I can vaguely remember life before Facebook. When I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan (2002-2004), I somehow managed to live an amazing life without Facebook.
If I wanted to connect with a friend, I sent them an email or made a phone call. If they were close, we made plans to meet up for coffee or a meal. Celebrating our friendship in real-time gave us the indulgent luxury of conversation with minimal distractions. It was more deliberate, more intense, and immensely more rewarding.
I created a Facebook account in late December of 2005. At first, my involvement was sparse. I was curious about the new space, and only posted sporadically. However, my relationship with Facebook has evolved over the past 10 years. It is now where I post my thoughts, achievements, and observations, and if I’m being honest, take in 95% of all of the news I receive. It is this latter area that poses a problem for me.
While I can control what I put out, it is very difficult to curate what is coming in.
In the past few months, I have felt a spiritual nudge to leave Facebook. Perhaps I’m supposed to spend more time writing. Perhaps my natural curiosity about what is going on in the lives of others is distracting me from other pursuits. Such as, actual restoration.
It took me some time to comply. I had a litany of excuses for why I needed to be on Facebook, which I will elaborate on in this post. But there was one thing I ultimately could not deny.
If I wanted to be happier, Facebook was not helping.
The constant barrage of negativity and jarring news (whether it was pertinent to my life or not) was taking a huge emotional toll on me. As a highly sensitive person, it is very challenging for me not to internalize what is going on around me. Prior to this year, I was able to take a short hiatus from Facebook, a week or a month, to focus on my own life before diving back in. It would temporarily shift my relationship with Facebook back into a healthier territory.
But I’m tired of having to adjust. I know that no matter how long I leave, the experience I would return to would be largely the same. For me, the positives don’t outweigh the negatives.
My intention is to delete, not deactivate. I don’t want the option to return. I’m grateful that I can act based on what works for me, rather than trying to fit into what works for someone else.I'm grateful that I can act based on what works for me, rather than trying to fit into what works for… Click To Tweet
I gave myself one week to take action. In three days, I have posted my intentions and recovered all of the information I need. Facebook will most likely keep my profile up for a few weeks, to make sure that I am sure.
Yes, I had a few doubts about leaving Facebook, that are mostly quelled now. These are the things that would have otherwise convinced me to keep my account.
1) I will lose touch with friends and family.
If one thing has demonstrated that this is not true, it is my own engagement. I discovered how refreshing it is to reach out to people one at a time to share important news. Nine out of ten status updates I wrote, while refreshing, were not important news. It is possible that sharing news the old-fashioned way requires that we prioritize what is truly important.
Of course, staying in touch is work, and means that we must overcome our laziness. It is so much easier to scroll through a news feed with updates on everyone’s lives, than it is to call each person one at a time. But, let’s be honest. As of September 2015, I had 1,411 friends and 89 followers.
That’s right. I’m connected to 1500 people.
No wonder it was getting difficult to get things done! Let’s assume that I was staying updated on even 10% of these people. I don’t have time to read about what 150 people are doing in their lives everyday! And yet, I was attracted to this seemingly urgent information like a bee to honey.
Tanya looks so beautiful! Like!
Abraham went to Curacao! Like!
This sounds like leisure time activity. I don’t need leisure time activity every single morning. I need to get out and start my own day. But, it is SO much easier to stay in bed and scroll through my news feed until I absolutely HAVE to get up.
So, what about the other people who don’t regularly update their Facebook status? First of all, they have more self-control and I applaud them. Secondly, some of them are hardly ever on Facebook. They might share an update once or twice a year, or never at all.
Which means, I hardly know what is going on in their lives anyhow. We are artificially connected. If I really want to know what is going on in their lives, I have to pick up a phone, or send an email. I have to put in work to maintain that relationship. We weren’t really in touch.
2) I will miss out on life.
