It’s official, I’ve gone a whole year without Facebook. I deactivated my account and haven’t looked back. I’ve escaped the never ending stream of beautiful people pretending to have a perfect life leisure and luxury.
I first got a Facebook account years ago when I was in high school. At the time, Facebook was a big part of my communication with my real friends. When your in high school, you are more or less guaranteed to see your friends every day. At the time, Facebook was a relatively new site and was more or less exclusive to teenagers and college students. This meant it was a popular platform to write post that your friends would see, and nobody else. At the time most people friend list only had a couple hundred names, nearly all of which were fellow students. This meant virtually everyone in my network had a lot in common.
Over the years, this changed. Both the platform, and my personal network, started to mature. When I graduated high school I had about 500 friends, 90% of which had gone to my high school. By the end of my freshman year of college, this list doubled. Not only did it double in size, the diversity factor grew 10x. I know new people that had moved all over the country and gone to other colleges. I also had my college friends who had come from all over the country. Additionally, Facebook had become popular amongst a wide demographic, not just students.
I started getting friend requests from relatives, coworkers, people I met one time at a party, even my grandmother. I felt pressure to accept these friend requests. I remember awkward having coworkers and relatives awkwardly ask me why I hadn’t accepted, they took it as a personal offense.
Everytime I added a person to the list, I looked it as another person who would see every single post I made or was tagged in. This was also in time for the rise of the smartphone with a camera. Every place I went, people had their phones out taking pictures and videos. This was something I hated.
I hated that people think it’s polite to take photos of me without permission and post them on the internet so that every person I’ve ever met can find them.
I hated that every time I went somewhere, somebody was going to tag me in a photo or post, eliminating all sense of privacy. It became common that someone would post a picture at a party at 2:00 am and hours later there would be comments from my aunt.
What was once a tight network of friends that I spent my life with, become a platform to broadcast my day to day activities to every person I know.
I’m the type of person who doesn’t need anyone to know anything I do. I don’t need my parents to know who I’m on a date with. I don’t need my boss to know how I spend my weekends. I don’t need one friend knowing I’m hanging out with a different friend. If I wanted someone to know something, I’d tell them.
For a couple years, I didn’t make a single post. I set my privacy settings to the max, making it so nobody could tag me in anything, nobody could share my posts and my profile was only viewable to certain people. I made the decision to start deleting both friends and posts. I said goodbye to all my relatives, coworkers, people I met once at a party. I got my list down to under 1,000 people again. I went through my timeline deleting every post that I didn’t absolutely love (which was almost all of them). I went from a timeline of hundreds of posts over several years to just a few dozen. I kept only posts that put me in good light and created some nostalgia. Pictures from a vacations, prom, my first apartment, etc.
Eventually, in the wake of deleting everything, I wondered what would happen if I just deleted the account. At this point I wasn’t posting anything myself, and nearly every post I saw was from only a handful of people who posted everyday. 95% of the content I saw was generated by 5% of the users who felt the compulsive need to share everything they ever did. Everytime they ate a meal they took a picture. Everytime they read an article, they shared it. They became de facto news reporters, sharing news articles and weather reports every few hours.
None of 5% were even people I was really friends with, just people I knew at one point. So I took the leap and deactivated the account. If you’ve ever tried this, you know Facebook makes it way too easy to get your account back. When you deactivate, your profile is hidden, all you have to do is log back in and everything is restored as if nothing ever happened.
Over the span of a year, I would deactivate and reactivate every few days. This is when I really felt an addiction. I knew there was nothing important happening online, no value that could be gained from logging in, I still had to check though.
Eventually I had a perfect storm of life events that got me off for good. I had started a new job and wanted to be sure that they didn’t find my page. I also took a vacation that kept my mind occupied for a week. Between the busyness of travel and the new job, I was able to make it a few weeks without the urge to login. This was enough to get over the hump and break the addiction. I had proved to myself that it was all a waste, if anything important happened I would hear about it.
I was always worried about becoming closed off from people if I deleted the profile. I felt like I would be forgotten.
I was write.
I was forgotten by a lot of people; and I forgot them. It soon became a blissfully ignorant situation. If you don’t know what you are missing, it doesn’t matter.
I still had my real friends that I talked to regularly, which is all that mattered. I also started to reach out to people I hadn’t talked to in years. When you see someone’s profile everyday, it’s easy to feel like you are keeping in touch with them, even if you never talk.
I started calling people who I hadn’t reached out to, just to say high. I was a little nervous at first. I felt like if I hadn’t talked to someone in a while then they probably didn’t want to hear from me. This was completely wrong. Turns out, most people feel lonely to some degree and would love to get a random call from an old friend. I realized that I would love to have someone call me just chat or make plans to meet for coffee.
Around this time I had broken up with a long term girlfriend and suddenly had a lot of alone time. I had lost touch with a lot my friends and felt like I was on the outs in my social circle. If you feel like you’re in this situation, make a few phone calls, invite someone to do something …. they’ll be glad you called. Within a few months I went from feeling completely alone to having strong and diverse network of people I could call on.
This changed my life.
Since I deleted Facebook, I’ve never felt left out or envious of people around me. I spend my time people who are really around me, not those who happen to be on a friend list.
I also find when you do spend real time with people, you have a lot more to talk about. It feels awkward to catch up with someone when you’ve been watching each other online for years. People are a lot more interesting (and you’re more interesting) when there is something new to share.
More recently, I’ve started telling people I deleted my social media. Nearly everyone says they wish they could do the same. Some may give an excuse that they “need” it for something. Nobody “needs” it. Many of them have said they want to try it. They want to see how freeing it is.
I’ve cut out hundreds of hours of wasted web browsing. I’ve taken back my privacy. I’ve never felt left out or envious of anyone. Most importantly I’ve developed and strengthened my relationships.
Give it a shot. Delete Facebook and Instagram for three weeks. If you can do this, you will never need them back.