Admittedly, that might be a bit overdramatic. But to a few hundred people, it probably seems that way. That’s because last February I finally took the plunge I’d been debating for months and deactivated my Facebook profile.
After a whole year of abstaining and reflection, I’ve come to believe that it was – without a doubt – the right decision. Given the opportunity, I would absolutely do so again, and I would recommend the same course of action to anyone who is thinking about doing it now.
Of course, there are plenty of people who will disagree. Among them are those few hundred people from whom I disappeared. Whenever I randomly bump into one of them, they act like they’ve seen a ghost, which I guess in this modern era of online networking is at least partially accurate. They’ll usually give me the same question that I’ve begun to get tired of hearing: “Why aren’t you on Facebook?”
What’s interesting is that the reason I left that world behind was because I flipped that question around one day and asked myself why I was connected to that realm in the first place.
I stumped myself.
I honestly could not come up with a real, satisfying answer. I could tell myself that it was to stay in contact with old friends, but the people I wanted to stay in contact with had my phone number and email address. I communicated with them in other ways to begin with and still do. I may have cut a lot of tangential acquaintances from my life, but I can’t really say that I sacrificed any true friends in the process.
In actuality, I would say that the friendships I do have are stronger now than ever. Facebook reinforces the bare minimum in friendship and cheapens the concept overall. Now I don’t get to keep my friends just by liking their statuses: I actually have to make an effort, and our bonds are stronger because of it.
I briefly considered the networking possibilities, but that reason was quickly tossed aside. Let’s just say that I – along with plenty of potential employers with Internet access – found the results there to be unsatisfying.
There were a few other considerations, but my ultimate conclusion was that there was nothing Facebook was providing me that I couldn’t get more easily elsewhere and without a great deal of the distraction.
Distraction is definitely the right word for it, too. When I would get on my computer, one of the first things I would do was log into Facebook. I wouldn’t even constantly check it, but it was always there, open on a separate tab, lurking, waiting for the second I would think about taking a break from whatever the task at hand was.
Freeing myself from that cycle meant gaining more focus concerning whatever it was I was supposed to be focusing on. It meant not spending hours upon hours in the TECH Center, because I wasn’t spending hours upon hours there playing Bejeweled Blitz.
It also meant that I got to enjoy hearing and delivering news in person again. No longer does a friend walk up to me, expecting to blow my mind with some incredible story, only for me to respond with: “Yeah I saw your status yesterday.” I get to actually enjoy that moment of interaction, and I believe that those are priceless experiences I was being deprived of before.
I didn’t even need to completely withdraw from the social networking web to get these benefits. At the end of this article, you’ll see my Twitter handle. That’s not there by mistake, and it’s not – all that – hypocritical.
Social networking sites are all made differently, and they cater to different purposes. With Twitter, I’ve found a place that I can go for news and information. I don’t feel like I’m ever just mindlessly wasting my time, like I would feel on Facebook, because I mostly get bombarded with current events and other valuable kernels of information.
So when I take everything into consideration, I lost a bunch of people I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about keeping in my life and the ability to be a member of a mass notification about a party. What I gained was stronger connections with the friends that I really think are important, a more refined ability to focus and more than a handful of moments of direct interactions with people.
I certainly don’t doubt it for a second.
I don’t mean for any of this to sound like a direct, unrelenting indictment of Facebook, either. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are really getting a worthwhile experience out of the website, and I’m happy for those people.
But, personally, I sure wasn’t. And I seriously doubt that I was alone in that respect. I’d be willing to guess that there are a lot of people out there who aren’t entirely sure why they spend time each day scrolling through their feeds – I’m assuming those are still a thing – but just keep doing it because everyone else is too.
To those people, I just want to say that liberation is a possibility, and it’s a decision that I’m glad I made.
Zack Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZackScott11.