Forty Seven

A little more than a year ago I deleted my Facebook account, as an early birthday gift to myself. Today on my 47th birthday, after a good solid year cashing in on that gift, I’m finally getting around to the item I put on my to-do list shortly after taking the action – “blog post about leaving FB.”

I have a whole page of notes I started to help me write this post, which I might get to later. But here, in no particular order, are some things I love about this choice, as I reflect:

My life feels less like a spectator sport. I am no longer a little avatar inside my skull peering out through my eyes thinking about if and how to post about moment after moment of my day.

Time flows differently. Most obviously, I gained back minutes, and let’s be honest – sometimes hours – of my days, by no longer scrolling the newsfeed. But also, I feel like I experience time differently. I actually choose to just sit still in my back yard with nothing else to occupy my attention besides what’s already there – the birds and squirrels, the trees and sky, maybe a loved one nearby. I read more long-form things – books, actual paper magazine articles – and just consider them, maybe talk about them with the people I encounter in real life. Rarely do I feel the need to “share” by clicking on a device. As I consider the latest news event, I give myself time and space to process it. Which leads me to my next thought.

The world does not need to hear my opinion or reaction about every current event. Oh I could go on about this one (but does the world need to hear it all? I don’t think so). I do pay attention to the news, maybe not as close as I have at other times, because learning what’s going on in the world – and contemplating my place in it all – is important to me. But after forty-seven years of living, I’ve changed my opinions and overhauled my values and priorities enough to forecast that it’s just going to go on like this, so maybe it’s not all that helpful to instantly share with the world what I think about what just happened on a regular basis. If I’m honest, which I’m working to be, at least some of my virtual sharing and posting about the news had been more about building a desirable image for myself than actually caring about the world and the people in it.

Joy and gratitude live more deeply in me. I still experience depression, boredom, envy, frustration – but those feelings were amplified by my Facebook habit. I feel more truly a sense of enough and steadfast goodness in my life every day.

My actual, real-life friends and family mean more to me. Leaving Facebook, for me, meant I lost touch with many people, because I’m not outgoing, not the type of friend who will call or text at random just to talk. Or I hadn’t been for most of my life, and Facebook just further encouraged a habit of passive engagement with people. Getting off of Facebook meant I had to be more active in maintaining the relationships I cared about, and I’ve gotten in better shape doing just that – routine texting, an occasional postcard or note to long-distance friends, and more intentional physical gatherings with loved ones who live closer. As an introvert, I have more energy for social interactions because I haven’t been passively depleting myself through social media.

Full disclosure, I did start a new Facebook profile that I connected to the pages I run for my bands, and I also use that profile to occasionally (as in maybe for two minutes every couple weeks?) check in on two groups that are important to me – my church and my songwriter group. I send and accept no friend requests and don’t do any scrolling – just click through my notifications and respond as needed.

After a year, I’m happy with my choice and have no desire to go back. Nothing I’ve written here is meant to cast judgment on anyone else. You, wonderfully, are you, gifted and freighted with your very own life to live, and I hope you feel empowered to make your own decisions. My experience may or may not resonate with you. But if you, like 45-year-old me, have been wanting to try getting off Facebook or a different social media platform, I hope you feel encouraged to go ahead. You can try to calculate the pros and cons and worry it all out before you jump – it took me a long gradual time to finally shut the thing down – but looking back now, it feels like it never needed to be such a long drawn-out decision. I didn’t really have as much to lose as I thought.

Now it’s time to turn off the laptop and get ready for a celebratory dinner out with my family!

**Below, I’ve just copied and pasted from the notes I mentioned above. Very random thoughts and links to other people’s thoughts that impacted my decision:

The article that pushed me to pull the trigger –

Stress of always needing to have an opinion and express it – dumbing down our thinking and our conversation to likes and sound bytes.

Wanting to be “friends” with everyone, feeling “like butter spread on too much bread,” to be hobbity about it. 

The endless news feed.

Feeling like I’m always standing and yelling in a crowd, everything I say blaring out to everyone around, and I don’t even know who all is there listening.

The increasing feeling of giving up, giving in to a system I increasingly hated. “I don’t like it but . . .” This isn’t about trying to make a perfect life (I’m still a consumer of Amazon, Apple and Google – will probably be more invested in Youtube now) – but feeling like staying on FB just pushed me too far into that territory of compromising values and joining the evil empire.

I can remember FB before the like button, before comments (really?) and feel a little wistful for that. We used to go look at each other’s walls and not just endlessly scroll the news feed. Then communication happened through more long-form and/or human means (email, phone calls, in-person gatherings). It’s harder to be troll-like in person or one-on-one.

You can stay. There are good reasons to. I did for a long time because I wanted to be a positive presence. 

Ideas for improving your experience – turn off all notifications except inside FB itself. Make it so you have to open up FB to see what’s happening there. (No pings on your phone when somebody likes or comments or posts). Remove FB from all but one device. I liked it best when I only used FB through my laptop. I used the Messenger app on my phone.

Choose times when you open FB and stick to them. Limit your time spent there. Write down what you plan to do on FB before you open it so you don’t fall down the rabbit hole and forget.

Take longer breaks from it.