Three months off FB

I’ve been off FB for over three months now, and I feel like I should have something profound to say about that. Except I don’t, really.

I can tell by the way people react when I tell them I’ve deactivated my account that they don’t really get it. They’ve read enough articles (or at least been exposed to the sound bites) to know that people are generally less satisfied with their own lives when they’re on FB a lot, that studies show it doesn’t make people happier, so they can nod their head as they furrow their brows and pretend like they don’t think I’m a weirdo. I think most of them assume I’ll be back, any day now, when I realize what a massive mistake it is to stay away.

I don’t think it’s a mistake, and I plan to stay away, at least for the time being. It’s not that there aren’t things about FB that I miss–I wouldn’t have stayed on for so many years if it had nothing positive to offer–but I can’t help but acknowledge that I’m happier not participating than I was before.

Do I miss seeing pictures of my friends and families and their kids? Yes. Absolutely. I do miss that. Sometimes a lot. But the truth is, one picture every few weeks (or even months) is plenty for me. I don’t need to see every picture of every person that I know, every day. I just don’t. I also don’t need to know all about all the things they are doing. In fact, knowing all that stressed me out, in ways I didn’t even realize.

You could say that I left when I recognized that FB inspired feelings of envy or jealously or coveting, or when I got sick of comparing my life to everyone’s highlight reel. That is probably why I left. But having spent three months away, I realize that the negative effects were far more insidious. The reality is I simply couldn’t process that amount of information. I didn’t know what to do with all the thousands of images and experiences being offered up by everyone I knew. I didn’t have any place to put them. They were constantly bumping against my own ideas, trying to find a space to land, but there simply wasn’t anywhere for them to go. My mind became more crowded and cluttered, while I became distracted and unhappy.

Do I know less about my friends these days… yes! And I actually think that is a good thing. Now when I talk to them we have interesting subjects to cover. Now when they text me a picture I can take the time to enjoy it, and then file it away in a manageable archive devoted to that person. I can take the time to actually think about them and their kids, and process information about their lives in a meaningful way that inspires connection.

And I’ll be honest, it is easier to feel fulfilled in my own life when I’m not constantly bombarded by the highlights of everyone else’s. I’m sure I feel less dissassifyed now that I’m not seeing everyone’s amazing vacations and get togethers with friends. I wish I could consume that kind of information day in and day out and not be negatively affected but it just wasn’t something I could manage. 

Last Sunday was my birthday, my first birthday off of FB. I wondered how it would feel without the 100+ salutations from well-meaning “friends” that I hardly know. I’ve always quite liked and appreciated the birthday wishes on FB, at least from the people who mean something to me, but not having that acknowledgement wasn’t so bad. A few close friends remembered despite not having FB to tell them (and a few close friends forgot, and then felt bad, but I didn’t mind). Birthdays don’t mean that much to me anymore and I’m not upset when a friend, even a good friend, forgets to text me happy birthday. I didn’t even get a handmade card from my own husband or kids so I wasn’t expecting (and didn’t get) much. And you know what, it was fine and now it’s over and I’m not disappointed looking back. It’s just a day, and I don’t need a bunch of people who only know to say Happy Birthday because a website tells them to write something on my wall. 

I do think FB has made us lazier in our connecting with other people. And when someone is not on it, it’s easy to forget them. Which I understand, but I think is sad, in a way. 

The one thing I do recognize as a powerful connecting force on FB are the groups. I hear about the connections people have through their groups and they do sound effective at bringing people together to provide support and understanding. By the time I left I wasn’t a part of any active groups anymore (the ones I were a part of were smaller and fell into disuse), and that is probably why I was ultimately able to leave. Without that more authentic opportunity to connect with people, the site lost it’s ability to truly bring me closer to others in a way I felt was meaningful. 

Not being in FB is a surprisingly powerful gesture–people read into it in ways I didn’t anticipate. I feel like I should have greater insights into how I feel now that I’m not on it anymore, but I don’t. All I know is that I think about going back sometimes, and there are compelling reasons to do so, but in the end I just can’t click the reactivate button. I just can’t commit to the chaos that is FB, especially not in the fraught political landscape of this election year. So for now I’ll stay away, always open to the possibility of retuning. Maybe after a few more months I’ll have something productive to say about my absence from the world’s biggest social media site, but probably not. 

