It’s been about two months now since I deleted my Facebook account — not just disabled, but really and truly deleted. On my end of things, there’s nothing left for me to access. On Facebook’s side of things, it will probably be another few weeks before all of my data has been completely purged by their systems, but it’s coming. I hemmed and hawed for weeks before making the decision to do this; now that it’s done, I’ve been thinking lately about how it’s affected my life. What have I gained? And what have I lost?
Because there have been both: some clear gains, and some clear losses. First and foremost, getting rid of Facebook has drastically opened up my time. When I turn my computer on or pick up my phone during the day, I check my email and a few other things, and then… I’m done. There’s nothing else to do, so I put it away. It’s amazing how much of your day opens up when there isn’t an infinite scroll available. Now, could I have achieved the same effect by being more disciplined with my online habits? Theoretically, yes. Experientially? No.
Another gain is that I feel much less mentally… buffeted, I guess you could call it. There’s no predicting what you see when you’re scrolling through the newsfeed: it’s a mishmash of whatever your friends have posted (as curated for you by the almighty algorithm). Everything appears without context and leaves no context behind it. News is mixed with fundraisers is mixed with baby pictures is mixed with jokes and political opinions and anecdotes and rants and all the rest of it, not to mention the hoaxes and misinformation and flat-out lies, coming at you relentlessly. And everything implicitly (or explicitly) demands a response: like me! share me! respond to me! be happy with me! be angry with me! agree with me! correct me! Frankly, it’s exhausting. Leaving all of that behind has been refreshing. When I want to read the news, I open up a news app. If I want to respond to something, or to learn more about it, it’s easier (and, now, more natural) to take the time to find the context, digest what’s happening, and formulate a response that’s not just off the cuff.
But there’s a price to this temporal and mental freedom, isn’t there? Leaving Facebook has meant reconciling myself (well… sort of) to being out of the loop. I don’t know what’s going on with my friends, not the way I used to. I’m not seeing pictures of their kids — and I’m one of those strange people who actually enjoys seeing pictures of other people’s kids. For some of my friends, Facebook was really the only connection point we had, and when I think about some of those connections I feel a real sense of loss.
But it’s a strange thing: what I’m grieving is maybe not the loss of those relationships, but the loss of the illusion that they still existed. As long as our profiles were linked, there was hope: “Sure, we haven’t talked in ten years — but we could!” And to be completely fair, sometimes this did happen, we did reconnect. I got in touch with a friend from undergrad to return a book I borrowed from her about twelve years ago. I was able to apologize to someone from my past for something that happened when we were young adolescents. But those moments, if I’m honest, were few and far between. I wasn’t using Facebook to connect with people; I was using Facebook to feel as if I were connecting with people. Those are, in the end, very different things.
And so this last comes from a loss but is really a gain: ditching Facebook has reinforced for me the fact that friendship is an active pursuit. There was no real friendship behind most of my connections; there was, at best, a passive acknowledgement of a shared past. But that’s not a friendship, or enough to sustain one. I do miss being in the know. I do miss the ease of the connection that I did have with the people with whom I am really friends. In that case, though, what have I really lost? Just the ease; not the thing itself. In the weeks since quitting Facebook I have been sending and receiving more emails than I have in years. And I’ve been picking up my phone not to scroll through a feed but to actually, you know, call people. It’s been a good change. Yes, I could have done all of this without needing to delete my account — well, maybe. But if that’s what it took to remind me of the work and worth of actively pursuing friendship, then it’s a price I am willing to pay.
7 thoughts on “Life after Facebook”
Yes I agree with your analysis very much… social media scratches the social itch without actually feeding the hunger for real connection. Real connection is something totally different, with risk and pain and joy and sadness, but it’s actually living. I admire you for taking this step. I don’t feel like I can go that far, for work reasons, but I am working on other ways to curb this part of my diet… we’ll see how it goes…
I am pretty lucky that work considerations don’t come into it for me — and I understand how that sort of thing can keep people on platforms they’d rather not use, just because the alternatives are not great. It’s hard. I’m still a bit torn even though I think I made the right choice for me, and some days I regret it. Other days I log in on my husband’s profile and remind myself that what I think I’m missing is mostly nonsense anyway!
Yeah there’s nothing like trying it again to remember that it wasn’t really that fun anyway!
Mmmm. I may join you. But in any case, one thing that’s happened is that, thanks to Europe’s privacy laws, I see very few posts now…and sometimes I’d (almost) like to see more. But I spend/spent very little time on FB… except when it pops up on my smartphone…in all its glory…or not. But generally, I think I’m pretty much ready to cut the cord. But also trying to work out whether I can maintain my author page when I leave…?? although now that I’m developing my own, maybe it won’t matter… dunno… as you suggest, it’s a complex subject. Like it or not.
Do you have separate logins for your personal and author accounts? If yes, you’re probably fine. But maybe a personal site hosted on your own domain would be a better route. It’s not as convenient — the convenience factor is where Facebook usually wins — but on the other hand, it would be completely under your control.
This is such a lovely thoughtful discussion. It reminds me a lot of a podcast I think you would enjoy a lot. It’s called Delete This! and it’s by Hank Green (I think you know who he is, if not, he’s YouTube famous) and his wife. Basically each week they go through his tweets and talk about and about using social media and how we use social media. It’s interesting discussion, but also funny and fun to listen to!
Yeah, that sounds about up my alley. I will check it out!
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