Quitting Facebook changed my life but it wasn’t what I was expecting.
There are some relationships in life that you know have to end, yet somehow you just can’t ever bring yourself to leave.
That was me and Facebook.
I’d been on the world’s number one social network for over 10 years, (not continuously!), but for me, the fun had dried up before that.
The novelty of those exciting, early days was super-fun and I guess I stayed so long at the party because I hoped they’d come back.
Connecting with old friends online, arranging social events and meet-ups, getting to see what people who were traveling or had moved overseas were up to; in the beginning, it was all so…upbeat and optimistic.
I’m not sure exactly when it changed. Maybe, like any relationship, it’s inevitable that the initial attraction wears off.
But for me, Facebook had gradually morphed from an amazing tool that could deepen friendships and broaden horizons into something resembling a daily grind of ‘checking in’ multiple times to see who had gotten engaged, who changed their job, whose posts I had to ‘like’, whose wall I should write ‘happy birthday’ on, etc etc.
I seemed to use it less and less for actively communicating and connecting with friends in a meaningful way. It just wasn’t that fun anymore.
Like any falling out of love, you feel like it must be your fault: why am I not enjoying this as much as everyone else seems to be?
The truth is, maybe they aren’t. University research has found that Facebook can be bad for you and limiting social media use has even been suggested as a way to alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety.
It wasn’t a dramatic realization or a 3am epiphany that convinced me to leave Facebook behind.
Instead, it was my working on a big project in my spare time that needed all of my attention.
I’m a huge procrastinator and I knew that the temptations of spending 45 minutes at a time, scrolling through the feeds of random Facebook friends, would prove too much.
Breaking up with Facebook is as much about breaking up with your phone
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I deactivated my account (I didn’t close it for good) and blocked the web address with my internet provider so I couldn’t visit the site on my home wifi connection anymore, (along with a couple of news sites that I spent too much time on.)
I fully intended to unblock and re-join once I had finished the project. – I mean, I needed Facebook, didn’t I?
How would I ever get in touch with anyone again if I left for good? Wouldn’t people wonder what happened to me if I just disappeared?
I couldn’t have imagined at the time that leaving would make me happier and more relaxed.
It seemed that the absence of ‘checking in’ with Facebook several times a day freed up, not just time, but mental energy too.
In this world of information overload, there was something liberating about not logging onto a news feed where you’re essentially scrolling through an overwhelming list of other people’s daily thoughts, feelings, and activities, plus news, fake news, advertising, and brand messages too.
If you think about it, it’s no surprise that reading through all these multiple times a day can unknowingly stress you out!
I had no idea what my Facebook contacts were doing, but surprisingly, I didn’t mind.
I didn’t lose my friends overnight as I had feared: let’s face it, there’s no shortage of ways to stay connected today.
Instead, it was so much better hearing their news in person, as opposed to liking a status update.
In fact, I realized there was something strangely voyeuristic, even creepy, about the fake connectedness Facebook brought: knowing so many details of people’s lives was slightly strange, considering I hadn’t been in touch with most people on my friends list IRL for years.
I had ‘only’ 150 Facebook friends when I left the site, but 10 or fewer of them were close friends.
The rest were old colleagues, school friends, people I’d met traveling, or studying.
They were people who – don’t get me wrong – I wish only good things for, but who were way too large in number to maintain meaningful friendships with on a regular basis.
The biggest boost from my self-imposed Facebook exile however, was when the low-level feelings of jealousy and not measuring up that have become so ingrained in today’s online experience disappeared.
It’s easy not to notice when you’re absent-mindedly scrolling, but, like the University of Michigan students, I knew that the time spent on Facebook wasn’t leaving me happier afterward.
It’s completely counter-intuitive to think that seeing positive images from other people’s lives makes you feel bad.
If anything, common sense tells you that it should be the opposite.
But we’re creatures who are born to compare and if we judge that we aren’t doing as well as someone in an arbitrary image that pops up in our news feed then it can have an enormous negative impact.
This proved true for me: with none of the envy-inducing curated posts and updates (of which I too, was guilty), all the anxious and inferior noise and comparisons just weren’t possible.
Instead, I could just concentrate on whatever I was doing for myself, and not worry about how I stacked up against others online.
Suddenly things were a lot simpler. Quitting facebook changed my life in big and small ways and I loved it.
Another benefit is the privacy that comes from not having a Facebook account.
Despite numerous updates, it always seems like the security and privacy settings of your profile are way more complicated than they need to be.
Whenever I got them figured out, they soon changed again.
Compare navigating the privacy settings on Facebook to Instagram, where you can toggle just one setting to make everything private.
After 10 years of being on Facebook where anyone can see your life just by googling your name, I like the fact that people don’t know what I’m doing unless I want them to.
I took my thoughts offline…
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And so, a temporary break from Facebook for a couple of weeks turned into a break-up.
It’s a year and a half on and – although my account’s still deactivated, not deleted – I don’t see myself rejoining anytime soon. I’m getting more done and feeling good.
So if you’re looking to make a change, consider taking a couple of weeks off Facebook. It might just change your life.
On the next page, I give you My Top Five Tips for Quitting Facebook…