I remember sitting in my dorm room sophomore year, excitedly signing up for Facebook. My roommate and I were thrilled that our small liberal arts college had FINALLY been granted access to Facebook. Our school had some other local social networking site, but it was kind of lame — so Facebook was a welcome addition. It was so fun to connect with my high school friends who attended state schools and had been on Facebook for ages.
I don’t remember much about using Facebook in the early days. I think we mainly kept our profiles up to date, added our favorite quotes and song lyrics, and looked up random cute guys we met in class or knew as a friend of a friend. Back in the day, photo albums and advertisements weren’t even a thing. And no one shared news (real or fake) on the site. My, how times have changed!
It’s been upwards of 13 years since I signed up for Facebook.
And over the past year, I’ve realized over and over again how much I am just over it.
Maybe it’s because I’m older.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been encouraged by the example of friends who have disconnected from social media (and lived to tell the tale).
Maybe it’s because I’m burned out on the negativity, the sales, and the general time-suck that Facebook can be.
Whatever it is? I don’t care about Facebook and what it has to offer very much anymore.
It’s changed, and I’ve changed. I am not quitting it completely. It does have a purpose. Social media in general, and Facebook in particular, has allowed me to keep in touch with friends from other periods in my life and family members who live far away. It’s a convenient way to keep up with photos and personal updates, to collaborate and commiserate and celebrate, and the site has even helped me make a few real life friends! My neighborhood Facebook group has helped me get to know my neighbors and has connected me with local businesses. In some ways, it’s the new Yellow Pages — as well as the new photo album. (Remember those?) But those aren’t necessarily things I need in my phone, by my side all day long.
Deleting Facebook from my phone has been freeing and joyful, in ways I can’t explain to those who haven’t done this too.
My greatest fear — and a sentiment I’ve heard expressed in response to this — was that I’d feel like I was missing something. It’s been a surprise, and a joy, that I haven’t. I don’t feel disconnected from others, but I feel more connected to people around me in real life. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to those who weren’t ever avid Facebook users either. But for those of you in my generation . . . those who got on Facebook in college or even high school? Consider it.
One main reason I hopped off the phone Facebook train has to do with how Facebook operates.
At it’s core, Facebook is advertising. Period. That’s not how it’s marketed to us. It’s marketed as a place to connect with people. But really, Facebook takes YOUR data—a lot of it—to give advertisers access to you through your news feed. It’s all aggregated (meaning supposedly not personally identifiable), but still. Your data—everything from details about your phone to the photos you upload to the searches you do—help Facebook make money. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel a little squirmy inside.
To be clear: I haven’t quit Facebook entirely. Too many of my genuine, in real life friends share photos of their kids, delicious recipes, and funny anecdotes that I don’t want to miss. Yes, we talk, text, and Skype . . . and get together when we’re in the same city/state/country. But Facebook is convenient and reaches your community en masse. So they stay, and I stay. But I just purposefully choose when I see that stuff. And 99% of the time, it’s on a regular computer in small doses. By deleting Facebook off my phone, I am choosing to give them less data about me. (I still have Instagram on my phone, which I LOVE, but now it’s owned by Facebook. So, unfortunately, some of the same issues apply there.)
The more important reason I hopped off the phone Facebook train was that it just wasn’t good for me.
Because Facebook was there at my fingertips, I would go there. At all times. At work, at home, when I should be going to bed. When I got up in the morning, I’d open the app, wondering what had happened since I’d last been on. Spoiler alert: not very much. Everyone else was asleep too — except the random high school acquaintance who now lives in Japan. Yes, at 5:30 am, I really need to see the article they shared about gun control. It wasn’t like I spent hours on Facebook every time, but it all adds up. Sometimes I would blink and thirty minutes would have gone by. Ugh.
It wasn’t good for me to get the majority of my news from articles Facebook thought I should see, or that my “friends” shared.
Going directly to a trusted source is much better. Seeing fewer ranty, ragey comments about current events from friends (or friends of friends or strangers) is an added bonus.
My phone battery life is better.
Seriously! That’s an old article but I think it’s pretty accurate still.
It’s nice to have less exposure to advertising.
Whether it’s paid advertising on Facebook or bags/shampoo/books/etc. sold by someone I know, it’s nice to not see all that as much anymore. The less you see, the less you think you need.
I’m on my phone less.
I check Instagram, email, and Twitter occasionally but they don’t generate the same scrolling habits as Facebook. Anything else I do on my phone has a purpose, and I try not to be on my phone for more than a few minutes when my son is awake and nearby.
It wasn’t healthy for me to see, at all hours of the day, what my friends were eating, wearing, watching, reading, or enjoying.
FOMO and jealously is real, even as a 33 year old. Yes, I can still see some of that stuff via Instagram—and I might see it on Facebook later—but not seeing it in the moment is wonderful, guys. By not comparing my evening with someone else’s, I can be more content with what I’m doing. And I can actually do SOMETHING in the hour or so I have between kid bedtime and mama bedtime instead of wasting time scrolling. Reading a book, making muffins, talking to my husband, watching a tv show, or Skyping with a friend is much better than reading something nonessential that some random person from my past shared. And I’m not disappointed with my choice.
It’s freeing to share less on Facebook myself.
I still share things on Facebook sometimes, especially photos. But it’s tiring to present the best of yourself online all the time. And it isn’t good for others either. I don’t claim to have a perfect life, but from looking at it online it might appear that way to others. I don’t want to add to the noise for others.
But what about…?
Have there been times I’ve wanted to go on Facebook on my phone? Or needed to? Yup. From time to time, I download the app again for a specific purpose—mostly to upload some photos from my phone. Then I delete it again. Sometimes I login through my browser, such as during a recent power outage, to see what the neighbors were saying about it. But overall, these instances are few and far between.
Do I miss things on Facebook? I have, especially on weekends since I’m rarely on a regular computer then. I’ve missed out on freebies offered through Mom’s groups or good deals on kids’ clothes. (Oh well.) I’ve also missed things posted over the weekend: pregnancy news, engagements, and even a notice that a college friend entered hospice care.
But I don’t miss the things I thought I would miss. If I wonder about how someone is, I text them. I visit a news site to read about what’s happening in the world. I get restaurant reviews from Yelp, snarky news comments from Twitter, and beautiful, cute, or inspiring photos (from my curated following list) on Instagram.
Over the weekend, I get emails from Facebook trying to lure me in: “Sarah, did you see…?” No, and I didn’t see your email either. Your emails are in my “Unroll.Me” daily digest emails and I don’t read those on the weekend. Ha! Facebook really freaks out when I’m logged out for days at a time. But I don’t.
A writer I admire, Andrea Lucado, writes about her decision to take social media free weekends in this lovely post. I highly encourage you read it and consider the roles social media plays in your life — both good and bad. I don’t fully step away from social media each weekend, but I love her sentiment. Every evening and weekend that I don’t log into Facebook, I feel that freedom. Maybe I will choose to do this in the future. You may want to do this now — especially if you’re home with your kids all day and find encouragement on Facebook during the week. Maybe a break on the weekends is perfect!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so let’s continue the discussion in the comments. Thanks for reading!