Being Too Connected

I enjoy modern-day text-based communication. E-mails, texts, instant messages and social media are all platforms that give us time to think about what we want to say, allowing us to craft our thoughts and opinions before sending them out into the ether. As a writer, I appreciate being able to go over and edit my words to ensure they are clear and concise before anyone else sees them.

My cell phone has plenty of apps for exactly this purpose. I have the standard apps for e-mailing and texting. I have an app for texting my friends in other countries. I have apps for group messaging and coordinating. I have a couple of social media apps to stay in touch with my social circle.

I make a concerted effort to limit the number of apps I use due to privacy concerns, and among those I don’t use are the Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps. I generally use the Facebook mobile site on my phone, and many of my friends communicate via the site, so I was saddened when the company made a change that forced iOS and Android users to download the Messenger app to use Facebook Chat back in 2014. I decided not to download either Facebook app after learning about Facebook’s stances about privacy in the Internet age, and some of the permissions from the Messenger app’s terms of service.

It wasn’t difficult to just stick with using the mobile website. Facebook would still notify me if I received a message, so I would wait until I got to a computer to access the full site and check it.

When I ran a Pokémon Go meet-up earlier this month and had to coordinate a team of volunteers, however, I realized that Facebook was my main means of communicating with them many of them, and I would need to be available at all times. Although I had all of their phone numbers and they had mine, we had mainly communicated via Facebook until that point, and some might try to contact me that way again the day of the event. I had no choice but to download the app.

Being able to communicate with both my volunteers and friends was nice, to be honest. I was now easy to get a hold of, which was hugely beneficial for running the meet-up. Additionally, I no longer had to wait to get home to see who had messaged me and what they said. It was great.

After the meet-up, I no longer needed Facebook Messenger. I didn’t uninstall it, though; I liked that I could check my messages immediately, and that I could be in touch with any friend at any time. So I kept the app on my phone, and checked every message the moment I heard that ping.

After a few weeks, however, it was starting to grate on me. I wanted my friends to text me so I wouldn’t use up my phone data. I began to feel a sense of urgency whenever I received a message, as if I was expected to respond right away, regardless of what I was doing at that point in time. (After all, Messenger tells users when each message was read, which isn’t a feature on many of my other Android phone apps.) I began to resent the fact that any of my hundreds of Facebook “friends” could contact me at any time, and that I would be expected to respond promptly. If I ignored the alerts, my phone would continue pestering me to see who had messaged me. It was becoming too much.

I uninstalled Facebook Messenger, and I haven’t looked back since. I have plenty of apps to stay in touch with my social circle, and anyone who might urgently need to reach me always has my phone number. Having the app was a learning experience, and I uninstalled it with a clearer idea of my own preferences and boundaries. I don’t need to stay connected to everyone 24/7, and I’m happier that way.

Sarah Luger