Leaving Facebook: Breaking up is Hard to Do

Leaving Facebook: Breaking up is Hard to Do July 30, 2012

They say that breaking up is hard to do.

But since I dumped Facebook last Thursday, I’ve felt great.

It was the end of a long relationship that started out with joy and excitement, but recently became dreary, burdensome, and downright abusive.

First thing Thursday morning, I deleted the  Facebook app from my iPhone. Immediately a load lifted from my shoulders. No longer did I see those insidious little red numbers telling me someone had commented or posted or tagged or friended or messaged.

I found the effect was far more immediate than I anticipated. I stopped checking my phone incessantly.

Psychic space opened up in my life. I listened to my son prattle on about dinosaurs. I listened to my daughter prattle on about the kind of feathers she wants in her hair (apparently, they’re all the rage).

Facebook had become a crutch, an easy jolt of entertainment whenever I was bored: At home, during a break in my day. Watching TV, during a commercial break. And, because nothing is more boring than driving carpool, at red lights.

Boredom, however, is a good and necessary thing. It’s simply space. And into this space, important things stretch their roots: Creativity, conversations, ideas, actions. I was filling that space up with social media and it was crowding more important things out.

There were flashbacks, to be sure. I found myself automatically composing status updates when the kids did something cute or I thought of something profound. But then I let that slide – like sand through my fingers at the beach – away. That cuteness? Those thoughts? Those are for me, perhaps my husband, a few good friends, and if they make the cut, my blog.

The scope of the world snuggled in closer around my family. We were no longer perpetually on a stage of our own creation. We no longer perform for the world’s amusement, only for our own.

Good stories will be told over cocktails, complete with hand gestures, to the people who will appreciate it the most.

By happenstance, the day I broke up with Facebook, I attended a funeral. I knew Linda lightly, as one knows the occasionally visiting parents of friends, but well enough to know every wonderful thing said was true. This is not always the case at funerals. Her bright smile and brighter curiosity made people want to be around her.

Facebook never came up.

No one said “She was a beloved mother, devoted wife, world traveler, and wrote fantastic status updates” or “I was proud to call her my friend on Facebook.”

There’s  nothing like the reality of mortality to put things in perspective.

But how, exactly, does one go about breaking up with Facebook?

Slowly, as it turns out, with great deliberation. You see, like any big breakup, we have to figure out who gets the digital furniture and who gets the (pictures of) the kids.

I had wanted to break up with Facebook for years, but felt I couldn’t. We writers scrabble for every hit we get. We will come to your house and bring you a ham if you read us. Seriously. We’re that desperate.

So how could I walk away from 403 potential readers?

Even that question had started to feel mean to me. I knew I wanted out of Facebook, but I stayed to exploit Facefriends, many of whom -again being honest – could not care less about my latest blog post on The Dark Knight Rises or on my wacky kids. I would feel bad about my blatant self-promotion and try harder to be funny, friendly and winsome. Even that felt false and manipulative.

I finally decided to take the stand that felt right and let the chips fall as they may. After all, if I’m dependent on those 403 people I’ve allowed to be my Facefriends, then my writing hasn’t exactly taken off, has it?

However, I also recognize the necessity of self-promotion in this media age. Plus, a few readers have very flatteringly expressed disappointment that my blog posts won’t be so easily Facebook accessible.

So I’ve created an author page. Those who, for reasons unfathomable to me, wish to follow my writing, can opt in to my self-promotion. Just “like” the page and my posts will appear, like magic, in your stream.

Then what? Just having an author page, as well the page I manage for the Patheos Movie Channel, requires a Facebook presence. Although my desire is to delete myself entirely, I can’t do so.

Exes never entirely go away, do they?

I created a new bare bones profile which will be virtually friendless and used only to access the things I need for work. I will be winding down and deleting my current profile. I will be protecting myself from this particular ex.

Did you know you can download all your Facebook history, pictures, the whole shebang? After that, it’s somewhat easy to delete an account. 

I’ll let you know how it goes.


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