Given that it’s now been six weeks since I deleted my Facebook account, I figured it was time to reflect on my experience and jot down some thoughts on how I’ve got on without it.
The short answer is – exceedingly well. Here’s the long answer.
The closest I came to any “withdrawal symptoms” was finding that I had to adjust my behaviour slightly when deciding on the spur of the moment to contact people. Facebook’s most useful feature is Messenger, and as a means of allowing spontaneous contact with people, it was really handy. On occasions I’ve found myself thinking “I’ll send so-and-so a message…oh…I can’t”. I’ve therefore had to adopt other platforms, which generally hasn’t been a problem, but I have lost contact with some people for whom I had no other contact details. But…I did give people plenty of notice that I was quitting, and I asked for people to send me their contact details. Quite a few people did – the ones who didn’t were people who fell into the “casual acquaintance” category. In some cases I’d not actually met the person face to face, and in others it had been a number of years since I’d had any meaningful contact, so I’m not sure it was much of a loss. I’ve always been convinced that quality matters much more than quantity in friendships anyway, and if anyone really wants to find me, it’s not actually that hard to do.
On one or two occasions I have felt a little bit out of the loop, as it’s fairly common for people to announce big Life Events on Facebook, and then assume that everyone knows about them. I’m aware of a couple of things I’ve not seen, and have heard about somewhat later than everyone else. However, this doesn’t add up to a significant Fear of Missing Out, which is probably the main motivation for a lot of people staying on Facebook even though they’re unhappy with it. I’ve managed to stay in touch with all the people I consider important, and if there’s anything in particular I need to know about, I trust them to tell me.
I think the biggest problem has been the loss of access to Groups. I got involved with a train restoration project last year. It’s a small organisation and they don’t maintain a standalone website – all their communication is via a Facebook group which I can no longer access. This has left me feeling a little out of the loop, and I did consider setting up a new account with a bare minimum of (fake) personal info for group access. However, I feel this would rather seriously compromise my decision to walk away and would suck me back in again, so I’ve resisted. I’d say it’s still only a minor problem.
I got rid of the Facebook app a long time ago, as I found it absolutely bombarded me with irrelevant notifications and made my phone buzz more or less constantly – it was extremely intrusive. After uninstalling it, checking Facebook via the website was more of a chore so I did it less often, but I still spent far too much time checking it. As I now can’t do so, my phone spends a lot more time in my pocket than it did before, and this has made quite a major difference.
This is ultimately why I think it’s been a great move. However convenient smartphones are, I’d say most people who own them spend far too much time staring at them, and it’s quite shocking how disengaged and passive this makes people. The smartphone is a device that is geared much more towards content consumption rather than content creation, and this is a big problem. It basically sells stuff to you and disempowers you, and stops you from engaging positively with the things around you. Since dumping Facebook, I’ve spent more time reading, more time being creative and more time interacting positively with my friends. Instead of seeing something and thinking “I’ll post that on Facebook”, I’ll see something and think “so-and-so would find that interesting”, so I’ll talk to them directly about it instead, which is much more meaningful. I’ve become less of an attention-seeker, and I’m exposed to significantly less dross.
To conclude, it’s been overwhelmingly positive, enough to completely drown the few small losses and inconveniences. It was requiring far too many compromises to stay on there, and I do feel much better removing such a ghastly corporate behemoth from my communications. Admittedly I’m still on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, but their privacy policies are much better and it’s generally a much more focussed and simple experience being on there, so I’m happy to stay for now. Ultimately, if something isn’t working, we shouldn’t be afraid to get rid of it, and I fully intend to stay Facebook-free for as long as I can manage.