go makes it that much more difficult to open up to the future. But wherever you go, it’s okay to make those connections, touch others’ lives and in return let theirs touch yours. When the time comes, it’s okay to move on.