Wrong. Life is what is going on in front of me. Life is what I am missing out on while I am tuning into Facebook. I feel the need to curate my own life experience. I want more control over what information I am exposed to, and when I decide to take it in, from what source. With the news feed, I felt like I surrendered a lot of that control.
I trust that I will eventually find out about the most important things going on with those who are closest to me. Yes, I have to surrender finding out first, and a few things will pass me by. But I’m not an information portal. I am a human being.
3) My business will suffer.
Nearly one year ago, I was getting ready to launch my website. I was convinced that I needed to build a Facebook page to get more business. One year later, 100% of my business is with people I have cultivated a relationship with, or their referrals. I am focusing on my best skills.
I do believe Facebook can be wonderful tool for business, but all social media isn’t for everyone. I will still have my Instagram and Twitter pages, which are much easier for me to manage. This is also a great reason to work on my Pinterest page.
4) I will be bored.
Every time I type “f” in my internet browser, Facebook.com comes up. It is like my computer always knew how to entertain me when I was bored. However, it was easy for me to lose hours on facebook while my own duties piled up. I will be bored in the beginning, but I know from having taken a hiatus (or three) in the past that I will eventually find new ways to occupy my time.
I look forward to being more productive. I look forward to having downtime to read more. There is a pile of books next to my bed that intrigue me. With the distraction of social media, I don’t read nearly as much as I used to.
With the fall semester starting, I will have more time to prepare for the course I am teaching and interact with my students. And knowing that many of them are on Facebook, I feel good about my personal life being more private.
5) People won’t be able to find me.
If you are reading this, you are either signed up for my newsletter, or visiting my website. Anyone who remembers my full name will be able to find me. By focusing on my website, I will have a better way to organize all of the inspiration I once shared through status updates. The positive is that I am now encouraging interaction on a site that I host myself.
6) I won’t be able to post for my client work.
I have client work that includes a social media role. One option is that I create an account with limited information, and do not accept friends. That means I have no audience to read about or post to. I only come in as an admin to post on my client’s page. Yes, I am looking for a better way to do this. Wish me luck!
7) I will lose all of my pictures!
Pictures are the greatest treasure I have gained through my involvement with Facebook. My aunt posted a picture of my brother and I over a year ago, that I saw for the first time yesterday. We were consoling each other after a funeral. I think it is the most moving photograph I have ever been a part of. And perhaps because as of this week I will have been to five funerals in the past year, it speaks volumes of where we are in life right now.
I would have considered deactivating my account, rather than deleting, if I had to download my pictures one by one. But, it would have been too tempting to return to Facebook whenever I wanted. Thankfully, someone else has thought of this.
First of all, you can download all of your Facebook data, which gives you everything except for the photos you have been tagged in. It took me several hours to figure out a solution for this, as many of the apps and chrome extensions that say they can do this, can no longer do so.
Enter Digi.me (formerly Socialsafe).
Digi.me allowed me to download my entire Facebook account and professional page in a way that is user-friendly and enjoyable to review. A free trial will allow you to download up to four accounts. During that month-long period, you have access to premium features. I took advantage of this time to export all of my tagged photos. So, whether it is the most moving picture ever, or just a commemoration that my friends and I are actually hanging out in person, I’m leaving not a single photo behind.
A return to old-fashioned friendships
Of all of the reasons I listed not to leave Facebook, losing touch with my friends affects me the most. However, this will require me to be more deliberate about staying in touch. I am confident that I will make the effort to stay in touch with many people, but in a way that is more reflective of my available time and boundaries. I am confident that others will surprise me by making the effort to stay in touch with me by emailing, texting (yes, that is acceptable!), calling, or even commenting on my blog (hint, hint).
I cannot possibly stay in touch with everyone, but if I am being honest, I probably had some illusions of who I was truly connected with in the first place.
Also, I look forward to growing in my personal and professional life, which will introduce new friendships. Perhaps the kind that I can celebrate over the phone or at a cafe. The way we used to.