It has now been one week since I woke up and deleted the Facebook app from my phone. This was a huge step for me, since I would go so far as to say that most of my social interactions over the past few years happened on that platform. Not all, but most. I enjoy the moments of real life hanging out and getting together, but everyone is so busy these days, especially me, and online just seemed so much easier. And like anything easy, it came with a cost.
Now, I did not delete my account. I did not abandon social media entirely. I found myself drawn more and more to post on Instagram. Not that there aren’t political messages and general obnoxiousness over there too, but it’s less. Mostly it is pictures of people at their best moments, the great beauty of the world captured and filtered for quick consumption. It’s like what Facebook used to be, but in pictures. Twitter I have not logged into at all since the election, and Google + seems to be mostly advertisements and reviews. No, Instagram was the platform for me this week. But I still checked Facebook almost every day.
The nice thing about having Facebook only on my computer is that I cannot ingest it in any more than small doses. Even then it was tough. Every night before I went to bed I checked in and saw the 27 notifications that I had received over the course of the day, and then I would read the first post at the top of my feed. Without exception these were political posts with many differing points of view firing off in the comments. I suppose that’s why Facebook put them at the top of my feed. With so many comments, the algorithm must think that it is supremely interesting. It is not. It is stressful and maddening. As each day passed I felt better and better about my decision to avoid the site. Some days I did not check in at all.
Yesterday morning I decided to actually post something for the first time. Edward had fired off one of his sizzling bon mots and it was too good not to share. Because who else would I share it with? For so long I had relied on Facebook as the easy way to share everything about my life, and it relieved me of the responsibility of making real connections with people. I have friends, but I am not going to call each one of them individually and tell them that my son has said a funny thing. That’s why we have the internet! So I posted it. And then I went away.
It was hard not to check in yesterday. Had anyone liked my post? Were there comments? Was I being a bad online friend? And yet I stayed away, mostly because I was not near a computer. Believe me, if the app had been on my phone still, I would have been on that thing all the live long ding dong day. That’s why I had to delete it. Facebook, I have discovered, is like McDonald’s. Best in very small doses, but designed to keep you addicted. Because of course they want you on the site all the time. It’s why they bought Instagram. It’s why they started burying YouTube links in favor of Facebook video. It’s why they started their own Craigslist, and replaced the messenger button on their app with a shopping button. It’s why they are trying to eliminate blogs like this one and have everyone post longer articles through their site directly. Facebook’s goal is to have everyone spend all of their online time only on Facebook. And we spend a lot of time online.
I feel good at having broken the cycle, but I also feel lost and disconnected. I suppose that happens when coming down off of any addictive high. I have almost forgotten how to have friends in real life. I don’t remember who I told what to. It was easier when it was all in one place. But I also wrote a song this week. A song and a half, really. And I walked through misty woods and took pictures of mossy logs that I did not share with anyone but myself. Maybe I’ll put one at the top of this post. I did all the dishes and I made important phone calls that I had been putting off. I got stuff done. There are still distractions, but they seem so insignificant compared with the monolithic time-suck that was Facebook. Having taken a leap back, I don’t know how I didn’t see it before. I can only think that it was designed that way.
The hardest thing about effectively leaving Facebook is that part of my job is to be on Facebook. I still haven’t quite figured that part out yet. I have left the Pages app intact, so I can still check in there as Tenor Dad, or via the church’s page, but it’s not the same. I know it’s not the same. I am not posting clever links, because I am not reading clever links. I have not read an article online since last Wednesday. Am I now uninformed? I hope so. Because my soul just can’t take being informed right now. At least not in the way that Facebook informs. Instead I am reaching out to friendly humans, and starting new projects and new adventures. I will become informed about the places and the people around me. And once in a while I’ll check in to see how Facebook is doing. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Or whenever. But today I’m feeling better, and I’m staying offline.