Sometime around September of 2007, I joined Facebook. It had been something the cool kids were talking about as a solid alternative to MySpace…which I hated. (I mostly hated MySpace’s hideous user interface.) I wanted a way to connect to friends, and Facebook had recently come available to the masses…not just college kids with .edu email addresses from specific schools.
I dove into Facebook full force. After my wife, my first Facebook friend was a person who was in a theater show with me at the time. (As a side-note, this person now works for Facebook!) I started adding friends left and right: theater friends, old college friends, old Navy friends, old high school friends… You know the drill. I also started meeting new people and adding them as I met them. If somebody wasn’t “on Facebook,” I encouraged them to join because it was an easy way to keep in touch. I don’t remember who, specifically, is on Facebook because of my recommendation, but I’m sure there are at least a dozen or so. (My one rule has always been: If I don’t know you in person, I’m not adding you on Facebook. I still have over 550 friends there.)
So if Facebook is where my friends connect, why am I backing away?
Well, in 2007 my life was very different. I had a regular full-time job working for somebody else and a slightly new baby at home. I found that Facebook was a good way to keep in touch with people as our lives changed. But as I’ve gotten older keeping track of everything that happens on Facebook has become a real task. I’ve been self-employed for almost eleven years and the baby is now a junior in high school. My life is just different. Sure, I still enjoy getting updates from friends and family, but keeping up with everything has just become a chore. After the last two elections started to dominate Facebook, the platform was no longer a source of enjoyment and entertainment. It became a source of stress. Post, reply, like, repeat. I couldn’t stand visiting friends’ pages and reading their posts… no matter what side of the political aisle they sat on. As Covid swept the globe, I started ignoring most posts and decided to use Facebook for groups. I started joining groups that matched my interests: gardening, mid-century architecture, history, Disney park updates, etc. All of these seemed innocent enough. But since Facebook had become a political platform, politics started permeating those groups too. “MY GOD!!! You’re destroying that gorgeous 1957 ranch by planting that tree too close to the house! You must be a Republican, you asshole!”
So here we are in 2021. My life is very different now and so is the world. I didn’t get into this mess to watch strangers yell obscenities at each other as I scroll past the latest update about Star Wars comics. It’s been a slow decline from “poking” friends into giving them virtual throat punches. That’s not my style. I don’t want to be a part of that. I can get angry enough on my own. I don’t need to watch it happen with friends or strangers.
So I decided to try an experiment to see if I could “live” without daily memes and Covid stories. For the last couple of months, I’ve been on Facebook a grand total of about five times. It used to be that I would open the app dozens of times a day. Do you know what I discovered? I don’t miss it! I’m generally calmer and much less stressed. I can focus on the people who are actually near me and not what is happening in a world over which I have very little control. I play more. I interact with other humans more. I create more.
So I’ve decided to start backing out of Facebook.
By backing out, I don’t mean I’m rage-quitting and deleting my account. I mean I’m just not going to be there very much. I might stick my head in twice a month just to see if anything noteworthy is happening. I’m leaving groups that aren’t directly business-related or part of small, social groups I’m involved with. I’m not unfriending anybody, but I’m also not going to be signing in to browse casually anymore. If you’re a friend and you want me to see something that’s locked into the Facebook ecosystem, send me a message. I still use Facebook Messenger. If, on my bi-monthly visits, I notice something you’ve posted that I like, I might like it or type a quick response. Don’t bother tagging me. I’m ignoring notifications. In short, if Facebook is where you’re used to “visiting” with me…well…that’s going to change.
Since I sometimes like to blab or show off, I’m probably going to resurrect this blog in some form. That’s still undecided. I also check and post to Twitter every now and then, and I really enjoy Instagram. Feel free to follow me on either of those platforms. If I know you, I’ll probably follow you back.
This isn’t a rage-quit of Facebook. I don’t hate Mark Zuckerberg. I don’t think Facebook is some sort of inherently evil organization that’s trying to take over the world. (Although I guess it might be.) It’s a company with a business plan…just like every other company. Their business plan just doesn’t align with my needs any longer. So it’s time to move on.