Have you ever taken a break from FB? Would you consider taking one now?

24 Comments

  1. I stopped using FB, deleted it from my phone and well, I miss it from time to time but I was being overloaded with too much. I didn’t NEED to see everything from all your kids photos to what you ate to videos…I didn’t deactivate my account but for right now, I’m taking a break. Honestly, it feels great. I’m reading more now instead of reading my FB feed before bed. I signed up for Nextdoor in order to be in the know with my neighborhood (but they do a lot more on FB which annoys me right now) but for right now, it’s working.
    I don’t know if being off FB will be a life changer for me but I know it makes me focus more on other things like reading, playing with my kids (sad I know) and well, it has helped me with reaching out to people via text or phone just b/c I can’t connect to them on FB. So much more intimate, in my opinion, and I already have found myself asking, why didn’t I do this earlier?
    And yep, I think after November, I’ll be back. Possibly.

    1. I see so many of my own thoughts and feelings echoed in your comment–we are very much simpatico on this I think. Thank you for helping me to feel like I’m not the only one who needs to step away because it’s just too much. It helps to know I’m not the only one, because sometimes it feels like I am.

  2. You inspired me to deactivate my FB account so I’ve been without one for close to three months. I do not miss it at all. Not even the slightest bit. I reactivated it for one day because I needed to send a message to someone I only know how to contact through FB and on that day I spent about five minutes looking at my feed. I felt kind of sick and disgusted with it after that. Just that brief exposure to it solidified what a wasteland I find it to be.

    I don’t anticipate ever going back.

    1. Wow! Thank for letting me know that you made this move with me. That is awesome! I’m glad it’s been positive for you. Thanks for sharing that.

  3. SO GLAD YOU ARE BACK.
    Thank you. My Fbk list is super amazing small and short… almost only my children and a few cousins who post pictures of their young children and live a long distance away. Very little political posting except to say ‘be registered and vote’.
    Thank you for being back.

    1. I feel like it would be hard to keep my list super small; my family is giant (I’d probably have to friend 50 people on my mom’s side if I were to friend 1) and my college friends are the same, I’d have to friend 30 if I wanted to friend 1, and then what do I do when work friends find me? And other people? It’s harder to keep a friend list small than to stay off all together, at least that is what I’ve found. That is my biggest reason for just leaving, because then I’m not miffing any one person, I’m just refusing to participate in the first place. It’s much easier and cleaner that way.

  4. I might be one of the few people who really enjoys Facebook. πŸ™‚ I’ve deleted or hidden people who rile me up, so my feed is basically just family and good friends, and I frickin’ love it. Ha!

      1. Most people do love it. I definitely feel like an odd person out that it’s so hard for me to enjoy.

    1. I don’t think you’re one of the only people who really enjoys FB. I think a lot of people do, that’s why it’s so freaking popular! People love it! I’m just not one of them, evidently. πŸ˜‰

  5. I really hate the political stuff and end up blocking a lot of people or hiding stuff right now, but I belong to a few groups that are really important to me, and I’m an admin for the the site where I work so leaving isn’t really an option. I haven’t been spending much time there because of *all the work* but I really love seeing people I went to high school with and now I live far far away…No, I enjoy it too much to leave. I need some escape somewhere in my life I wouldn’t take a break.

    1. I think if I were in groups I wouldn’t have left, but I wasn’t in any that were actually active anymore. As for the people I went to high school with… for me it’s more people from college that I like to stay connected to, but I can text them if I need an update. And I can ask other friends what people are up to if I’m really curious.

  6. I have been off since Feb. Feel very similar to you. I miss certain things, but feel better in general not having that bombardment. And also like you I really don’t want to reactive until after the election. I just can’t take it.

    1. Yeah, I’ve been surprised at how much better I feel with the bombardment (as you so eloquently refer to it). And I definitely won’t be reactivating until after the election.

  7. I, like Josey, really enjoy facebook and connect with a lot of people through it. I’ve cut my friend list down again and again and I think that helps. While I am certain that if I left it I’d miss it, I also simply don’t think it’s a big deal. I think part of that comes from living in Spain – people here are not so into FB and don’t post a billion things nor are all the things they post picture perfect, so that’s nice. I do connect with people through groups which I do find immensely helpful and my big group of expat mom friends is due to finding each other on facebook for which I will always be grateful.

