Everybody's Doin' It: The Great Facebook Deactivation Experiment

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I always hate when people say they're not on Facebook anymore. It feels so pompous somehow, like what they're really saying is, "I am above the frivolity of Facebook." Or maybe, "I am so darn happy in & confident with my own life that I have no need to peek into the lives of others." I'm nosy by nature, & I've always loved being able to eavesdrop on what's going on with friends & family & that girl I once had an econ class with in college. Facebook is fun. Facebook is an escape.

But lately, Facebook has also become a burden. I use it too much. I spend countless time looking at other people's photos, reading their updates and, if I'm being honest with myself, trying to get some semblance of human interaction while I'm up here in New Hampshire feeling disconnected from so many of the people I love. So often, after spending time on Facebook, I have to peel myself away from the computer - & even then, I spend additional time thinking about other people's lives instead of my own.

As a self-professed social media aficionado, & I would never discount the value of Facebook in today's society. Facebook is good for a lot of things. It's good for keeping up on long-distance friends' lives, of course, & for promoting my blog. It's good for crowd-sourcing tough questions ("Does anyone know of a good dentist?" & other such pressing topics) & for sharing interesting news stories ("Rodent of Unusual Size Killed With Pitchfork in Brooklyn!"). It's good for following my favorite organizations' advocacy work, participating in contests I will likely never but still might possibly win, & finding deals & coupons from my favorite brands. All of these are reasons why, in the end, I could probably never give up Facebook - nor would I really want to.

Still, I needed to teach myself a lesson: to learn not to rely on Facebook for interactions with friends & family. And perhaps more importantly, to spend less of my precious time comparing my own life to the lives of others - and more time focusing on my own life. I don't have very many vices, but social media, as much as I love it, is one of them - and Facebook was becoming an impediment to my life. This is why last Wednesday, on a whim, I deactivated my Facebook account (only, I should note, after making SURE that all of my tagged photos would be there when I return).

I haven't really missed it yet, though admittedly it's only been three & a half days. I think my blog traffic is down without NetworkedBlogs broadcasting my new posts to my hundreds of Facebook friends, & there are times when I want to check on things, like when my friend Jenn's new baby is due or whether my friend Annie has moved in with her fiancé yet. But you know what? I can ask them. Like, myself - and if I don't take the time to ask them, maybe I didn't care that much to begin with. So far, what I haven't missed is wasting my work hours browsing the profiles of people I rarely speak to, & I haven't missed the stress of feeling like I have to respond to every wall post or inbox message.

Also of note: Before I deactivated, I deleted about 400 "friends" from my account, including nearly all of my sorority sisters, colleagues who friended me despite my unease about mixing business & social media, & a bunch of girls I went to high school with who were recently rude to me when I saw them at a hometown bar. I did away with anyone whose life made me irrationally jealous, anyone whose updates consistently made me roll my eyes, & anyone I'd friended just to be polite in some moment that had long passed. I'm now down to, um, 880, but having once been at 1,500+, this is a massive improvement.

Hasta la vista, Facebook. I'll be back - soon, probably. But I'm hopeful that when I do come back, I'll remember this little lesson in social media restraint & how relieved I felt to disconnect a bit - even if my disconnectivity translates only into more sleep & more time to watch "Drop Dead Diva." (I'm using this time to determine what's important to me, & hey, relaxation is important to me!) I'm not going to use Facebook to make me feel bad about myself or my life anymore. And if I want to connect with people? Well, people did that before Facebook existed, & I'm pretty sure there are still other ways to do it.

Call me a hypocrite, but for right now, "I'm not on Facebook anymore." And you know what? It feels pretty good.

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