In January of last year I effectively quit Facebook. My reasons were many, and you can read all about it in my original post. It was a long time coming, and the catharsis of actually going through with it was rather satisfying. Most of all, this was an investment in my own mental health. A year later I’m happy to report that this investment has paid significant dividends. I’m happier, I have more focus, and I feel much more connected to people.
I don’t miss Facebook
I don’t miss it in the slightest. It rarely enters my mind. The urge to check it went away entirely after about two weeks. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally still catch myself in a compulsive loop going back and forth between email and Instagram. I do, but at least I don’t have to contend with the underlying FOMO that makes up so much of Facebook’s mental stickiness. Thankfully that faded for me after just a few days away.
In retrospect, I now understand all the ways Facebook was making me miss out, not the other way around.
Facebook was making it too easy to miss out on the actual world around me. It was too easy to look at a friend’s updates and think that I somehow knew what was going on in his or her life. It was too easy to think that if an event wasn’t posted on Facebook, it wasn’t happening. Yet the entire world that existed before Facebook still exists now, and I don’t need Facebook to be my way of organizing that world.
I feel more connected to people
Since un-friending so many, I haven’t felt any sense of disconnect with my actual friends. If anything, I feel more connected to the people I really like and care about. In taking away some of the casual convenience of Facebook, I’ve managed to connect with people more regularly and more meaningfully. Before, the low trickle of disposable human connection was keeping me out of touch with genuine, in-person connection. Without Facebook, I now send my friends text messages and emails and connect more one-on-one. We’ve had more people over to the house than back when I was on Facebook too.
I feel better informed
Cutting the barrage of echoing, fake news out of my life has been a revelation too. My outlook now is that if it’s not important enough to show up in my NYT morning briefing email, or on NPR’s twitter feed, then I can safely assume that I don’t need to know about it yet. This has been a revelation. If anything I feel better informed than when I was chasing the rabbit down the sewer pipe on Facebook. Given recent revelations about the scope and severity to which Russian agents have infiltrated our social networks precisely to sow the seeds of discord in America, I’m thrilled not to be participating there. What’s extra gross is just how much advertising revenue Facebook earned while being the tool of malevolent foreign actors.
I feel like I’ve got some of my privacy back
I didn’t go deep into it in my original post, but Facebook’s consistent assault on internet privacy was also a big factor in my wanting to exit the platform, and it has only gotten more insidious this past year. The latest is a VPN service called Onavo that Facebook has presented as a security tool, but the actual function of the app is to further mine the data of its users. It’s providing precisely the opposite of its stated intent: safeguarding your information. Can we just go ahead and call that malware?
“If you’re someone who can’t live without Facebook or simply can’t find the courage to delete it, the Onavo appears under the “Explore” list just above the “Settings” menu. I’d recommend you never click it. Facebook is already vacuuming up enough your data without you giving them permission to monitor every website you visit.” — Gizmodo
There is a persistent rumor that Facebook’s apps are listening to you through your smartphone, and it’s this sort of thing that makes that rumor so believable, even if it isn’t true. (Privacy concern is also why I participate in Google’s ecosystem as little as I possibly can. Apple seems to be the only big tech company that cares about privacy, and sometimes that’s the only thing that keeps me on as their customer.)
Looking beyond the VPN and privacy issues, the post’s author, Dell Cameron, hits upon the same insight I had a year ago when he says “…or simply can’t find the courage to delete it.” In the wake of my own quitting, so many of the people I’ve talked to have expressed some sort of envy, or said something to the effect of “Good for you!” It’s so strange and scary that so many people hate Facebook, can perceive how it’s not really adding any value to their life, yet can’t bring themselves to escape.
If you’re still reading this, can I just go ahead and give you permission to quit Facebook? Do it. Quit. Abandon this sinking ship. Stop rewarding this increasingly vile company with your time, your attention, and your information. Invest in yourself, your relationships, and your mental health. Get out. The world is still out here. Come see it.