A week ago I decided to deactivate my Facebook account.
There were a number of reasons that I wanted to do this ranging from a suspicion that I’m addicted to Facebook to a fear that Facebook might be having a negative impact on how positively I enjoy life.
Over the last seven days I’ve already discovered some interesting things and I’m going to talk about five of them in this post.
1 – Apparently I’m addicted to Facebook
It’s only been a week and the first thing that I noticed was the withdrawal.
I genuinely believed that I wasn’t addicted to Facebook because I’m not one of those people with thousands of Facebook friends or a particularly active member of many groups.
The reality is that several times a day since I deactivated, I’ve had to fight the urge to check Facebook just in case there’s an update in a group or a friend has posted an update.
This has been a bit of a shock to be honest – I had no idea that checking Facebook had become such a regular activity in my daily life.
I think the worst part of this realisation is the nagging voice in the back of my head, telling me I just needed to login to reactivate my Facebook feed.
The good news is that this one fact has actually made me want to continue the experiment beyond the initial week.
2 – I have far fewer friends than I thought
Most people want to be popular, or at least liked.
I thought I had quite a lot of friends in my life but cutting out Facebook has actually made me see that I hardly have any true friends at all.
Without the ability to see what I’m doing on my Facebook wall, there are actually very, very few people that have a clue what I’ve done this week, what my family are doing or what I’ve found interesting this week.
Initially this idea appalled me – I suddenly felt very alone!
The simple fact is that since I’ve had children, I’ve found it very difficult to spend time with real-world friends that I used to associate with and as a result my relationship with them has deteriorated to the point that one person I once counted as a friend didn’t even invite me to his wedding… even as an evening filler.
At first this upset me quite a lot until I asked myself how much I’d invested in keeping our relationship alive and the simple answer is, I hadn’t. Not by choice but by a lack of time and energy. Trying to looking after my children and completing client projects, while my wife is away for most of the week studying hard, leaves very little time to socialise. A loss of my former friends is the price I’ve paid for that.
Once I started to look at it objectively though, I recalled that other people with children of their own had started to talk to me and in some cases invite us to join them in their social activities.
Losing friends is a natural part of life as our social dynamic changes and we meet people that share similar lifestyles.
I think one of the keys to happiness is to accept these losses and nurture the new friendships in my life.
3 – My life feels more positive
Last week I probably lost an hour of my life getting involved in a negative discussion on one of the Facebook groups I was a member of.
It was started and largely perpetuated by a troll that was trying to argue that the group we were a member of had no validity because he knew better.
In hindsight I was foolish to get involved because the entire experience wasn’t uplifting or positive and there was no way that anything any of the group members said was going to change the troll’s mind. They were there to cause discord and in hindsight, they were clearly very good at it.
Without the temptation to get involved in such discussions, I’ve been able to focus my attentions on other things and as a result, the sadness that my circle of friends has grown somewhat smaller has been balanced by a reducing the impact of negative posts in my life.
It’s amazing how much impact just a few words on a social media account can have on your life if you let it!
4 – I’m wasting less time
At first it sounds like this is the same as the point above but it’s not (well, not totally, anyway).
I mean that I’m wasting less time falling for click-bait posts that vaguely interest me or watching videos that take five minutes to say something that a photograph could have said in seconds.
I truly dislike the current Facebook trend of taking a story that could have been told in a ten-line post and turning it into a cheesy video where each line is slowly revealed on top of emotionally manipulative imagery. Admittedly I rarely watch those videos beyond the first line or two but they still appeared in my feed and distract me for a moment of time.
The way Facebook has changed reminds me of the evolution of the Internet. When I was at university in the 90s, I loved the Internet. It was an amazing resource that was full of easily-found information about programming, graphics, and technology (I was studying Computer Science).
Now it’s so saturated with advertising and commercial interests that it’s often difficult to find real information because of all of the poor-quality content that’s been SEO-targeted to be more visible that the content you’re really looking for.
This is what Facebook has become.
5 – I enjoy social media again
Facebook is a closed garden that uses your own posts to calculate what it thinks you’ll like to target you with marketing.
It even does the same with the posts that it shows you.
I’ve discovered that I’ve often missed posts from friends that I’d like to have seen because Facebook hasn’t shown them to me – instead showing me things that have left a slightly negative impression on my life.
It’s only when I’ve directly visited the walls of the friends concerned that I’ve discovered the posts that I’d much rather have seen.
So, what’s this got to do with enjoying social media? Well, I’ve discovered that I really love Twitter and Instagram. I’ve suspected this for a while but this feeling has been suppressed because I’ve been too busy visiting Facebook on a regular basis.
All the people I follow on Twitter are people who post things I enjoy – it’s as simple as that. When someone starts posting things that I don’t enjoy, I stop following them. This is as simple as it gets when it comes to controlling what I see in my feed.
I have the same experience on Instagram (although I think I need to cull some of the people that I follow).
Now, when I choose to spend some time on social media, I’m actually enjoying that time.
6 – Facebook distorts the real meaning of friendship
Facebook has created an environment where many people have huge friend lists that have access to what they post about their daily lives.
Strangely, many of these people aren’t people we’d want turning up at the front door of our house yet we allow them unrestricted access to the details of our lives, pictures of our children and so on.
I’ve known many people who, when they receive a friendship request, feel obliged to accept it, even from complete strangers!
Thankfully, I’m not as bad as that but I’ve definitely accepted requests from people that I wish I hadn’t.
I’ve always been much more selective but I still have plenty of people on my friends list that in hindsight, I don’t really want in my life, either because I have very little in common with them or that they have no good reason for being there.
If I do return to Facebook, I’ll be having a serious cull of my friends list, way beyond the annual cut I previously used to remove people who never interacted with my posts or comments.
I’ve been Facebook free for a week and I’m already seeing the beneficial effects.
I’m also seeing a few caveats and one of those is the way in which Facebook has permeated platforms across the Internet.
Before I could deactivate my account, I had to create an empty account to administer the apps created for client websites I’ve developed.
Facebook doesn’t allow you to have a business account to do this – they insist they’re all linked to your personal account.
This has left me with an interesting question. Do I ever reactivate my account, leave the groups that annoy me and remove the non-friends from my account or do I delete it permanently and just use the blank account for business purposes, to post to Facebook pages and run ads for clients?
This blog has a Facebook page that I’ll be continuing to maintain through my blank account as that’s the only way that some people discover content.
I know I don’t miss it as a social platform… or I won’t once I get over the addiction withdrawal. 🙂