On March 20th 2016, I deleted my Facebook account.
I actually deactivated all my social media that day in one form or another but as time passed, I found that I missed them and one by one, brought each account back online. But not Facebook. It’s been over a year since I erased my almost ten-year-old Facebook profile off of the largest social media site on the internet, and I haven’t missed it once.
I joined Facebook around my in 2007. I was with a friend in Victoria to see the Titanic exhibit at the Royal BC Museum with our moms for a joined birthday trip. We were using the hotel lobby’s computer, and she made me an account since she wanted more friends on hers. Funnily enough, she was the same person who got me to join MSN Messenger back in the day, too.
Facebook in its early form was a lot different from what it is now. Your profile consisted of a “wall” and not a timeline, where there were rearrangeable apps that you could organize and customize however you wanted… Graffiti Wall was a fan favourite.
After high school, I used Facebook less and less. I think I changed my profile picture five times between 2009 and 2016, and maybe had two dozen status updates. I kept my account to stay in contact with friends and keep tabs on, well, everyone else.
I had implemented a “twenty conversation” rule, where I only added people as friends if we had, you guessed it, a minimum of twenty conversations in real life. I did a huge friendlist purge after graduating high school and was pretty strict about my rule. I had about 130 friends on there in 2016.
It was kind of an anomaly for me in my social media repertoire. Facebook was the only site where I disclosed my last name, using my middle or “M” as my second name everywhere else. With the exception of Erica, I would only refer to people I had “real-life” relationships with by their initials everywhere else. Despite the appearance of being soul-baringly open on here and some other online outlets, I did so very carefully. Facebook was my public “real life”, whereas everywhere else was my private inner life and the diary of my passions. They were church and state. I didn’t want people I met online to know where I went to school or what my last name is because… you know, stranger danger and all that. On the other hand, I didn’t want people from high school to know about my Tumblr or YouTube channel after incidents of bullying revolving around some of my hobbies and interests. Not that I had many of those individuals on my friends list, but with the weird and vague privacy policies that were always changing, I knew those people were still on the friend lists of some of my own Facebook friends, and didn’t want any liking or commenting from one party to show up on the newsfeed of the other. Confusing and weird and complicated, I know.
That was only one source of my Facebook anxiety. I had removed people, sometimes blocking them, when I found out they were sharing my pictures or profile with people I didn’t feel comfortable with seeing my content. This caused petty drama within my real-life social circles. I would feel jealous and insecure when my friends and other people in my life posted about things they would do without me, and was constantly paranoid that people’s intentionally-vague negative status updates were about me, even if it made no sense for it to. And I was guilty of that same “vaguebooking” too. Almost everything I posted was calculated in some way to get a reaction out of someone. If I posted a funny status or something, and it didn’t get likes within a couple minutes I would take it down. Don’t even get me started on birthday wish wall posts.
I deleted it for many reasons. I had thought about it for a long time but there were people in my life who used Facebook A LOT so I felt obliged to do so as well. When I finally pressed the link to deactivate… I guess, at the time, it was because I wanted the online equivalent of running away. We live in such a digital era that your Facebook profile is the online version of your front door. If it is gone, no one can come in.
As time passed, my mind cleared enough to focus. I realized that I found no joy in Facebook like I find in other forms of social media. The initial awkwardness of people reaching out and saying that they couldn’t find me on Facebook (subtlety implying that they thought I’d removed them as friends and the strange subsequent relief when I replied that I deleted the account altogether) has long passed and I don’t feel the need to rejoin them. If people want to get in contact with me, my Instagram/ Twitter profiles are both public and pretty easy to track down based on my mutual friends. I think what sealed the deal for me was how many people remembered my birthday when Facebook wasn’t there to remind them. There’s a pretty significant difference for me between friends and Facebook friends.
This is not a post to say how Facebook is evil and everyone should delete it. I personally feel 100% less anxious since removing my profile and despite my overabundance of oversharing on other websites, feel like I regained a significant amount of privacy too. The problem isn’t with Facebook as a medium but, like most things, it’s with how it’s being used. There’s nothing inherently moral or wrong with a knife, but in the way it is utilized can be problematic and hurtful.
