I pulled the plug on my Facebook account two years ago, shortly before the 2016 presidential election. While it’s somewhat less remarkable to lack a Facebook profile now than it would have been a decade ago, I do occasionally still get asked about my choice and how I navigate a life without Facebook.
I’d like to preface this by saying that everyone uses social media differently; something I find easy to give up may be an integral part of someone else’s experience, and vice versa. I also haven’t left all social media platforms: I still (reluctantly) maintain a LinkedIn presence, and I’m moderately active on Snapchat – after all, I need somewhere to park those Tinder matches. But I haven’t once regretted my decision to adopt a life without Facebook, and I’m still quite satisfied.
As you may have guessed, one of the reasons I chose to close my account when I did was because of my distaste for the strong uptick in political content I was seeing. For me, it wasn’t just a matter of wanting a break from reading material I found objectionable; even posts that were consistent with my views had become a nuisance. Although by this time I’d already trimmed down my friends list to fewer than 50 individuals, I still felt there was too much information being thrown my way. Frankly, I was simply not interested in reading all these people’s opinions, or at least not in this format. That’s when I first considered leaving the site.
When I was deliberating the possibility of a life without Facebook, I wondered what I had to lose. The incessant political posts that had prompted this thought process to begin with, yes, but anything positive? Well, I used Facebook messenger. And there were some of my fellow Facebookers I liked to keep up with – old friends from previous schools whom I no longer could see in person. But I could rely on other technologies for that, I concluded. I’d text people I wanted to converse with. If I wanted to know what their thoughts on politics were, or what they were wearing, or what they were eating for dinner, I’d just ask.
I decided to go with my gut and clicked through the deletion process, which was hidden away in Facebook’s help center. After confirming multiple times that I did, indeed, want my account removed permanently, I was logged out and sent an email informing me that everything could be restored if I signed back into my account within 30 days.
I do remember initially feeling a little weird. I felt like I was no longer connected to the world the way I was before. I didn’t immediately experience the sense of liberation I had expected to – I felt bored, and kind of tense. But by the end of the following day, things were already different. I’d gone 24 hours without reading a single vitriolic (or generally unwanted) post, and I absolutely loved it. I never looked back.
I have not returned to the site since then because a need to do so has never arisen. Actually, the only thing that’s changed is my desire to leave more social media platforms. Apparently, a life without Facebook isn’t enough for me; I’ve since contemplated closing down my Snapchat and come within inches of canceling my LinkedIn account. Leaving Facebook made me realize how much time I wasted going through my day and trying to decide what might be mildly compelling enough to merit a share on my Timeline, and the negative effect on my mental health that habitually comparing myself to others (as I used to do on Facebook all the time) can have. I believe these qualities are inherent to my use of social networking.
I’m aware that what I’m describing isn’t an option for everyone. The fact that I’m a private person means I have relatively few close friends and lack a strong desire to regularly share stuff of my own. But if you’re a fairly extraverted person, staying connected can feel important, and in fact may be necessary for running your business or career.
For me, though, it’s not (and never has been) indispensable. No, I don’t know about every graduation party or bar mitzvah or cat funeral that’s happening amongst my acquaintances. I have no idea what the majority of my former high school classmates are doing. I keep in contact with the people I care about through other channels – ones that work for me and that do, more or less, make me happy.
I’m not trying to suggest that Facebook or any social media is entirely bad – these platforms are ultimately just tools, and they can be used in positive or destructive ways. But there’s always the third option of not using the tool at all and letting other people have at it, and that’s what I’ve chosen. To be honest, I’d much rather spend my time reading Onenie articles than my Facebook friends’ rants.