An Update on Leaving Facebook: Frankly, I’m Shocked at the Difference It’s Made

An Update on Leaving Facebook: Frankly, I’m Shocked at the Difference It’s Made September 19, 2012

Two months ago, I broke up with Facebook.

As in any major breakup, I had logical reasons, emotional reasons and lots of doubt.

I simply do not trust Facebook anymore. It turned into a stalker: Watching my keystrokes, changing my email, pimping me out to who knows what.

I worried that a monopoly with loyalty to its own corporate culture was replacing our Constitutional right to free speech with a never-read, hastily clicked, and ever-changing users’ agreement.

What’s more, I no longer liked the way it made me feel.

Scanning my news feed reduced formerly vivid emotions to mildness. I felt mildly amused at what should have been a good joke, mildly happy at blissful news of engagements or births, mildly sad at grievous tales of death and misfortune.

The color of life had gone pale.

A status update had replaced an ecstatic phone call or a weepy sympathy visit. A comment on an update took the place of a celebratory gift of flowers or that casserole one brings when there is no way to help but being there.

The thrill of being on a stage on my own making had faded. I grew tired of crafting witty updates, taking pictures with an eye to how they would shine on my wall, the quiet bragging of vacations and awards, the frosting over of sad feelings, blah days or bad events.

Even when I took a break from Facebook, the audience was still there, waiting with baited breath for me to step back into the footlights in a day or week or month. My Facebook friends became an everlasting presence, a crowd in my mind.

Narcissism began to feel natural.

Why, I asked myself, was I putting up with so much frustration for so little in return?

So I pulled the plug, deactivated and deleted my account. I created a new account to administer pages I manage for work. Friend count? One. My son. Just so he knows someone is watching.

I know I am swimming against the stream. Facebook claims 955 million users, with 3.2 billion likes and comments per day.  On average, users spend over six hours a month there and nearly sixty percent return daily.

Even so, leaving worked for me.

The relief was nearly instantaneous, the effects remarkable. Frankly, I’m shocked at the difference.

I stopped checking my phone every two minutes. There are suddenly more hours in the day.

The people in the room became more interesting without a steady flow of digital competition. My children prattle on about hair feathers, hermit crabs, or part time jobs and I actually remember the conversation the next day.

When I saw a colleague after a few days’ absence, his greeting smile beamed more warmly. The spark of reestablishing contact after an absence was noticeably unfamiliar.

Enjoying cocktails with good friends, I heard their funny stories live, in real time, not rehashed from already viewed status updates. I do not miss that crestfallen look when a good friend laughs “You’ll never guess what happened” and I am forced to say “I know. I saw it on Facebook already.”

Stories are richer and better told over dinner, hands waving, faces glowing, laughter interrupting.

I admit I miss seeing the antics of my cousin in a San Diego law school and photos of the newest family baby. I email the people that matter and let the mere acquaintances and former friends slip back into memory.

I am surprised by how little I miss of Facebook.

Leaving is not for everyone. It may be I have a particularly susceptible personality.

Yet, it bears consideration. Just because Facebook is the way things are now does not mean Facebook is the way things have to be.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • BlueVA

    Brilliantly articulated!

    I left Facebook about 6 months ago, but I always get a look of curious interest when I tell friends “I’m not on Facebook anymore.” I can’t tell if they think I’m crazy for unplugging or if they wish they could be so brave! And then I think to myself, “Did you really miss me? I left it behind so long ago, and you never knew!”

    Anyway, your post is a well-written explanation that I agree with wholeheartedly.

  • Crimbly

    I left FB about 2 years ago; it does mean my friends are mildly inconvenienced in having to actually – gasp! – manually invite me to nights out etc. rather than fire off a FB message, or whatever it is they do these days.

    I know the feeling of more time though. I can actually sit down with a book and tea in the evening without feeling guilty that I’m somehow “missing” something on FB. 🙂

  • Eric

    Thanks for this blog post. I was never on Facebook. There isn’t a single peer of mine who isn’t on it (I’m in my mid-30s). 9 times out of 10 I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. But there are those days I wonder what I’m missing. But in the end, I like not being on it.

  • dominic724

    Found highly similar experiences after leaving FB less than a month ago. What an easy way to simplify life ! Thanks for an excellent post !