Earlier today I checked the date and realized it’s been exactly one week since I left Facebook, and it’s odd – it feels like it was just yesterday but it also feels like forever ago (probably because I have so much more free time!).
I feel so much better today than a did a week ago, and I am pretty sure I’m never going back.
The reasons are many but there was one specific moment that pushed me over the edge. Before we get to that I should say I had been considering it for months if not longer. In addition to losing precious time by passively scrolling through a feed of hundreds of people’s news, I knew that Facebook was said to be bad for one’s mental health, the company itself is IMO becoming more and more unethical, and the spread of misinformation was giving me huge anxiety. Not a day went by that I wouldn’t see numerous posts with inaccurate information, really bad memes, and so much hostility (namely about politics or anything remotely political). I’m not blameless and in fact, if I’m being honest, I can say I was part of the problem — many of my posts had a political slant and I’ve instigated some, shall we say, intense conversations. I’m a political person by nature (and I lean very left). And in the age of Trump and the ease with which false information could and did spread like wildfire, it was giving this former news girl incredible angst.
But there was a part of me that wanted to stay on and fight the fight. You know, send the anti-vaxxers real, scientific articles. Send the climate change deniers the same. Cite sources, provide data, fact check dates, provide links to real news stories, in an era of rampant fake news (a term I hate with all the fibers of my being!) Oh my gosh, it became so exhausting, not to mention a colossal waste of time because as one of my best friends told me last week, “You’re not changing anyone’s mind on that forum.” (You are right, Em!).
Another thing about Facebook – most of our social media circles are bigger than the circles we actually maintain in real life, so we’re “friends” with folks with whom we may never see in person, which was definitely the case for me. I’ve had four jobs since graduating college so if you take into account family, high school friends, college friends, grad school friends, and co-workers and acquaintances along the way, it makes for one heck of an eclectic mix.
And a week ago today, I saw a post from an old acquaintance I probably hadn’t seen in person in nearly a decade. He’s very right-leaning in his politics but that’s not the issue. A lot of people in my life identify as Conservative, but this is more than that. He often posts commentary that’s rife with inaccuracies and conspiracy theories, and tinged with bigotry. I scroll by his nonsense OFTEN, but this particular day I was so surprised by the level of hypocrisy on his wall, I just had to chime in. Well, very quickly the conversation, if you can call it that, devolved into name-calling, personal attacks, and a level of hatred from him and his friends that I was unprepared for. It was clear (since he said it himself) that my posts (on my page) have provoked rage in him for two years!! Yes, that does beg the question: why did he not unfollow or unfriend me? Unless he wanted to keep hating me? I don’t know, I don’t really care – in fact, I care less and less every day.
Anyway, the conversation wasn’t pretty and was getting less so by the minute. That’s when I decided to go all in and leave Facebook altogether.
I had been afraid of what I’d be missing out on (cute baby and pet pics, friends’ travel photos) but what was happening on there more routinely was so unpleasant.
Here are two over-arching thoughts I’ve had in my week of freedom.
- In the past week, I’ve seen or spoken directly to so many of the people I love! I’ve had two nights out with girlfriends, I have an on-going text thread with three besties from high school, another bff from high school and I are planning a weekend get-together this spring, I continue to have an on-going text thread with my family, I’ve taken walks with my husband sans cell phone, had dinner with my mom, dad, and uncle, another night Todd and I had dinner with his mom, I scheduled a lunch with a friend, got a ton of actual work done – both professional work and work around the house and yard, had a hilarious and much-needed work-together day with colleagues (we typically work remotely & from home), and on Sunday a friend and I got together to make our own homemade soap! I don’t give you this run down to show you how busy I am – but to reinforce the idea that face-to-face and in-person interactions and get-togethers are really what make our lives rich. I don’t think I will miss out on the big events in my friends’ lives simply because I am not on Facebook (also, please remember to text me or go really old school and email me!). Will I miss some interesting reading and cute pictures? Sure. But the tradeoff is a net positive. I want to nurture the relationships that matter to me, and I want to do it in person, not virtually.
- My other thought is: why was I arguing with this person who is not even a friend of mine, barely an acquaintance at this point, and why did his opinion even matter to me? Why did I know his political thinking, and in what other dimension of life, or scenario, should I know this stuff? Isn’t it weird to think that before social media we just knew people without knowing their political affiliations? I was wasting actual time – one of my most valuable commodities — on someone who means nothing to me (not to be harsh, but he simply doesn’t). It was more about my stubbornness and wanting to be “right”. What a fool’s errand I was on.
I think there is a LOT of good on social media, don’t get me wrong. Lots of good news is spread that way. But lots of bad news is spread that way, too. I also know myself. I have a very hard time biting my tongue, and I will inevitably argue with people which is pointless — and if you can scroll through without the negative thoughts I was having, more power to you! I want to be more intentional with my time and not checking Facebook each day (and using the screen time app to impose a time limit of 30 minutes max per day on my Instagram, which still seems high), has actually been a relief. Whereas I thought I’d be missing out, now I think being on Facebook would have me missing out on what I’ve gained.
Has anyone else left social media platforms and lived to tell the tale? Was it a positive or negative? Thinking about pulling the trigger on leaving but hesitating? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Thanks for reading,