If you want to find out how many friends you really have, deactivate your Facebook and see how many people actually miss you.  Two weeks ago I had 57 friends on Facebook and after shutting it down only two people have emailed me to find out why.

Facebook is rewriting the laws of technology and the rules of friendship, social networking, cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying.  While it is great to get into contact with ex-friends, ex-work colleagues, overseas relatives and people you used to go to school with, just what does constitute a healthy relationship with Facebook?

I didn’t shut down my Facebook as a social experiment; I did it because I was Facebook addicted.  What I needed was a complete Facelift from Facebook.  Most of the time I was happily bantering with people I knew in real life, but the dark side of me would spend many furtive hours going into people’s facebook friends – people I had never met and did not know, but because they had a connection to someone I knew I became obsessed about them and their lives.

I would become utterly mesmerized by the minutiae of their lives.  I would get jealous when they posted pictures of overseas holidays in exotic locations or had a better furnished house than I did.  Many people are completely unaware of privacy settings and so I was seeing intimate photos of friends of friends that I really didn’t want to see but could not help myself from looking at.  I would picture and imagine their lives as being far more fabulous than mine could ever be.

I even would click on friends of friends endlessly to see how many degrees of separation I could find between someone I knew and a random other.  And I did find a connection.  After 35 random clicks, a friend, a girl I went to school with popped up on some completely unknown person’s Facebook in Mexico.   It wasn’t long before I was asking myself if I was an official Facebook stalker with an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I would cyber-stalk people from my past I still had vague, lingering issues with; ex-boyfriends who had dropped me or I them, ex-friends I fell out with, ex-work colleagues I harboured grudges against.  I would try to discover as much about their lives as possible, and hopefully any dirt I could dig up.  But Facebook does not tell the whole story of anyone’s life, mine included.  It just gives out only what you want it to say, what you want other people to read.  In other words, a wonderful overall view of the good life which is very easy to create from parts; something that doesn’t actually exist, simply by omitting the bad stuff entirely and exaggerating the good bits.  Facebook can lie through gritted keystrokes.

One of the most telling experiences for me was “friending” a friend of a friend who lived over the road that I had met several times at birthdays and other functions and liked her.  We bantered on Facebook.  When I drove to the local video shop, there she was outside getting some money out of the ATM.  You would think I would have gotten out of my car and gone over and talked to her.  Instead I slunk down behind the driver’s wheel and stayed like that till she went away.  I really didn’t want to talk to her face-to face, only Facebook to Facebook.  I felt I was losing touch with reality.

I was also getting paranoid because casual acquaintances were not writing comments on my status updates and when they finally did I felt like I was popular again, just like high-school when the most popular girl would deign to speak to someone below her status level.  I would get upset if no one replied to (what I thought was) a witty comment I made.  If they did reply and the comment wasn’t long enough I would think they didn’t care enough about me.  I counted my comments.  I counted other people’s comments and I compared and felt unloved.  I changed my status update and photo several times a day to generate as many comments as possible.  Facebook is not a good place for the paranoid or the insecure.

My son’s ex-girlfriend, not the most mentally secure person I have ever met, created many dramas with false accounts and set up situations that pitted my son against his school-friends to the point where I said to him, “please don’t reply to any of them, close your Facebook, ring them up and explain what is really going on.”   He did and was much happier.

I took some of my own advice after I realized I was not living the life I wanted to.  I was also making connections between people that simply were not there and getting bent out of shape over them.  I deactivated my account, closed down my computer, rang my father and his partner and went and stayed with them for the week-end.  It was fabulous to walk along the beach, visit old friends and catch up with his life.  It was real and it felt authentic.  I am not alone in feeling this way; some of my friends have had the same Facebook experience but have yet to find the courage to shut down and move on.

The most synchronous event happened half an hour after I closed Facebook for good.  A friend rang and said that she would like to have lunch with me and had suddenly decided to ring me instead of sending me a message on Facebook.  She was unaware I had just deactivated my account.  To me, that is the Universe telling me to, quite frankly:  Get a life!

I would love to hear from you if you have had a similar experience or a different one or an unusual one.