I’ve been concerned about Facebook’s data-mining and privacy policies since I learned about early links to the CIA and DARPA. But this isn’t why I deleted my account. I don’t know if I even fully understand why I wanted to stop using Facebook, but here are some of the reasons I’ve considered:
- despite having 300+ “friends,” my feed was usually full of comments and posts from people I didn’t even know
- I got tired of reading other people’s political opinions or hearing about their outrage
- annoying animated gifs and autoplay videos
- I rarely felt compelled to share or post anything … mostly because I no longer had a clear sense of who was reading/seeing it
Facebook was starting to feel like a low-quality tabloid newspaper instead of a way to connect with family and friends.
One reason I stayed on Facebook for so long was that I felt it helped me keep up with acquaintances. I recently had an experience that made me rethink this supposition. I ran into someone from the dance music scene that I hadn’t seen in years. I’d seen that person’s posts on Facebook so I had a vague idea that I knew what was going on with him. But after a brief conversation on BART (our local transit system) I realized that I’d had no idea what was really going on in his life. I had been reading his posts without context, and didn’t understand that his life had been turned upside-down by a series of events, and that he was having to rebuild his life essentially from scratch. I learned more in a five minute conversation than I would have from reading a thousand of his Facebook posts.
Events and Invitations
A few friends would use Facebook to invite me to events. It was often difficult to find these real invites among the dozens of spam-invites to paid events that would also show up in my Facebook events list. I suppose some friends will have to switch to email (or snail mail) to invite me to things, but I actually check those formats on a regular basis. It’s nice to have one fewer inbox.
Focus, Active Curation
Since quitting both Facebook and Reddit, it’s much harder to waste time on my computer. I check my email, the New York Times headlines, and that’s about it. Sometimes I’ll look at my Twitter feed and click on a few interesting links. But I no longer fall into a black hole of distraction where I lose an hour or more of my day. I feel more focused.
In the evening, if I’m actively looking for entertainment, I now have to be more active in my search (instead of passively browsing an algorithm-generated feed, or pages of “top voted” content). This is a good thing. I’m reading more fiction (in book format, not on my computer), and finding very narrow content related to my hobbies (like the TerranScapes youtube channel). This is a return to how I sought entertainment during the first thirty-five years of my life, and it’s a more gratifying system. I’m engaging with material that actively interests me in very specific ways, instead of finding the occasional gem amidst a sea of broad content.
Out of the Loop?
I did have some mild anxiety about becoming more socially isolated or being “out of the loop” if I quit Facebook. I quickly identified this as a false fear. My real friends weren’t going to forget about me, and though I might learn things about people’s lives (who got married, who had a kid, etc.) later than most, I might enjoy the information more receiving it in person.
Quitting Facebook did inspire me to be more active in regards to social planning. Life is finite and you don’t have time to do everything with everyone. I’ll save the details for a later post, but I’ve made a few changes to my system for tracking what I/we want to do with our friends and family, and taking the necessary steps to schedule and plan those social engagements.
I actually feel more socially connected since I quit Facebook. I’m no longer looking at events I wasn’t invited to, parties I didn’t attend, and trips I didn’t take. Instead I’m looking at my own calendar to see what I have planned for the week, and with whom. If the calendar is looking empty then I take steps to fill it up.