A few people have asked me why I quit Facebook, and I thought I’d gather all of my thoughts here in one post.
Three years ago, my friend Shelley joked that every time she got on Facebook she spent $75. That was because the algorithms had figured her out and were feeding her ads for items she just couldn’t resist. She was always happy with her purchases, so it’s not that the ads were scammy or anything. They just weren’t things that she necessarily needed or would have purchased on her own.
It took Facebook a few more years to get me pegged, but one day I realized the algorithm had succeeded. While I didn’t necessarily buy stuff, I would click on ads to read about products or courses and then have to spend precious time and energy arguing with myself about why I didn’t REALLY need or want xyz.
Plus, I found myself signing up for freebie after freebie promising to teach me copywriting or to grow my list or create a course. This cluttered up my email inbox and made getting started in the morning even more challenging.
I finally sat down and made a list of pros and cons of Facebook, and I couldn’t ignore the results. Facebook had to go. It was NOT a net positive in my life.
The main benefit of Facebook is that allowed me to connect with friends and acquaintances from every stage of my life. I loved that sense of connecting initially, checking out their feed, and seeing what they had been up to. It also allowed me to stay connected to clients and their families which I also loved, seeing how they grew and where they went to college and what they ended up doing.
However that benefit pales in comparison to the list of costs. Below are some of the main reasons why I quit Facebook.
Why I Quit Facebook.
1. Facebook is a Time Hog.
I was spending a lot of time on Facebook. Upwards of 800 friends and acquaintances meant a very long feed. And it was nearly impossible to limit my time. Ten minutes on Facebook was never just ten minutes. Facebook was designed to keep our attention on the platform, to learn our “weaknesses” and what we clicked on. And Facebook is really good at it!
Facebook is NOT designed for moderation, and doesn’t allow you to truly customize the experience. To get to the post you actually might be interested in, you must scroll through a bunch of other posts, keeping you on the platform longer. This way Facebook can gather information about your behavior and use that information to increase their advertising revenue.
Add up a few of those ten minute sessions that weren’t actually ten minutes over the course of a day and it becomes a pretty significant chunk of time. Every evening when I checked my iPhone usage, Facebook was almost always at the top.
2. Facebook Became a Crutch.
I found myself reaching for my phone to check Facebook whenever I was bored, or waiting, or taking a quick break from work.
Instead of taking a moment to rest or to check in with myself or do a mini-mindfulness practice, I felt like a junkie trying to stuff stimulation into my brain. It felt productive, somehow, to be keeping up with news in people’s lives, no matter how tangential a person was to my actual day to day life.
Now I believe in the importance of creating a little space in our mind, a little bit of a pause, to break up the constant mental activity. Someone used the analogy of giving your mind a break to setting down a loaded backpack during a hike up a mountain. The pause can be enormously refreshing and valuable.
Now that I’ve quit Facebook, I’ll do a five minute stretch or do some breathing exercises or just take a step outside to enjoy the day. This has been far more beneficial to me than Facebook, and leads me to the third reason why I quit Facebook.
3. Facebook Rarely Improved my Mood.
For a variety of reasons, Facebook would leave me feeling a little frustrated or agitated when I shut the app. Maybe it was because I’d managed to talk myself out of buying something I saw on Facebook but a part of me still wanted it. Maybe it was because of an article someone posted, or a comment someone made. Maybe it was because of a paid ad that missed the mark with me. Maybe it was because of all the incredibly annoying and useless notifications I got that were impossible to turn off.
Yes every session on Facebook had its rewards, like learning about what a Facebook friend was up to, but the net benefit was usually in the red.
And as someone well on the other side of 50, I just can’t be spending that much time on something that isn’t actually benefiting me.
4. Facebook Disconnects Rather Than Connects Us.
I thought about my friends who weren’t on Facebook. When I wanted to connect with them, I had to call them or text them. Reading someone’s post and clicking like gives you a fake sense of connection and can reduce the urge to actually reach out and connect one on one.
5. Facebook had a Frustrating User Interface.
Another reason why I quit Facebook is that trying to manage notifications and privacy settings and customize my feed was an exercise in futility.
People have wildly varying posting rates, and wildly varying relevance to my day to day life. Some people were posting several times a day, whereas others were more like me and posting two times a year. It was impossible to curate a feed that gave me the exact amount of news I wanted to hear. I would have loved the ability to set certain people to show up in my feed just once or twice a month, and others whenever they post. My choice was to mute them entirely or let them fill my feed.
Notifications were completely irrelevant and ridiculous, yet buried in the onslaught of notifications would be one or two useful ones, so I felt compelled to spend time to sort through them to get the useful ones.
To add insult to injury, whenever I was able to slightly improve my feed, Facebook would come out with an update that would change things around.
6. I Read Jaron Lanier’s book, “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now”.
He posits that Facebook exists to amplify behaviors and attitudes that promote engagement and sales. He calls this “BUMMER”, or “Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent”.
Overall, my feed was not combative, but occasionally I would feel the need to respond to a friend’s post which meant that I’d see notifications for other comments on the post and then inadvertently find myself reading surprisingly aggressive responses from the friends of my friend.
Lanier says that this anger and aggressiveness is deliberately encouraged by algorithms that recognize the engagement potential of this behavior and by outside organizations that want to profit from it.
TAKING THE PLUNGE
If any of the reasons why I quit Facebook were compelling to you, you may be wondering if you should do it too.
You can try deactivating your profile if you’re not ready to take the plunge. That’s easy, and reversible.
For me, I knew that would not be enough. I would have deleted my profile completely except I run a few business related Facebook pages and I need to maintain my profile in order to keep those pages up.
So instead I had to delete my friends list. Facebook makes this very tedious — you have to do it one at a time. I will say that while it was anxiety provoking to delete each one of my friends, once they were ALL deleted I felt a sense of massive relief, like the feeling of jumping into a cold swimming pool. Dreading it is much worse than doing it.
And I haven’t missed Facebook one bit!
Photo Credits: Anthony Tran and Varun Gaba
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