I Quit Facebook
That’s right. I was social distancing before it was a thing.
As a millennial, social media became a regular part of life toward the end of high school. Twelve years ago, people my age weren’t using Instagram, Facebook, or Tinder.
We had the mother of all sites for internet mingling…Myspace.
Ah yes, simpler times.
A time when you spent hours teaching yourself how to code in order to create the most bomb-ass custom profile. A time when you got to choose the perfect introductory song. A time when Tom was everyone’s friend.
A time when Mark Zuckerburg wasn’t stealing our information and selling it to the highest bidder.
Unfortunately, times change. And not always for the better.
At First, I Was Overwhelmingly Paranoid
FOMO is a real thing, folks. Quitting social media meant that I was no longer up to date with the newest memes, trends, “news”, and other forms of comfort and entertainment that came with using networking apps.
The anxiety of not having a single notification within a five minute period just felt wrong. I’d get the regular sensation of phantom buzzing in my pocket, only to find a screen entirely void of tiny, red, number-filled circles.
Facebook had been a significant part of my day, my routine, and operated as an exciting peek into the daily lives of others.
I was afraid to miss a single birthday notification out of the hundreds of people on my friends list. The idea of being absent for a wedding or graduation post made me frantic.
I spent months going back and forth.
Login. Check the timeline.
Login. Check the timeline.
Each time, I was met with the same prompt.
“Are you SURE you want to leave? All of your friends will miss you!”
Then one day, I realized it had been a full two weeks since I’d posted an update or bothered to sign in. When I finally did, it was because I wanted to, not because I felt like I needed to.
Everything was still there, just how I’d left it. If I missed an event, I simply apologized for the delay and offered sincere congratulations on the celebratory milestone.
For some reason, I expected there to be a bit of tension, maybe even hostility…considering I’d basically just ghosted everyone.
A few people asked why I’d been M.I.A., but for the most part, no one really cared. They knew that it wasn’t personal, I was just sick of being privy to so much negativity. I also had a habit of living through others vicariously through Instagram. Even if I tried to limit myself to five or ten minutes of feed scrolling, I’d end up jumping from app to app for hours.
The follow-up question is usually something like “why don’t you just log out instead of deactivating your accounts?”
Logging out didn’t stop me from wanting to check notifications. So, I made sure that there weren’t any to check. In addition to FOMO, there is such a thing as notification addiction.
Apps aren’t enticing by accident, they’re created this way by design.
If you’re a Medium contributor, think of it this way. You work hard to keep readers on the screen, right? You want them to stay and read the story that you’ve meticulously poured over for hours. Web developers take the same approach; they want users to stay online as long, and as often as possible.
Suddenly, I Was No Longer Watering Dead Plants
Connecting with others requires little to no effort, seeing as how Facebook automatically tells you who your mutual friends are. You can easily post “happy birthday!” to someone’s wall without even typing a single word.
In this way, Facebook and other social media sites create a false sense of community by fostering superficial relationships.
Think about the people that you’re close to in real life. Who do you eat your meals with? Who makes an effort to check on you when you aren’t online? Who do you make effort with when there isn’t a “happy birthday” button or an automated reminder?
Who do you feel most comfortable around?
More importantly, if you deleted ALL of your social media today, who among the hundreds of followers and friends would remain by your side?
While I was initially excited to have made contact with my grade school friends and long lost family members, the environment of the site began to change drastically toward the end of 2016. Facebook was no longer a fun place to trade Farmville crops, join an interest-specific group, or get some things off your chest if you were having a rough day.
That small, temporary escape from all of the unpleasantness in the world had been replaced with aggression and malevolence. Personally, I’m not much for using Facebook as a soapbox for my personal beliefs. I do post about missing pets, low-cost vaccination events, and information about animal welfare in general.
However, I do it with the intention to inform and assist, rather than to shame or convince.
Meanwhile, the people around me were having full-on Clash of the Titans style battles over foreign policies, immigration, abortion, and just about anything else you could think to argue about. If I read an interesting news story and hit share earlier in the day, you can guarantee someone’s feathers were ruffled by it later in the evening.
What I found most strange about the whole ordeal is that the people who were offended weren’t anywhere to be found in other areas of my life. They weren’t there when my uncle or my grandpa passed away. They weren’t there when I was struggling to get through college.
They weren’t there when I was losing sleep over the large abdominal masses that were found in my senior pup, who is much like my child, who I am devastated at the thought of losing.
These familial strangers would pop up to say “fake news!” whenever the opportunity arose.
Then, they’d retreat back to the troll bridge from whence they came, uninterested in anything that didn’t give them a chance to incite an argument.
When I stopped using Facebook, they disappeared completely. No texts, calls, emails, or real mail. Social media will have you believe that your inner “circle” is much larger than it actually is.
Perhaps there is some truth to the old adage that the past should remain in the past.
My Productivity Doubled
Even with all of the election madness, I’d still log in to look at photos of other people’s spring break or their winter trip to Aspen. At the time, I felt as though I could never be one of those people; I didn’t have the money, the time or the support to travel as my friends did.
As I reduced my online activity though, it became clear that money, support, and time weren’t the issue. I had plenty of time, but I’d used a huge chunk of it mindlessly scrolling through someone else’s feed while they were living the life that I wanted.
…and let’s be real here. Quite a few of my classmates and college co-workers came from families who were able to offer them far more financial support in all aspects of their lives. These were people in their mid-twenties who still had someone else paying their tuition, their phone, and their light bills. So, it makes total sense that they can afford a certain type of lifestyle.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but if I planned to buy a home in Denver or spend a few weeks in the Maldives at some point, then I was going to have to get the hell off Facebook and get on with my writing.
By 2017, I had made my first $10,000 freelancing part-time while working a full-time job.
No, I still haven’t been to the Maldives. I have visited Colorado twice. I am scheduled to move by August of 2020.
I am living the life I want to live. And I am DONE with Facebook.