I have spent a lot of time over the years, justifying my reasons for leaving Facebook. Some were real reasons, rooted in truth, while others were a way to appease people and get them to stop asking me why. Regardless of my reasons, I felt like I was drowning in the Facebook Sea, and the only way out was to completely disconnect. I have left Facebook officially twice, for an extended amount of time. Once approximately five years ago, and then I pulled the plug again this past fall. You’re probably wondering why I got back into it in the first place? I was in the process of moving to another city to start a new job, and my coworkers insisted that it would be a way for us to keep in touch, and it was, but what I learned was that you will keep in touch with the people you want to, regardless of a social media account. Fast forward five years or so and I’m contemplating why I ever returned in the first place. So what made me want to leave Facebook in the first place?
It is a time suck.
Facebook, in my opinion, puts a damper on productivity. I am the type of person who could waste an entire day binge watching a TV show, so limiting my time in Facebook was proving to be difficult. Especially with the app available so conveniently on your phone. Deactivating my account might sound a bit extreme, and I didn’t do this right away. Instead, I turned off notifications so I wasn’t being berated with constant updates, but I still found myself using it. My next strategy was to delete the app from my phone and use it only on my laptop. Good thinking, however, after spending 8 hours a day on my computer at work, I rarely wanted to pick up my laptop and check into Facebook. Again, you’re probably thinking that this was a great strategy to slow my consumption, but I tend to be an all or nothing type of person. Why have the account, if I’m never going to log into it?
This made me feel like I was simplifying my life in some way. The friends that I wanted to keep in touch with, I have. Albeit, not daily, weekly or even monthly updates, but I do manage to find the time to send a quick email update now and again. Staying in touch can be a challenge for some people, understandably. For me, however, this is much less overwhelming than a daily barrage of updates. Now, when I see these friends, we have things to talk about in a much more detailed way. I don’t know what’s happening in their lives daily, but I feel more satisfied after taking the time to catch up.
We compare ourselves to others.
Now this might sound a bit like I’m jealous of my friends, but it’s not. I love seeing pictures of my friends new babies, or their fun vacations, but I also find it a bit distracting and can take me down a negative path. Seeing these things constantly pop up on your screen, can make you feel like you’re not in a “good” place in your life. No matter where you are, or who you are, we all compare ourselves to other people. We all have insecurities. Facebook, in my opinion, can amplify those, and make us strive for a false sense of perfection.
False sense of perfection.
In my experience, there are two types of people who post on Facebook – those who only post the most interesting and exciting facts of their lives, and those who are seeking some kind of attention. Both are a bit deceiving. Of course, I want to hear about the positives in your life, I’m not suggesting otherwise, but I feel like there is a need to compete with your friends in displaying just how great your life is. If you’re not in a relationship, and you see that someone you went to high school with is getting married, you start to wonder what you’re doing wrong. How is she getting married and I’m not? Who would want to be in a relationship with her? We are all on our own paths, and the false sense of perfection portrayed by others, takes me back to my second point of comparison. We all think we could do better in life, but it’s not healthy to try to strive for perfection.
This isn’t to say that I want to hear your “woe is me” tale, however, looking for sympathy on social media makes me want to unfriend you. There is a fine line between the highs and lows in your life. Look at it as a way to highlight the good times, but don’t go overboard. Posting a few pictures of your vacation, or you new baby is great, but also unnecessary if you’re doing it daily.
Consuming and not contributing.
I found that I spent a lot of time consuming the information from Facebook and did not end up contributing. Maybe that was part of my problem. I can be a rather private person, so it was difficult for me to broadcast my weekend activities to the entire world. Ok, I exaggerate, I didn’t have that many friends, but you get the idea. If I wasn’t going to send those pictures to these people in an email or via text message, why would I broadcast them from everyone to see. On the other hand, this is a great way to share information to a vast number of people when you want to announce an engagement, or a new baby. This, however, takes me back to a previous point – if I’m not friends with you in real life, why am I sharing this information with you over social media?
False number of friends.
