I'd been scrolling aimlessly through my feed for about 15 minutes, cringing at some posts and liking a few pictures I hadn't yet.
Without realizing it, I'd slipped into the Facebook hole again.
The "Facebook hole" means that I start clicking through profiles, even the ones of people I'd rather not talk to or pages that just spew click-bait-content and well-worn memes. The Facebook hole also means I start checking up on the folks that I've moved away from, on the individuals who I admire from a distance.
It's not a very helpful or healthy behavior for me, whatever my intentions are for scrolling. And when I'm having a hard enough time focusing, there's an awful snowball effect that starts to build.
I'd see that a friend liked an article or commented on a photo, and 5 minutes later I'd find myself trying to check up on what their horrible ex was up to.
I'd start exploring all of my connections. Not just exploring — digging. Even if it seems harmless, it's not. I start thinking about how awful of a friend I must seem, for not knowing enough about that person (even if I never actually interact with them in person). Somehow I'd missed that they were pregnant or started taking painting classes, and I'd wind up feeling like a fraud, going through back doors to gather information about them.
And then I start defending myself: I don't have time for everyone, I don't have time to nurture all of these connections. Of course I haven't stayed in touch. I'm trying to take care of myself.
But after more than a decade on the social platform, I think I've wasted enough time worrying about the virtual lives of others. And I don't need to defend my reasons for that.
So earlier this year, I started my Facebook detox. Here's how I did it.
First I decluttered by unfollowing a lot of profiles and pages. I mean, A LOT. I didn't see people's updates on my newsfeed anymore. I did still get updates from the pages that I followed — like a lot of folks, I used Facebook to stay up to date on the outside world.
Then I did more of an audit. I actually disconnected from (or unfriended) people who I have no actual connection with. If we never interact, online or in person, there just wasn't any reason for me to stay connected with that person. I stopped overthinking it.
Then I logged out of Facebook entirely, so that it was a little bit harder for me to dive into my Newsfeed right away.
I also deleted the app from my phone, which I recommend to everyone that they try anyway. I spend most of my days looking at a screen. I didn't want to encourage even MORE screen time by keeping myself plugged into Facebook on my phone, too.
After a few months of getting comfortable with limiting my activity and engagement on the site, I stopped to recognize (and CELEBRATE) how much less time I'd been spending on the platform. In fact, one of the only reasons I log on to the site was because of work (I helped manage Facebook ad campaigns for a couple clients).
And then one day in September I logged in. I started mindlessly scrolling again.
It's incredible how easy it is to get sucked in again without realizing it. Facebook knows how to keep people plugged in.
Suddenly I found myself on the profile of someone I'd distanced myself from for a considerable time. We hadn't talked in over a year. I started clicking through their pictures and stopped myself.
"What the hell am I doing?" (I actually asked myself that out loud.) I didn't actually WANT to see what that person had been up to. I had closed that door.
It was within the same hour that I disabled my account.
I didn't delete it, so my account is essentially hidden, until I decide to activate it again or delete it entirely. It's likely that I'll take a little time to grab all of my pictures that are on Facebook before I delete the account. Or I'll just keep it deactivated. For now, I'm not using the site, and that's what I wanted.
I don't miss Facebook at all. I'm still on Instagram and Twitter, mind you, so I'm not entirely disconnected from social media. But not being connected on Facebook has been one of the best decisions I could've ever made for my wellbeing and focus this year.
Once I saw how detrimental "staying connected" was for me, I had to make that decision for myself.
And I feel like I am still benefitting from leaving Facebook.
- I have more focused time, in general. I'm not distracted by my phone as often, either.
- I'm still connected (and have better connections) with the friends and loved ones who I want to devote time to.
- My stress levels have noticeably improved. By removing myself from the deluge of toxic discussion, unnecessary gossip, and political bullshit, I'm WAY HAPPIER.
A lot of us have thought about leaving Facebook. The first step for me was deciding why I needed to leave. That list of reasons grew pretty exponentially over the years - yeah, I've thought about leaving for a long, long time now. It's not a decision I made lightly.
I also chose to approach the departure in steps - after years on the website (I was on Facebook longer than I was married), pulling the plug immediately might not have "stuck" for me. I haven't been on Facebook since September, and gradually leaving the site like I did makes it feel like less of a sacrifice because of that, I think.
The desire to stay connected to people isn't bad. But as I've carved my way through these last few years and left behind the things that don't serve or fulfill me, I'm realizing that not all relationships deserve my energy. While I want to keep up with everyone that I've met and love a lot of people, I simply can't be the kind of friend that I want to be for all of them. And I don't want to be everyone's friend. And I've started to accept that that's okay.
Not keeping up with the girl who sat behind me in my Modern Irish lit class over a decade ago isn't going to devastate anyone. Letting go of the idea that we need to stay connected and involved with our friends ALL THE TIME is key to improving the relationships that we DO need in our lives. It just takes some of us (me) a longer time to realize it.
So if I'm proud of one thing in 2017, it's that I successfully left the toxic relationship that I had with my Facebook account. And I'm not looking back.
Have you left Facebook? How did you make it happen? Any tips for people who are thinking about leaving?