There was never a plan to remove myself from Facebook. I had never considered deactivating my account and disappearing from the world. (Though I had been trying to ‘scale back’ my involvement.) I have been in lots of heated debates on Facebook over the years and loved having the opportunity to share information with large numbers of people. I have gained many new friends through the intactivist, breastfeeding, and unschooling communities. As a ‘SAHM,’ Facebook was my lifeline – I could be connected to anyone – and everyone – ALL the time.
Now that I’ve had some time away from Facebook, I will share with you what I have observed and learned since being away for over four months. Some of these you’ve probably already noticed whether you’re still on Facebook or have never even opened an account. Here it goes:
1. You do not have 859 Friends. Your friends are the people who call, text, Skype, Facetime, and check in (however randomly). Even if you’re in 20 private groups with the same people, it doesn’t mean you’re actually friends. If they don’t bother to connect with you outside of Facebook, they are nothing more than friends of convenience.
2. Facebook produces anxiety. I knew this before, but it was pronounced once I deactivated. From adhering to the ever-changing online social etiquette to the non-stop parade of depressing and disturbing information and images (especially for those of us who are easily affected), we can’t help but become more anxious.
3. Facebook wastes precious time. Time we will never regain just scrolling and scrolling and ‘liking’ and even commenting on even the most mundane posts. Sometimes people just ‘like’ a post to acknowledge they’ve read it or because they are trying to be nice, or even because they may feel guilty for an earlier online debate. Sometimes we even ‘like’ posts just because we hope they will reciprocate or because that’s exactly what we’re doing. But we do it. Over and over and over again – ALL. DAY. LONG.
4. Facebook kills creativity. Yes, it does. Now, instead of reaching for my phone (which had better have at least 75% battery life because there’s no telling how long I’d be on there!), I can reach for a project to keep my hands busy or mind occupied. I can start something new or even finish up something that I’ve been ‘too busy’ to complete.
5. Facebook kept me better connected to strangers than the people right in front of me. Ouch! That’s a hard one to admit. The truth is that I was buried in my phone long after my husband and daughter had given up calling for me. I convinced myself that I was solving problems or helping people – my friends (I had a lot of them, you see – everyone needed my help!). And I’m sure that I did. But it usually usurped my family’s needs.
6. Unlike receiving an email, the pressure is ON to respond to Facebook messages. There’s no escaping it. Your friends can see when you were last active. They can see when you’ve read their message. And then they wait and wait and wait for you to respond. So you’re a jerk for not even opening up the message (which doesn’t really foil the sender) or you’re a jerk for not responding in a ‘timely-manner’ – even to just answer a quick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question.
7. There’s pressure to support everyone’s causes, blogs, businesses, and bands. I can’t even count how many ‘sign this petition’ posts people have slapped up on my wall. Everyone has something they want to promote or sell – myself included – there is no end!
8. People expect you to be on Facebook. Nothing made this more clear than my own inactive Facebook-user mom ask, ‘When do you think you’ll return to Facebook?’
9. You’re not really missing out. Inside-joke memes, your friends’ children being sick (for the 18th time this year), your relative’s intolerance for anyone different than himself, people asking questions they could easily google. Nope, not missing out on much.
10. Except when you are… People assume that if they share news on Facebook that their job is finished. Like one of my long-time girlfriends. She announced her pregnancy over Facebook and, even though we’d spoken and texted during this time, it wasn’t until five months into her pregnancy that she said, ‘Oh I forgot you’re not on Facebook – I’m pregnant!’
11. People’s conversations revolve around what they’ve seen, read, or witnessed on Facebook. My husband will still come home and say ‘Did you see so-and-so’s post about…’ or a friend will say, ‘You didn’t see this, but…’
12. Some people will even try to make you feel bad for not being on Facebook. ‘Well, if you were on Facebook, you’d know that/be aware of/heard about…’ Well, if you thought it was so important for me to know, you’d have told me.
13. Facebook can waste a lot of emotionally energy. When you’re on Facebook, everyone wants a piece of you. And everyone expects you to engage – perfectly. There’s not an opportunity to make a mistake on Facebook, everyone will call you out on it like it’s their job. So after you’ve been shamed for your mistake, you’re basically forced to apologize and make right all your ‘wrongs.’
14. In the absence of Facebook, life feels much more quiet and relaxing. I used to check Facebook at every ‘Free’ opportunity – waiting for the Chiropractor, just before leaving the house (I didn’t want to miss anything!). And sometimes I’d read something very upsetting and I wouldn’t have an opportunity to respond right away. Then I would obsess over the comment/post/message/image all the way to my destination, all the while scripting my reply. Then the conversation would continue throughout the day – my daughter’s naptime, which is my ‘down time’ was spent writing back and forth with people who are not exactly looking for a fair resolution or to learn anything (and they probably think the same of me!). But now those conversations can happen in real life (but they rarely do), and I can walk away. Or they happen on twitter in 140 characters (with a super accessible block button). I’m not racing to go check anything anymore. Or waiting for the computer to compose my epic response. My mind filled with different ideas, thoughts, information.
15. Facebook is intrusive. Anyone can tag you, post something on your wall, call you out on a thread, and get a hold of you at any time.
16. It’s expected that when you sign up for anything that you already have a Facebook account. ‘Forgot your login or password? Sign in with Facebook!’
17. You can have opinions on Facebook, but not too many. Maybe you even made friends on Facebook – say, through the intactivist movement. Go ahead and tell the world all about Genital Mutilation. But then don’t tell anyone your opinions about any other harms against children. Because then you’re just being mean and insensitive. Close-minded and judgy.
So it’s been over four months now. Will I ever go back? I don’t know. But occasionally when I tell people I’m off Facebook, I usually get some sort of ‘Good for you – save yourself!’ From people who haven’t (yet) left Facebook.
Have you had a similar experience? Are you still on Facebook and have the urge to leave? Have you never been on Facebook – for all the reasons listed? Comment below and share your observations!