Bye, Facebook (for now)

I have mixed feelings. Mostly I’m now less anxious and feel more peaceful. At the same time I feel I’m missing out on something I’m not completely sure what that is.

I deactivated my Facebook account in early January. Timing wasn’t intentional, I just had enough time to reflect and consider how I want to invest my limited time and mental energy. Note, that I didn’t delete my account, but rather made the soft deletion, or deactivation.

Apparently this removes me from all threads I’ve posted in. I simply disappear. The rationale behind this is to probably enforce me to feel I am missing out – all my friends now think I’ve disappeared!

But why?

I wish I had a super thoughtful answer to this. Initially I felt Facebook did not give me as much as it has in the past. I’m one of those people who happily mix business and private stuff, so with over 500 friends in Facebook there was always something to read and scroll. Much of it – not all – was meaningless to me. Polls, memes, jokes, news on Trump, news on Putin, fakenews, “do this now to be happier” articles. A significant swath of my usual feed would include regurgitated news from random technology vendors on something I wasn’t really interested in, or it didn’t really affect me one way or another.

I also fell for the trap of thinking that me actively scrolling, liking, poking and commenting would keep me in touch with people close to me.

(Narrator: this wasn’t the case)

I realized I kept in touch with people close and important to me through Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, email – and with plain old fashioned voice calls! I didn’t need a ‘fancy party line’, as someone once said, for that.

I’m in gratitude for having so many amazing people in my life I can call friends. One of my fears was that I would simply lose touch and those people drift away without a trace like email landing outside my Focused Inbox. It’s still very early days – less than two weeks – so it’s hard to say for sure what happens over time.

I deleted the Facebook app from all of my mobile devices in early 2018. It took a slightly bigger effort to log in every time through a browser to share or comment on something. I still felt I typed ‘face’ way too often in my browser when I had an idle moment between meetings or a few minutes of idle time.

What now?

I hope to regain some of the lost clarity in thinking I’ve longed for quite some time. I read Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World last Summer. In a way, it was an eye-opener. I cannot claim I knew everything behind the thinking and reasoning in the book, but it felt familiar to my own thoughts. That was 6 months ago.

During Christmas break, which allows people a bit more time for thinking as most customers are offline and/or away for holidays, I read Tim Ferris’ Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers. At 707 pages it takes a while to digest, but I encouraged myself to skip the bits I wasn’t really interested in (hint: massive drug use that seems slightly endorsed here and there).

It got me thinking further. What would I do with all this time I’m not using for Facebook? I’m not sure. One thing I’m sure though – I get to write, and read much more. And I get to spend more time in my thoughts – considering usual work-related things, and journeying outside my comfort zone, which I’ve always enjoyed a little bit too much.

I haven’t kept tabs how much time I’ve spent on Facebook. Back in the day, I would regularly type ‘/played‘ in World of Warcraft to see the horrendous hours I’d spent gaming. Facebook, possibly, over 10 years has been a more considerable investment already.

When I go to bed in the evening, I read. Actual books, not just skimming a newsfeed. I have my 3rd book since Christmas in progress now. In the morning, I wake up a bit more refreshed and I have no rush to see ‘what’s up on Facebook.’ I look out the window, think how I’ll structure my day and what my goals will be.

It’s quite satisfying – and yet, I cannot just blame Facebook for that. I know many people who can achieve the same, even while they actively participate in Facebook. I actively loathe those people 😉

I’m a strong believer in getting rid of something in order to gain something new.

Several times a week I get a comment such as “Did you see it?? It was an amazing post from X!” and I go “huh? what post? where? Oh, on Facebook.. yeah, I didn’t see it.” and I feel just a little bit bad. I am missing out and that’s obviously how Facebook has designed their services so there’s a slight struggle within me.

But so far, it’s only been a few times and after considering the fact that the post did not change my life in any considerable way, I can live without it.

You’ll be back!

Some people I’ve spoken with about my deactivation adventure have snarkily commented, that they’ll ask me in a month or two if I’m back yet. I’ve happily accepted the fact I might have the urge to re-activate my account and resume my usual activities on Facebook. I don’t feel that’s quitting, or losing an imaginary game of wills. I just like the challenge – if I feel I’m addicted to something, it makes sense in trying to recognize that and working on the issue. Perhaps the way forward, then, is to get back in the game at some point.

For me, every day so far feels liberating and less restrained. The downsides are obviously there, and I cannot claim I’ve got the high ground. This is merely something I personally feel I needed to do – and I don’t expect anyone to give me a high five for that.

I did have one incident already. I needed to access some of the conference data I’ve stored in a service called Sessionize. I’d chosen Facebook as my identity provider, so the only way to get extract my data was to log in – and you guessed it, that automatically re-activates the account! Once I realized this I de-deactivated my account. I hope I don’t have other services I’m using through my FB identity.

I’m still using Messenger, and I think it’s great. I also use WhatsApp extensively – and they are both owned and operated by Facebook. I don’t have an ethical issue with this – it’s simply what bothers me is the amount of time and mental energy I seem to be exchanging for something I feel I don’t need right now. I also pruned most of my WhatsApp to make it clear what’s relevant, and what’s noise or chaos.