I know people who have thousands of Facebook friends, which is great, but are they really your friends? A very good real life friend of mine, recently said that if you don’t talk to someone weekly, they are more of an acquaintance than a friend. While I don’t know if I agree with that time frame, I certainly agree with the idea. I have friends that I only catch up with once or twice a year, and that is enough. We have been friends for many, many years (I will not say how many for fear of aging myself) and a once or twice a year conversation is sufficient for us. That being said, Facebook does make it seem like you have more friends than you actually do. When I started to go through my “friends” list, I realized that there was only a handful of people that I would consider friends. Friends being those whom I talk to outside of Facebook on a “regular” basis – and everyone’s regular is different! I personally don’t need a thousand Facebook friends to feel complete. I would rather have a handful of friends (or acquaintances, as it may be) that I can connect with IRL from time to time, than to get a thousand happy birthday messages on my wall, once a year.
My final reason for deactivating my Facebook account came down to this:
Too much information.
I do enjoy seeing what people are doing in their lives, however, it can be a bit much at times. Without trying, you start to feel like a “creep”, because you know way too much about some of these people. A few pictures of a wedding, engagement, vacation, birthday party or new baby are wonderful, but I don’t need to see every detail of those events. Especially if I wasn’t invited! (This only reiterates my friend’s point about friends vs. acquaintances)
TMI can take many forms, however, the straw that broke the camel’s back for me is an interesting story. I will not go into details about the offender, but I will say, that the information she posted about her child was likely innocent to her as a new mother, but downright horrific to someone reading the post. I don’t need to know that much about your child, and I think it’s safe to say that no one does. Maybe she was using Facebook as a tool to elicit advice from other mom’s to help her avoid this type of situation in the future, however, that kind of solicitation should be done through a DM. Again, maybe this is more about me being private, than Facebook as a whole, but I do think there is a time and place to project this information.
You might be wondering how has my life improved since deactivating my Facebook account? All of this may seem trite and even a bit cynical. After all, Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with people you’ve met throughout your life. For me, however, it was a tool that wasn’t contributing anything positive to my life. Maybe it did at one time, but after a reassessment, I felt like it no longer did. Now that I don’t have Facebook, the big question is will I ever return? It’s possible. I am not discounting it, however, I have made it a few months without it (and even over a year previously). And what a glorious feeling, to be honest! There are no daily reminders about birthdays, or updates on who is getting married. It’s kind of liberating.
But with freedom, comes responsibility. I now have a greater obligation to keep in touch with people IRL.
I recently had coffee with a long time friend. I have known her for many, many years. For the most part, our relationship hasn’t changed. We are the same kids who shared a locker in high school. The only difference is how often we see each other. She and I occasionally trade text messages, and phone calls related to the big events in our lives. From time to time, those phone calls and messages can be few and far between. We have been getting together a bit more frequently now. Putting in an effort to see one another when we are in the same place geographically. It is nice knowing that no matter how much time elapses between the phone calls or visits, one of us will eventually pick up the phone and reach out. Since deactivating Facebook, I feel like I’ve put in more of an effort to see friends IRL, and to reach out to make those connections. Getting together with friends now is more like a special event, and I make more of a priority to do this than I had in the past.
Don’t get me wrong, I love social media, and I find that I spend more time using Twitter and Instagram. You may think that I’m simply replacing one addiction with another. However, I don’t find that either of those stifle my productivity in quite the same way. Yes, there are negative trolls all over the internet, but I limit my consumption to friends, family, specific interests and news outlets. If I am not interested in a particular news story, I move onto the next…. Or (insert gasp) I will simply log out. Maybe my issue is willpower, but I feel that I don’t end up going “down the rabbit hole” in quite the same way I did when I used Facebook. Perhaps it is because I limit who I follow. On Facebook, I felt compelled to accept your friend request, and subsequently to listen to what you had to say. I don’t feel that way about Twitter. Twitter keeps me connected to the world in a way that Facebook didn’t.
If Facebook is something you want or need to use, I urge you to do so sparingly. Connect with your friends IRL. My experience is simply that – it belongs to me. I have found it has made me more productive in life, at a time when I need to simplify. I am not sure which came first in this instance, the chicken or the egg, but I do know that Facebook is not for me.