I think the biggest problem I have with Facebook itself is the element of forced reciprocity. When someone adds you as a friend on Facebook, it’s not the same as them following you on Instagram or subscribing to you on YouTube. It is an outstretched hand and you are responsible for accepting that hand and creating a bond that goes both ways. You are their friend and they are yours. On other social networking sites, someone can follow you and that in no way means you have to follow them back. On private settings you even have the ability to confirm if someone can even reach their hand out in the first place, to use that same metaphor, but confirming that in no way means you have to reach your hand out as well. Okay, that got a bit confusing. I know for a fact that several people from “real life” follow me on Instagram whom I have no intention of following back. I was actually shocked when I posted my first Instagram story and saw how many people from high school watched it who I didn’t realize followed me (or just randomly were creeping my profile?). I thought about blocking people but presently only have two “real life” people blocked, both of whom have made me feel physically and emotionally unsafe. Despite that, I know they can still look at my Instagram if they really want to. At the end of the day, if people want to creep my social media it doesn’t impact me. All it says is that they are expending their own time and energy to see what I’m up to (although all it really shows is that I drink a lot of Starbucks, paint my nails, am neurotic about colour coordinating my posts, and am really bad about updating my blog). It gives me another page view, maybe a like. For me, ignorance is bliss. What I don’t know can’t hurt me. People will exist and live their lives regardless of how I’m doing. But now I don’t have to compare myself to them and can surround myself (both in real life and online) with people and accounts that bring me joy.
Now, what I’m about to say might sound hypocritical following everything I’ve just written… but bear with me.
I do have a Facebook profile.
As a university student, I unfortunately have to suffer through group projects. And those group projects generally involve a form of communication where we can discuss ideas and divide roles. I’ve had these group communications over WhatsApp, Skype, and iMessage but many of said groups want to communicate through Facebook. One group I had for an online class didn’t want to do any of the aforementioned alternative forms of mass communication and when I said I didn’t have Facebook they told me just to make a new account. So I did. I used a fake name and have a nondescript profile picture. When the class was over I deleted the account. And then, the following semester I was in another group for another group project and guess how they wanted to communicate.
So I kept the “fake” account. I currently have three friends, all of whom I’ve only met throughout the last six months. I joined a couple groups. I even had a (short-lived) stint on Tinder.
And I feel no anxiety over it.
It wasn’t Facebook that was constantly blowing my anxiety and depression into overdrive, it was the 130 people on my friends list. Yeah, the ones I’d had twenty or more conversations with. Even the people I love to death were negatively impacting me through their posts (albeit not intentionally). Post-Facebook, my friendships have improved as now we have to deliberately and actively seek out conversation instead of just mindlessly liking each others’ pictures, tagging one another in random timeline posts, and using status updates as a way to mass-inform with what’s going on.
The whole amorality thing applies to Facebook. It’s neither good or bad in and of itself, but how you use it and what you do with it determines its affect on your life. I don’t even have the Facebook app on my devices, I just log in on Safari (ironically something I used to give Erica a hard time about doing) or use Messenger to do whatever I need to get done, and close it. There’s no opening and scrolling mindlessly throughout the day because I don’t know my three “friends” enough to really care what they post. Even though my best friends have asked (in various shades of “joking”) to add them, I won’t because it’s not what I want to use the medium of Facebook for. I use it the same way I use online banking: open it up when I need to check it, do what I need to, and close out of it after I’m done.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t turned into that person who gave up social media and is now a productivity machine who goes hiking and jogging and birdwatching because they have a new lease on life thanks to the countless extra hours they now have because they aren’t logged into the ‘net. Trust me, I’m still aggressively procrastinating the billion other things I should be doing by mindlessly opening and closing out of Instagram, Twitter, and the like. The blue square with the white ‘f’ just isn’t one of the app icons I’m tapping on.
And hey, when I post something I think is funny on Twitter, I leave it up even if no one likes it. I leave it up for myself.
Over the last year I’ve had countless debates with professors and other professionals who have talked to me about my “brand” on how I need to have a Facebook page. I protested and boycotted for the longest time, but now… I do see the value.
I don’t know to what capacity I will use it yet, but I’m going to try and start actively posting on my Facebook page. I’d love it if you’d give it a ‘like’ but there isn’t really anything likeable about it right now, so no pressure 😉 I think I’m going to make this blog post my first Facebook post on there… because I think that’s pretty cheeky… haha.
It’s been just over a year since I deleted my original Facebook account. I’ve come a long way since then and I definitely feel like it was the best choice for me. Doing this has had a great and positive affect on my mental health and my life overall. I eventually filled out that all-but-obsolete “sign up” form on the main page of Facebook but with a new e-mail and a new purpose behind it.
Thanks so much for reading this post. If you’d like to be one of the first to like my Facebook page, it’s available HERE! 🙂
I hope you’re having a great day!