I took the plunge yesterday and decided to quit Facebook. It’s something that’s been coming for some time, and it wasn’t until I saw this video that I decided to go ahead and leave.
Now, I didn’t entirely quit. I didn’t fully delete my account (yet), just the app from my phone, and I still feel like I need Messenger to talk directly to people. I also checked back in through my laptop web browser once (ok three times). I don’t know if I’ll ever be free entirely. I don’t think any of us will.
But I was tired of it. I realized it wasn’t bringing me much joy or enhancing my life in any meaningful way. And in reality, I think it wasn’t doing anything but increasing my feelings of isolation. As an expat, I go through bouts of homesickness, which sometimes brings on a mild to medium-level depression. Most of my network is back home, and our interactions have grown somewhat shallow. There’s so little meaningful interaction with people, and all things that drew my interaction were negative or caused negative feelings (I didn’t even realize that until I watched that video above). That’s not to say that it was all bad, or bad to know what’s going on—I feel it’s essential to be informed. I’m at a stage where I want to find better ways to be informed and communicate.
My first thoughts about quitting were filled with anxiety. What if not being on Facebook results in being even more disconnected from friends? What if I miss something important? How will I share milestones and aspects of my life that I think are important, that I want people to know? I’m publishing this on my personal blog, and I don’t know who is ever going to see it if I don’t put it on Facebook. My guess is that no one will really see it. And what that means is that there is the potential for little to no social validation, something everyone craves; I am no exception. If a thought exists but isn’t socially validated, is it a thought? I ask that jokingly, but it seems like that’s where we’ve come.
I’ve also felt some anxiety about losing my family to social media. I’m so scared that my wife will be sucked in and lost, and my daughters as well. I’m scared that they’ll will be stuck in a sort of infinite scroll. I already see some negative impacts when they’re not connected, a slavish devotion to staying connected. I recognized that in myself, and it scared me enough to step back. The thing is that, like people my age, I grew up without it, and as an adult, I have the experience, and thus the capacity, of knowing the benefits of being disconnected. I don’t think my daughters do.
My second thought after deciding (and taking the action) to quit was that I will now hopefully win back more time and more headspace. I miss the days when I was younger (far before widespread, always on, always connected internet), where I had a regularly running commentary in my head. It was so strong that it would drive me nuts. That’s why I started writing to begin with—to get this stuff out of my head. But the more I used social media, the more I felt that it had replaced my own inner dialogue. Sure it wasn’t gone entirely, but it was gone enough.
My hope is that this is a first step towards recapturing something in myself, but there’s so much to fear, as well. Is this the first big I step towards becoming out of touch and old? And if so, is that a bad thing? How am I going to imagine the future when I’m not actively participating in it? Or worse, am I going to be even more cut off from people?
A few years ago, I also cut Twitter off. I stopped actively posting and engaging, even though I kept some automated postings. I had gotten so tired of the “Hey look at me!” vibe. And when I left, I didn’t miss it. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. At the time, Facebook was providing a greater, more meaningful level of interaction and networking. Now it’s gotten far too much for too little.
I don’t know if I’m going to miss it, or if my life will get better. But I’m hopeful it does.
NOTE: On second thought, I decided to share this on Medium.com. I’m not above wanting to get some sort of audience. I realized what I really crave is only partly social validation, but also to have some contribution to a broader dialogue.