Disclaimer: this post is in no way judging FB users or the people who love them.
…does it make a sound?
Or, to put more personally: if I don’t broadcast my daily experiences on social media, do they really exist? Do I?
These and other existential quandaries surrounded my decision to quit Facebook. I was taking a hike recently and came across a beautiful forest vista; my first impulse was to whip out my phone and “share” my experience. Why? Isn’t having a Walden moment with myself enough? Isn’t the purpose of my hike to get some exercise, fresh air, and some time away from my “screens”? It was at that moment when I realized how much social media had rewired my brain. I needed to make a change.
I would do something radical. I would quit!
Some people are good at limiting their usage, but I found that a clean break was necessary. My biggest problem with FB is that, although it can be very entertaining, it is a colossal waste of time. It tends to suck me in the way Twitter doesn’t. Perhaps it’s because (with a few exceptions) I really don’t ‘know’ anyone on my Twitter feed. With Facebook it’s more personal, thus (for me anyway) more insidious in its ability to pull me into its matrix and steal my precious time.
I admit I was nervous. It felt like I was going off the grid, burning my social security card, erasing my history. I did some research and found that I was not alone. There are other FB defectors out there, and somehow they survived.
The immediate benefits and concerns
On my first day FB free, I found I had an extra fifteen minutes in the morning to make my bed and sweep the front walk. I find I’m spending less time on my phone and more time reading actual books. My house is cleaner, my laundry put away, my distractions are limited. And because I am about to start writing my third novel, limiting distractions is important. Now I can focus without the fallout from some political debate or random message from someone I barely know slipping into my consciousness and absconding with my mental energy. No longer will I suffer the indignity of an unflattering tagged photo. I’m free!
Will I miss out? I must admit my social calendar did improve as a result of FB, so I will have to work harder at staying in touch with people. For awhile there, I was using the platform a lot when I was hosting my own events, but I’ve cut back on that almost completely. If I decide to throw a party, I have an email chain that should do the trick.
What about marketing my books and films? To be honest with you, of my 1,000 plus FB “friends,” only about four of them purchased my last book, and those were all people I know well enough to contact through email, so I don’t think I’m missing out much there.
As many have already discovered, FB makes it very difficult to leave. For one thing, it’s a challenge to even find the “delete account” instructions in the settings (I had to google it). I opted for the “deactivate account” to start, providing me with some training wheels for the big exit. That allowed me time to download any photos and videos I wanted to keep as well as ask for the email addresses of people with whom I wanted to keep in touch.
Beware, when you try to deactivate FB will tempt you with a “they will miss you” message along with profile pics of people with whom you’ve interacted the most. It gives you an option to “send John a message,” but once you do you’re back in the matrix. Ignoring their friendly faces, I go down the list of “reasons for leaving.” Each one yields a pop-up window offering you another option, like HAL advising you to “take a stress pill and think things over.” Nice try, FB. I’m out.
Did anyone even notice I was gone?
After deactivating for a week, I girded my loins and logged in one last time to make the final exit. Except for a message from FB trying to lure me back in, no one seemed to have noticed I was gone. That sounds pitiful, but it was actually quite freeing. It confirmed my decision. After making sure all my data was downloaded (I don’t want to lose any of those cute Lilly pictures), I located the delete button (again, I had to google it. It doesn’t appear in the settings tab), and voila’! FB immediately sent me a message that in T plus fourteen days, I can still change my mind. You have to wonder at its persistence.
My real friends do not number over 1,000, and they know how to reach me. In fact, FB must have sent out a message because after I deleted, two of those “real friends” sent me good, old-fashioned text messages. Proof that I do exist outside FB! Life goes on, and mine will go on without Facebook.
Want to stay in touch? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.