    I’m glad that it’s been a positive experience for you, but I don’t understand why leaving facebook (or never joining to begin with as is the case for some people I know) is a big deal, or really a deal at all. Do what you need to do.

    1. I don’t really know why it’s a big deal either, but I’m finding that people sometimes feel like you have an obligation to be on there. I got a lot of guilt trips from my aunts in St. Louis for not posting pictures of my kids anymore (obviously, since I’m not on it). And I get that they liked to see my kids, but I don’t really think it’s appropriate to make me feel shitty for choosing not to participate. It can also be awkward when you’re sitting with colleagues and someone talks about something that happened in a FB thread and you’re the only one who didn’t see it… A lot more social interaction goes on there than I think I recognized before I left.

  8. Every now and then I stay away for anywhere from a couple days to a week… but I need to try a longer break. I’m a teacher too and I don’t go back until very late in August. I think I’m going to take a break for the month of August! I hate thinking about wasting away my precious summer hours to mindless scrolling… ugh. But if it’s an option, sadly, I’ll do it! :-/ I’m planning an event that requires me to check in on FB so I can’t entirely deactivate… but I’m planning to just use it for specific actions, not scrolling. Thanks for this update – it was helpful and inspiring!

    1. I’m glad this update was helpful. I hope you can find a way to take a break that feels good for you! And have a great school year!

  9. Interesting–having never been on fb I can relate to being “forgotten”. I recently found out that an adult I knew in childhood thru a sport died, 6 mo after the fact, and I emailed a friend from that time and she was like “oh yeah, sorry I didn’t let you know” and said she mostly communicates thru fb with others from our then-group.

    That is not enough for me to join. I know the political stuff would drive me nuts especially in this era where bigots proudly show their colors. I don’t have time to do all the curating I imagine it would take…

    1. It really is incredible that people assume they can do something on FB and they’ve covered all their bases. That has happened to me so many times!

      The political stuff is SO INTENSE right now. Just really, really…exhausting. I can’t be there while this election season is in full swing. Maybe afterward, but not now.

  10. Interesting… I have been having a hard time relating to your FB ban, because I feel like FB plays a huge role in helping me connect to people in a meaningful way. I’ve made new friends there who I’ve gone on to meet in person. It’s made me think. It provides news stories, vetted by friends who are thoughtful and intelligent. It helps me get to know people better who I only knew casually. But I realized that a lot of this is done through groups. When I’m on FB, groups are almost all I read. They’ve kind of taken the place blogging used to have, back when it held a more prominent place in my life. If all I had in my feed was people I went to high school with? Yeah, that wouldn’t do too much for me, either.

    This is actually how I feel about Twitter. I always think that I would like Twitter, if only I had the right people in my feed. Either I just can’t figure out who those people should be, or I haven’t had the time to go on and add them. It’s not just a matter of picking people who I like in person. So it continues to be something I don’t use often or enjoy much, and yet I always have this feeling it could be very different. Likewise, I imagine FB is also different depending on who you are connected to. Food for thought.

    1. I’ve been really envious of your positive experiences on FB, but I had a feeling it was mostly happening in groups. I’ve tried to be a part of some groups I thought might be meaningful but I just haven’t found anything that really clicked for me (or I did but people stopped doing anything in the group). I think if I were in a couple of good groups I would have stayed. And I feel you about Twitter. I never found a way to make it a positive experience but I know a lot of people who love it so I assumed I was just doing it wrong. That seems to be the case for so many thing.

  11. I can see that it would actually feel easy to do! There’s so much on Fb at the moment that isn’t so much about my friends’ lives as about their political views. And I find that frustrating – perhaps because the politics (in the US and worldwide) are themselves so frustrating! I’m considering hiding the people that do that – not forever, but I feel I need a break. So that then I can hear about my niece’s softball trip to Hawaii, and my other niece’s new photography course, and my blog friends who are meeting up today. Actually – you’ve motivated me – I’m off to “hide” a couple of people right now!

    1. I have to many people to hide. So many, many people. And honestly, it’s not even that some people are jerks and I can’t handle them, it’s more a constant information overload, even if each piece of information on its own isn’t a problem. I just can’t handle all that everyone puts out there every day. Maybe it’s my ADHD brain? Who knows.

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