I have not hastily made this decision. It's something I've been considering off and on for years, and until now, I've always been able to justify to myself why I shouldn't do it.
There are the obvious reasons: I have friends that I don't see often (or at all) except for on Facebook. The same goes for most of my family (both atomic and extended). And because of this, Facebook is a convenient place to stay in touch (even if it's just skimming their posts that fly through the News Feed). It's also convenient for planning parties, get-togethers, and the like. After all, this is the main reason people join Facebook to begin with—to stay connected with friends and family!
However, these weren't the only reasons that kept me on the site. Particularly in recent years, Facebook has transformed from a simple site used to collect and share pictures, (to a place to play games, to a place to share endless food recipes and Pinterest posts), to battle ground of convictions and politics. And because the internet is the internet, that battle ground usually gets UGLY.
Now, for the longest time, I never let this bother me. After having lived in the closet for all of my adolescence, I was used to avoiding the big divisive topics (such as civil rights) in order to divert attention from myself; so my secret truth could stay hidden. Even after coming out, I told myself that I would continue to avoid discussing these issues. I remember feeling that I needed to make sure I kept the "gay toned down" in order to preserve my relationships with friends and family, as well protect the way others might perceive my friends and family because of it.
Just think about that for a second.... How sad is that? What is this world we live in?
While I lived on a college campus, it was pretty damn easy for me to think, "Oh things aren't that bad! The world that I live in here is filled with young, forward-thinking adults looking to better themselves and better the world. Sure, things are broken 'out there', but people of my generation are 'the future', and we'll fix it!" There, being gay wasn't an issue. There, I was just another entitled, white, cisgender, financially-sufficient, male enjoying my easy-to-come-by freedoms on a relatively-liberal college campus, surrounded by students generally invested in their education and future.
Once I graduated and was forced into the real world out there, I began to realize how much injustice actually exists in this country alone. This "land of the free." States were starting to vote on whether or not same-sex couples should be allowed equal legal status as married heterosexual couples. Minnesota was one of those early states. And, for the first time, it opened my eyes to the real world: The majority of U.S. citizens (by a not-large margin) support equality, but there's still a near-majority out there that do not. (Years later, I would be forced to realized that near-majority of people support the likes of Donald Trump for president, and they would help him fuel the most hate-filled, violent, and bigoted era of this country in my lifetime).
It was at that time, I started to see not only faceless strangers on the internet, but also friends and family alike take to Facebook to pull out there Bible to proclaim why people like me aren't worthy of our humanity. I started to feel a sense of obligation and responsibility to stand up against these people who simply did not take the time to see beyond their privilege and acknowledge the inequality that they were virulently preaching. And so started my journey down the path of activism.
I witnessed myself become one of "those people" that take to Facebook to frequently complain and profess my convictions about civil rights—one of the things that I once swore I would never do. But I was proud of myself because I was starting to care less about myself and more about the greater good.
But it's at that point that Facebook really started turning into the "battle ground" that it is today. It turned ugly a number of times, and like I said, I had considered leaving the site on more than one occasion because of it. But my initial dabbles into activism (and, by extension, that feeling of obligation and responsibility) is one of the main reasons I stayed.
The other main reason I could convince myself to stay was also very important to me: I didn't want to create a vacuum of my own ideas. For those of you who know me at all, it is no surprise that I enjoy a good argument (and by that I mean a debate of ideas, not a fight between individuals). What I like about them is, ideally, one of two things usually happen: 1) I am able to convince the other person that they were wrong, and they end up appreciating/acknowledging/supporting my point of view. Or 2) I discover that I was wrong, and I end up walking away having learned something. If I were to leave Facebook, I would effectively be creating an environment having significantly less ideas that challenge my own (because I don't make a habit of hanging out with people who have discriminatory tendencies IRL), and I might not improve my own opinions on things as quickly because of it. Life is too short to not pursue the path of enlightenment as quickly as possible.
But as I continued on with my perceived obligations, I started noticing something of myself. For one, I noticed that the only thing I ever posted about was civil rights activism. While no one ever expressed it, I wouldn't be surprised if I lost friends because of this new behavior. In a lot of ways, that bothered me. While the activism is important to me, I didn't want it to be all that I was. However, that's not what bothered me the most.
What, to this day, bothers me the most is that I have family and friends whom I love very much who adamantly stand opposed to some of these issues that I hold dear. During these particularly horrific times where minorities are being murdered regularly (and sometimes retaliating with more violence and death), it draws out the worst in everyone—particularly the ones that refuse to acknowledge the need for equality activism. (Especially now that Donald Trump has somehow gained majority support from Conservatives and has created a nationwide environment where violence and bigoted vitriol is somehow acceptable). I find myself losing patience and respect for those who have views on these issues that oppose mine—so much so, that the patience and respect is being replaced with disgust.
This terrifies me.
I do not want to end up hating my family or friends. I love them, and I want it to stay that way. I realize now that those individuals to whom I am referring are not going to be swayed by my feeble "activism," but seeing them continuously invalidate the inequality and push the fight of minorities back into obscurity still doesn't affect me any less. So, it is in effort to preserve my relationships with and my respect for my loved ones, that I am choosing to leave Facebook.
To those of you who are thinking, "You're letting dumb-old Facebook affect you THIS MUCH? You have serious issues...." Maybe you're right. But I certainly haven't been the same since the massacre in Orlando. It hits home for me in ways most of you will probably never understand. And when people go on to say things like "#AllLivesMatter" in response to "#BlackLivesMatter" completely refusing to see past their own privilege, it's almost like reliving the Orlando massacre (and conservative bigotry that followed) all over again. And again. And again...
For my own mental health, stability, and happiness, I need to end this toxic exposure. I am never an advocate for ignorance, but in this case, I must concede.
Just to be clear: Effective immediately, I will be completely inaccessible through Facebook. I will not respond to comments. I will not respond to messages. I will not see your likes or mentions or tags. Facebook and its instant messenger will be completely removed from my phone. In fact, I will likely completely deactivate my account at some point within the next few days.
If anyone truly cares to interact with me going forward, I will continue to post to this personal blog1 and my professional blog2. I welcome anyone who cares to comment (I will always have a comment section open to anyone wanting to have a discussion—even if you have a different viewpoint. I hope this entire thing doesn't give the impression I can't handle opposing opinions. I do still enjoy a good, healthy argument). Of course, there's always email and cell phone, too. Whatever the means, my true friends and family will find me.