Two Months Without Facebook

Tough to believe, but it’s already been two months since I deactivated my Facebook account. Have I learned anything? Oh heck, yeah.

  1. Facebook doesn’t hesitate to pull out the big ol’ creeptastic guilt guns to try to convince you to stay. Apparently you don’t see this lovely image if you deactivate your account on a mobile device, but this is what greets you when you push the button on a desktop web browser:FB Deactivation guilt pixel.jpg
    I was stunned when I saw it, and for about half a second, I did feel guilty. Then I recognized how I was being played and it just pissed me off and made me even more determined—eager, even—to go. It’s lower than low for a site like FB to try to manipulate its users this way, and it instantly reminded me that because I’m not paying for Facebook, I’m the product. Of course they don’t want me to go. It’s in their best interest to keep me around so they can continue to make money off me.

    Ugh. Bite me, Facebook. Especially now that, in the two months I’ve been gone, we’ve really started to get a look at how you threaten our democracy (and, I would argue, our humanity) on the regular.

  2. I don’t miss FB. Except when I do. But here’s the thing—”when I do” is pretty limited. In fact, there are only about two things that make me miss it.

    A. When I come across an important article that I think deserves a wide audience, and I don’t have a good way to help make that happen (which is the saving grace of this little blog, though let’s not kid ourselves; it’s not remotely the same thing)

    B. When it would be really helpful to be able to consult a lot of people at the same time for wisdom on, say, which bluetooth headphones I should buy, or who to call for a household problem.

    That’s it. Sometimes I wonder what I’m missing, but it’s pretty rare. I actually have been thrilled not to be there to see the uproar over Harvey Weinstein and Co, because honestly I’ve marinated in enough of that news all on my own.

  3. FB really is everywhere. I don’t think I ever noticed how many sites use its login services until I deactivated my account. Some don’t let you use anything else. Oh well…
  4. I have no problem filling my time. Alas, I’ve not read as many books as I was hoping to have by now, but I’ve got a LOT more done because I’m not sitting here staring into Pavlov’s Sinkhole of Attention for hours every day.
  5. I like Twitter better. Which is saying something, because a lot of Twitter is a cesspool. But you know it’s a cesspool going in, and if you curate your lists wisely, you can find beautiful little warm springs that are quite refreshing and even enlightening. I also find a much wider range of news and opinion on Twitter than I do on Facebook. And while Twitter is an all-or-nothing game in terms of privacy, there’s merit to learning how to dial your comments up or down in the knowledge that they may be seen by all and sundry. I’m actually starting to think the fact that Twitter isn’t friend-based is a real advantage in that regard, because it seems we’re more likely to argue with friends. (It’s still a cesspool, though. And dangerous for women and folks of color and, well, anyone who isn’t a straight white male, to the eternal consternation of those of us who would like it to get its act together.)

    And let’s face it: Sam Neill doesn’t post silly pictures of traveling, trouble-prone pigs on Facebook; ergo, Twitter wins by default.

  6. Not having a FB account can be a problem if you’re looking at, for instance, a job posting that wants you to have social media experience/accounts. Sigh.
  7. A curious thing happens when you leave Facebook. You disappear. Or your friends do, depending on your perspective. Facebook lets you keep Messenger, which is great, especially if you don’t have current contact info for a lot of your FB friends, but it quickly becomes apparent that Messenger only provides a line to those you already were inclined to chat with regularly.

    Everyone else disappears. Or you disappear to them. It’s literally like something out of a movie, where someone fades from sight. If you’re not on Facebook and your friends are, over time you realize that you’ve basically ceased to exist. I can go in and wave my arms in Messenger and scream “Hello!!!!!!” and get nothing. Even people who tried to encourage me to stay and wanted to keep in touch have more or less fallen off the face of the earth at this point. I’d say there are maybe five people I really keep up with on Messenger now. That’s it.

    Oh, did I forget to mention the folks encouraging me to stay? Oops! Yeah, there were a lot, because everyone who is hooked into this thing wants everyone else to be hooked in, too, and I noticed that in the week before I killed it—FB really doesn’t need that stupid guilt graphic, because the FB ethos, that All Of Life Happens On Facebook, is so pervasive that your friends will do it for them. And then once you’re gone, well… out of sight, out of mind.

    On the one hand, it’s fine with me to find out who my friends really are and to be out of the Matrix. On the other, it’s horrifying the degree to which the Matrix analogy holds (with a hefty side order of a very cultish “But why would you ever want to leave? No no, please staaaayyyy!” vibe) .

    If you’re still on there, you might want to think about how it affects you and your relationships, because it has more control than you probably think it does.

  8. And that’s why I don’t want to go back. My only regret about deactivating my account is that I didn’t download all my data first. If I do reactivate, it’ll be only long enough to pull that stuff down and deactivate again. Maybe even kill it entirely. I haven’t decided on that yet, but deactivation is key. I’ve taken breaks before, but always relied on my own stubbornness to keep me away. That worked, because my own stubbornness can be a force of nature not to be trifled with. Deactivating feels different, though. It’s an extra level of release from the madness of the machine.

2 Replies to “Two Months Without Facebook”

  1. Interesting results, especially about friends disappearing. Just now there are at least a handful of people who don’t answer emails from me but routinely comment on my FB posts. Not sure what that means.

  2. I think it means people don’t read email, which is a shame. I can’t entirely blame them, considering that email has become the new junk mail, but there are ways of separating the wheat from the chaff. (And email may be old, but it’s still so much more useful! I can search it for a specific message, which I can’t do on Facebook and I can’t even do in Messenger or a text conversation, which could go back tens of thousands of messages.)

    I think it also means life itself has become Short Attention Span Theatre, so if you want to express an idea that goes beyond the length of a typical FB post, nobody wants to read it.

    I remember 20 years ago seeing an ad for Cisco Systems that said , “One day, a business that is not on the internet will not be in business.” I feel like Facebook has become the social equivalent–if you’re not on Facebook, you have no social life. If you think about all the things you can do on FB these days–shop, run a business, join an interest group, plan an event, post jobs–it really is like this little online hub, and when enough people use something like that, NOT being on it becomes a liability. I can see that already, just in two months’ time, and I don’t like it one bit. That’s why I think Facebook is the Matrix–and I want no part of it.

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