Over the past few years I have taken many Facebook breaks. It followed the same pattern. I would realize I was checking it constantly and it was feeding unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. It would last months at a time, but it was something I would always end up coming back to because I would make a new friend and they would ask to connect on Facebook. I would find out I missed out on parties because my friends had invited me on Facebook only and thought I saw it. I’d realize that I wanted to talk to someone and I didn’t know how to contact them any other way. And honestly, I had gone back to Facebook to reconnect with someone unhealthy for me when I should have walked away, which is a story onto itself. I would go back on to see pictures that friends would only post there. And of course as a communications professional I could never really give it up…until I realized I could (at least personally).
Several times I have stepped away from it to the point that I have to stop to question the hold it has on me. Is this even fun? Is this leading to deeper and better friendships? ‘No’ and ‘no’ were my answers. Between the politics and fake news it has become at best tiresome. I have been inching away from Facebook for years. I have gotten more friends’ phone numbers and email addresses. I have honestly spent more time with friends and talking to friends off of Facebook.
Recently I blocked someone and it took me a minute to do it because I thought of how they might react to such a thing. This was a toxic person for me and someone that I don’t feel respects me or cares about my feelings, but because of Facebook there is now this strange official way to sign off on the friendship. I blocked them and then I deactivated my account shortly after because I realized that Facebook is like a toxic relationship. There are always things to draw me back in, but moreover at this point it isn’t fun or helpful.
And it is a waste of time. When I am not on Facebook I have more time to actually spend with friends, volunteering, cooking, working out, paying attention to my pets, and making art. These things bring me joy. These things are self-care.
More often than not Facebook leaves me stressed out and feeling worse than when I logged onto it and more often than not I am seeing posts from near strangers. I am not actually seeing things from my dearest friends (in part because many of them like me have felt Facebook is not a good thing in their lives). Many of my friends have left Facebook often citing the same reasons of feeling unhappy by checking it.
And I’m struck by knowing that there are people who are top communications professionals that do not use Facebook. I think at some point I will log back in to gather photos and get contact info for people I genuinely do not want to lose touch with if I quit for good. But if I feel I need to do Facebook for professional reasons I will set up a new account for that alone.
When it comes down to it I have found that when I am not using Facebook I am happier. I spend more time with friends. I reach out more often to friends far away for a phone call or to visit them in person. I don’t mindlessly walk looking at my phone. I don’t get anxiety over people I hardly know that I knew long ago giving me too much attention. Truthfully, there are people that I want to go back to get their emails and phone numbers. But overall many of the people I have nothing against, but it would be okay if they just weren’t privy to my life at all anymore. It feels harsh to “unfriend” someone on Facebook, but in real life sometimes those connections just go away naturally and that is healthy. In truth, I think Facebook has done very little with sustaining the lasting friendships I have in my life. I talk to one of my best friends on Pinterest nearly daily, but Facebook is more a stream of people I randomly met and ads to buy things it thinks I want.
For awhile I had fun unfollowing pages. When Facebook started I followed pages as a way to bookmark things. It obviously was cluttering things up so I would go to Facebook pages and unfollow and then Facebook asked me if I wanted to unfollow more. I thought it was a great idea. See, then Facebook would reprimand me. If I unfollowed too many it literally would state that it didn’t think I was using the feature correctly and warn me it would block me from doing this in the future. I felt like I was a character from the book Feed by MT Anderson in which the internet is implanted in people’s brains and what happens if you start to mess with the feed.
When it comes down to it, it seems like no one is actually having fun with Facebook anymore. We all seem to stay because of an obligation to keep connected and to see pictures. But what if we just connected in person, by phone, or email? Or even other social media?
This is the first time in my leaving Facebook that I really feel no desire to go back to it other than to connect with others before giving it a final heave-ho. When you deactivate an account Facebook gives you a hard time (naturally). They try to give you other options and make you feel like they can make it better for you.
In the end I told them I was deactivating my account because of the fake news. It is in part true. But also, it just isn’t fun anymore and it is hardly worth my precious free time. I likely will use Facebook again professionally, but as I work to simplify my life I think Facebook is mental clutter that can be cut from my daily life.