Leaving Facebook feels like what I imagine divorce following years of loveless marriage might feels like. What used to be a fulfilling, constructive, and positive relationship became stale and alienating, and refused to let me go.
Facebook behaves like an addiction in the sense that, the longer you use it, the more of your personal capital you invest into it. It retains a monopoly of your contacts, photos, events, etc. Leaving it creates withdrawal not for Facebook itself, but for the aspects social life it facilitated, and made impossible without it, betting that users will always return just because of the sheer immensity of their existence that is contained within its servers.
I do sometimes entertain these dystopian, conspiratorial theories about Facebook, concerns over the degree to which private information is stored, shared, and utilized for profit, but this was not a move of principle on my part. Bored, resentful, tired, curious; it was a whim born out of a long-simmering frustration, that finally led to the end.
It felt like HAL singing “Daisy, Daisy” as I was forced to complete the bizarre technical and emotional obstacle course that Facebook has constructed as a last, desperate plea to stay. After five pages of “Are you sure you want to go?” and the unsettling tagged photos of my friends and loved ones crying out “We will miss you!” – I finally shut it down.
ps where did hoopes’ facebook go? am i just dumb and cant find him to invite?
– Excerpt from a nearly missed invitation to a party which was only brought to my attention via alternate channels of communication that I had forgotten even existed.
The “if you aren’t on Facebook you don’t exist” fear is very real. Coming to terms with the fact that this is even a valid concern (and what this says about my life) has been more troubling than leaving Facebook itself. It’s an uncomfortable truth that my ability to quickly reach anyone and be reached is sharply diminished. Facebook’s chat/ message system, for all its counter intuitive and unreliable weirdness, is alarmingly direct, and if everyone I know is glued to one website whenever they get a little down time, that is naturally the best way to contact them.
Of course, anyone I talk to on a daily/ weekly basis has survived my personal Facebook apocalypse, because I have in my possession a) their phone numbers and b) a relatively uninhibited attitude towards directly contacting them, but to my friends from school who live in different cities and who I don’t keep up with regularly, this is a significant obstacle to our long distance, low-activity relationships.
On the other hand, I’ve been forced to reexamine my approach to maintaining these relationships. I pay attention to my phone; my overall flakiness has decreased at a rate in proportion to how long I’ve been without Facebook. Something about being able to communicate anyone online whenever I wanted led to me never wanting to communicate, because I knew I could always do it some other time. Yes, Facebook made me procrastinate being a friend. Now I actively maintain my contacts, seek phone numbers I don’t have, and try to overcome my habit of conflating “reading/ understanding a text message” with “responding to said text message.” I’m beginning to remember the feeling of actually calling someone, for longer than five minutes, just to talk. Remember that?
I spent on average a couple hours a day on Facebook. I think this is pretty normal, even universal. Add up throughout the day how many times you check it, plus the trying to fall asleep late-night binge of newsfeed reloading and random stalking, and it’s easy to see where these hours go. I wish I could say that losing this distraction would free up some of that time, and it did – for other negligent, wasteful pursuits of self-gratification on the internet. There’s still Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, etc. You can ditch Facebook, cut the Gordian knot so to speak, and still be left with the same root causes behind why you spent so much time on it in the first place. Deleting Facebook has had zero effect on how much of my life I waste on the internet.
What happened to your Facebook man I’m trying to creep over here!
– Frantic text from former college roommate expressing his sense of entitlement to publicly available information about my personal life.
As it is a sort of reckless and unconventional move by the standards of most young, American human beings, deleting Facebook presents a host of issues relating to your perception in a Facebook oriented society. Your motivations are scrutinized, especially in regards to your own notions of what the move really means and what you hope to convey about yourself. You can become a pariah, an outcast, perpetually on the outside. (see: recent Kat George article 10 Types Of People I Do Not Trust – “3. People who don’t have Facebook – WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO HIDE?” )
Is it some kind of sad publicity stunt? A virtual internet suicide attempt, a cry for help by an increasingly marginalized social presence? You will be noticed. Then there is the condescending moral superiority aspect, that you’re just doing it to feel better than everyone else. I think its impossible not to feel slightly proud of the accomplishment in terms of your own personal well-being, but to imagine any degree of conferred status as a result of your holier-than-thou internet asceticism is presumptuous. Leave Facebook for a variety of reasons but avoid making “to be a giant douchebag” one of them.
Attempting to derive meaning from deleting Facebook is ultimately futile; do not go down this road. Your need to simply explain why will get the best of you, and you’ll end up acting either the smug contrarian or the proselytizing elitist, babbling on about the virtues of the non-Facebook life, when in reality your decision to log off is just as meaningless as logging on.
You won’t last two weeks.
– Supportive statement from a friend that I should have put money on.
Honestly, I believed him; I still believe him. It’s day to day. There are time where I click the Facebook icon or absentmindedly type in the URL before I catch myself, guiltily. I’ve logged in thousands of times for the past five years. I’ve been on Facebook longer than I’ve known a lot of my friends. Speaking of friends, they have been supportive, making sure they remember to share the thoughts and feelings they express on Facebook to me personally so I’m not left behind. So many times I hear, after not not understanding what someone is talking about, “Well, I wrote about it on Facebook.” That’s what I have to catch up to.
I could go back any second. I want the minutiae, the simple things, the anticipatory rush of nervous joy expanding the notification tab and its cascading list of virtual actions that, through a single tentative click, all represent some small attempt to interact with me. It’s not that I miss being able to immediately convey any thought or feeling instantly to nearly every person in my life, it’s that I miss the chance, however remote, that they would choose to do the same to me.