I quit Facebook, and then this happened…
I’m off Facebook! It’s been exactly a month today since I left. And no, I did not just deactivate my account. I permanently deleted it. It was my personal autumn equinox ritual, releasing the first thing I knew I didn’t want to bring with me into the darker, more quiet seasons.
Okay, let’s keep this between you and me, but I think Facebook sucks. I’ve been wanting to get rid of it since I first read this and this article by my writer friend Alexandra Franzen. She was the first one to open me up to the possibility of living life without Facebook.
It only took me about two years to finally get around to taking the big leap. Daniel, my husband, kept trying to persuade me to hold on to it. You know, the importance of a social network…
But you know what?
Whenever I posted something online, nobody ever gave a fuck. Maybe my posts were boring, ha! — but it might also be the case that people were simply too overwhelmed by the constant input from notifications, messages, and newsfeed updates competing for their attention, so they got numb.
So what’s the point in having over 1000 “friends” online when nobody really cares?
So no, I didn’t just want to deactivate my account. I wanted to deeeeelete it. As in forever.
But still, this process didn’t happen overnight. My relationship with Facebook ended in a long and winding pruning process, like lovers who know they need to break up but are still hopefully clinging on to each other’s arms, gradually detangling the life they once shared.
First, I deleted my professional page. That felt like a huge relief and it took off a lot of pressure. You know, I’m a pretty private person, and I don’t like the feeling of having to post online on a regular basis. Check out my Instagram and you can see that the last time I’ve posted was probably more than two weeks ago.
Next, I decluttered my friend list. I was shocked to see how many of these “friends” I never even spoke with. Half of them, I didn’t even have any idea who these humans were! And seeing so many selfies of people promoting their own awesomeness — no thank you. Deeeeeelete. In the end, I had less than 100 friends left, people I actually knew and was currently speaking with in some shape or form.
Finally, there was my Facebook group. I had started building this online community as part of a marketing strategy for the book project I’m currently working on. It had a great start, and the women appreciated it. But soon, things turned a bit weird. Female competition, lack of engagement, and a general sense of overwhelm brought the momentum to a swift halt.
I’d been wanting to close down this group for six months already but had dreaded the time-consuming effort of removing every single member by hand — a procedure Facebook had intelligently put in place to prevent people from shutting down their groups. (My personal conspiracy theory.)
But now I already had some momentum from decluttering 90% of my so-called friends; so I kept going. When I was the last person to leave the group, it closed down automatically. Deeeeeeelete. Yay!
Once we got back from Burning Man, there was no longer any need for me to stay active on the platform.
I could finally say (with the words of the ingenious copywriter Laura Belgray), “Girl bye!!!”
Now, Facebook gives you a 30-day probation period, where you can still retrieve your account in case you change your mind. This probation period ended yesterday. Today, my account is officially gone. Forever. (At least I hope so. Who knows, maybe they secretly store all my information on some hidden basement server, only to sell it to the Russians ten years later.)
And no, I wasn’t tempted, not even once, to log back on to save my social life from drowning into a deep, dark sea of oblivion.
Because the reason why I wanted to get off Facebook in the first place was not that I wasted hours of my day mindlessly scrolling through my newsfeed, looking for God knows what. Neither was I obsessively stalking my ex while downing a bottle of Pinochet Noir every night.
The real reason I left is much more mundane.
I like to keep my mind clean. Whenever I can, I avoid too much external noise. I want to focus on the people and activities that are truly important to me, like sending funny stories to my email subscribers, talking to my close friends and family on WhatsApp, or studying my favorite scripture, A Course in Miracles.
But there’s another, equally important reason: I’m highly sensitive. I wish I wasn’t, but that’s just how it is. In fact, I’m so sensitive that I avoid watching the news, because of all the brutality and violence. It really gets to me.
Unfortunately, Facebook was no exception.
Once, I saw some link a friend had shared that made my stomach turn. It was some sort of petition. I didn’t even read the caption ‘cos the image was too disturbing… Ready?
The picture showed a cute but sad doggie and two teenage boys standing on either side of him. Nothing special at first, but upon closer inspection, I immediately wanted to shut down my browser: they had cut off the dog’s ears and were now proudly holding them up and into the camera. One in each hand. They were grinning with murderous brutality.
They had just mutilated an innocent being and were now boasting their act online. Jesus Christ! WTF!?! I still get heartburn when I think about it now, two years later.
This was one of those days when I deeply regretted having logged onto Facebook.
The brilliant memoirist Dani Shapiro writes that pain leaves a deeper memory. I agree with her. Painful memories are much more prominent in our minds. I tend to remember painful moments from the past much more easily than joyful ones.
There are plenty of people who can shrug this off as news and simply move on with their day. But I can’t. That’s not me. I wept and could not be comforted for days. What hurt me the most was being reminded of the large extent of horror and cruelty that human beings are capable of inflicting upon each other and life.
Now you might judge me as naive and say, “But Nadja, cruel things happen all the time, and much worse than this.” To which I would reply, “Yes, you are absolutely right. Bad things happen every day. It’s tragic. But who would be served by me knowing all of this? How can I help and give my deepest gifts to the world when I’m constantly struggling to maintain my own alignment?”
Allow me to pick my own battles.
Anyway, to make this long story short, I left Facebook to get more creative headspace, more inner peace, and more time to focus on the things that really matter to me. And I succeeded. I’m so much happier now.
I love my new, ping-free life, and I’m not going back. Ever. (Okay, I’m still a little addicted to Pinterest, but that’s a completely different story.)
What does your affair with Facebook look like? Is it a love-hate relationship? Can’t live without it? Or are you like some of my friends who have confessed that they secretly wish to get off of it, but are worried they’d lose touch with some distant friends?
Tell me in the comments! I love hearing from you.
PS: For you skimmers out there — I just deeeeeeleted my Facebook account and I’m not looking back. I’m so much happier without it. More inner peace, more headspace, and more time to do the things I love. How about you? Love it, hate it? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts with me!