On Quitting Facebook

A few weeks ago, I did something I have attempted to do for years. I dropped the f-bomb. Oh wait, that means something else. I quit Facebook. I recommend it, and I’ll tell you why.

The Problem with FB

As a growing adult who is getting better at life, I’ve become hypervigilant with my time. Sometimes (often) that even means not spending time on things I actually do care about. Not because I don’t want to or don’t think those things are important, but because I just don’t have it in me. And let me just propose here that time and energy are the same thing. If I don’t manage my time properly, then my waking life eats away at sleep and downtime, which eats away at energy. Similarly, when activities consume a lot of my energy, they require more downtime afterwards, which eats away at my time.

So, if I can’t always do the things I really want to do, why would I spend any time at all on something that’s as relatively meaningless to me as Facebook?

Even after brief visits, I noticed myself feeling down. Part of it of course, was the endless Facebook ranting. Everyone seems either snarky or pissed off on Facebook, and the only positive posts are generally also kind of insipid and useless. I mean I get it. I’m also snarky and pissed off a lot. We live in dark times (though not as dark as all the times past, funny enough). I also love adorable videos of baby animals. You know what? I really could look at pictures of food, animals, and to a lesser extent, babies, all day long. I enjoy that stuff.

But now we come to the other dark side of Facebook, which is that, no matter how much I may enjoy scrolling for hours as a bit of dribble escapes the corner of my mouth, I will always come away from it ultimately feeling like I just lost that sliver of my life to a kind of soul-eating monster with an ink-black gullet. I had to regain some sense of control over this precious single-serving existence I’ve been given.

What I Did

Personally I’m not a fan of making an announcement about leaving Facebook, then disabling my account. It tends to worry people. It’s too satisfying upfront. Facebook still has all your data anyway. Re-enabling an account gives you a sense of being permanently back on Facebook, when you probably just slipped and wanted a peek.

Here’s what I did do, which I think is a little ingenious if I’m going to toot my own horn. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing it this way.

I didn’t make an announcement. I opened a text document, typed a random string of letters and numbers into it without looking. I copied that random sequence. Then I changed my password to that.

The reason this has worked for me is that most of my visits to Facebook were reflexive, almost subconscious. Even today, about a month later, I typed “f” into the URL bar and almost hit enter after it autofilled to “facebook.com”. This was how I ended up on Facebook almost all the time. It was a muscle memory, like typing your first name. How many times have you found yourself on Facebook without really fully deciding to be there?

So by changing my password to something I don’t know, I’ve interrupted that wiring. I have to do a whole “forgot password” process to get back on, and because I genuinely don’t want to get back on, this is enough to keep that addictive behavior at bay.

And like that time I quit meat (11 years a vegetarian), once you fully quit it, you realise how easy it is to live without. So here were my concerns, and the truth behind them.

I won’t have a social life anymore.

My friends have my phone number and my long-distance friends have my email. Next.

No one will read any of my blog posts. 

Haha! No one reads this blog anyway. And it’s not a goal of mine to have a popular blog. I write here because I occasionally have the urge to articulate something.

Facebook is how I take five minute breaks or fill my time between doing other things.

You know what? I think it’s a real problem that we can’t tolerate being slightly bored for five minutes. We are way too spoiled when it comes to stimuli, and I really, seriously, think it impedes the mental fitness required for amusing oneself or having original thoughts. It’s as if we spent our entire lives laying in a bed and being spoon-fed fois gras. But instead of our bodies, it’s our minds.

Also, there is the rest of the Internet, and the only difference is that you have to find stuff you want to read all by yourself. I sometimes go to twitter for good links, or I read the news, or go to Slate if I miss that snarkiness of Facebook. Or I google stuff I’m interested in.

But mostly, I’m getting work done in half the time because my brain is not constantly jonesing for some blue bar, red dot dopamine. It’s glorious and feels like freedom, I’m not even kidding.

Other forms of social media take up just as much time.

I though this initially, but oddly it just wasn’t true at all. I’m on Instagram multiple times a day (though I don’t post much), and I’m on Twitter probably once a day. Neither of them have the same vice-like grip on my attention span. It may not be the same for everyone, but take that as you will.

How my life has gotten more awesome:

Reading the news is emotionally sustainable. I can hear what’s happening, even bad things, without my amygdala flashing code red.

I have more time to read (three books in the last month since quitting) and reading is more enjoyable because my attention span is longer.

My social life basically hasn’t changed. I guess that doesn’t qualify as “more awesome” but I’m just going to put that here.

I consistently write 700-1,000 words a day for my next novel, sometimes up to 4,000 words if it’s a slow day at work.

I never stay late at work because I’ve dicked myself over by not being productive enough during work hours.

I feel more conscious and in control of my everyday choices.

That’s it! Leave Facebook!

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