I joined Facebook when it was limited to college students. I remember that scary moment when the company allowed others to join (i.e., older adults and high school students). I remember when things you liked could be shared with other friends, and you could see what others were interested in. I remember when status updates were framed in third-person thoughts (“Sam is…”). It was my home away from home, and a bastion for friends and family to connect. And then, one year ago, I deleted it all.
When I joined in 2007, Facebook was a select, elite social network. Everyone I knew wanted an account. Eventually, they all got one. Where once, my friends would’ve texted or emailed to update me, they “Facebooked.” Their messages and updates became broadcasts — written on semi-public “walls.” Others could contribute and participate. Moments were shared — online.
There was that first party, first relationship, first love, and first adult vacation. All was captured and curated. Others could peruse and get to know me; albeit, in a detached, digital sense. And that feeling grew and grew, as I realized that my ballooning friend network wasn’t about friendship.
In college, I was frequently in the public eye and had built a large professional network. Facebook served as a hub for connecting with those people — a nascent LinkedIn. But I embraced the opportunity to stay in contact with important people. That networking and messaging led me to meet the Governor of Colorado a couple times and enabled me to fundraise thousands of dollars. It was wonderful.
But it was also the home of my first breakup, the next breakup, and then the few after that. Facebook showed my hurt. The site featured a fractured post-breakup silence and photo-less few months. It ebbed and flowed, as did my emotions. Facebook was stirring powerful emotions in me. Oftentimes, these weren’t positive and supportive.
I was surrounded by people I didn’t really recognize, and bombarded with more advertising than ever. Facebook, the personal social network, had become another rehashed home for brooding, breeding, and time-wasting.
Last November, I evaluated whether Facebook was still important. The things I shared were no longer liked by the people I was supposedly closest to, and that hurt. A relationship I was in was about to collapse, and I hardly wanted to share that with this disconnected, jumbled group of “friends.”
Hovering over the delete link, I contemplated life without Facebook. There were photos, videos, and status updates. But more than anything, there were moments I was saying goodbye to — exceptional and horrific.
I clicked delete, and the stream went black. Digitally done, my home away from home was burned. All those years spent networking and adding friends were gone. I felt a pain of uncertainty and unknown. Had I made a mistake?
It’s been about one year since I deleted my Facebook, and I can tell it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. My communication mediums regressed to text messages, emails, and — gasp! — phone calls. Slowly, friends reached out and mentioned that they noticed I was no longer online. Some kept in touch and others disappeared.
Now, I have time. Instead of incessantly swiping through news feeds and liking incessantly, I read, write, and connect (in-person) more often. I’m more informed about world politics and news. I’m more concerned with helping others and making a difference. I’m not as interested in my next profile picture. I don’t care as much about taking a group photo (for others to see). I’m not as concerned about new clothing and products that’ll make me look affluent and connected.
Embarrassingly, I used to look through my photos, clicking infinitely — circling through them over and over again. Facebook held on to me — aching for me to relive my past and share every moment. There was an emotional high and low to look back on what I’ve done, where I’ve been, and who I was with. But that is largely gone. In its place is a powerful present-focus and interest in what my future holds.
Done with the ads. Done with shared walls. Done with that time-wasting.
One year down, infinite more to go.