Earlier this week, I deactivated my Facebook account. I’d been considering it for a while because Facebook just wasn’t a positive experience for me anymore. When someone says Facebook is making them feel rotten, people often assume it’s because of all the photos of people’s amazing holidays and happy families. My experience had nothing to do with that.
I was frustrated by what I was seeing. I was sick of scrolling through my feed and feeling annoyed. It felt strange that people would add each other as ‘friends’ having only met once or twice, but to ‘unfriend’ someone who was never anything more than a vague acquaintance was seen as a massive insult. I was sick to death of the petty arguments, unwanted ‘advice’, moralistic judgment, virtue signalling and unpleasantness.
I know I’m making it sound like my friends are all terrible people. They aren’t. Some of their friends might be though, and of course you see the comments made on friends’ posts by other people they know. The negative things I’m talking about aren’t specific to people I know. They’re just what happens when hundreds of people all share their every opinion on everything hundreds of other people say and do. There’s no other context where that happens, not even (to the same degree, in my experience) on other social media platforms.
The way I approach friendship and social interaction, in both the physical and digital worlds, is that if I like someone, I will talk to them, spend time with them (if possible) and, you know, be their friend. If I don’t like someone, or if I stop liking them, I don’t talk to them or spend time with them. Depending on the reasons behind this, there might be a conversation involved, but I honestly feel that a lot of the time it’s healthier for all involved to have a polite and gentle drifting apart. Facebook doesn’t really allow for that and I found the act of unfollowing-but-not-unfriending to be…well, kind of creepy and duplicitous.
So, earlier this week, I deleted all my Facebook content from the last eleven years (thanks to an amazing Chrome extension called Social Book Post Manager), sent a message to about twenty close friends and family members to let them know that I was deactivating my Facebook account but keeping Messenger (yep, this is entirely possible) and then did the deed.
Oh. My. Gods. I immediately felt lighter. I suddenly felt more enthusiastic and excited about the other social media platforms I used and I realised why – my use of all those platforms is based around shared interests. I use Twitter mainly for involvement in the amazing writing community there. I use Tumblr for the witchy community. Instagram is for photography and DeviantArt is for photography and writing. Of course I know people on all those sites who I genuinely consider to be friends and there’s a huge element of community in all those places, but I just don’t use them the way I used Facebook so my experience is totally different and much happier.
Over the last few days, the sense of relief has lingered. I no longer feel awkward trying to figure out how to respond to invites for events I either don’t want to go to or are inaccessible to me. I no longer have to hope I don’t offend people by not wanting to join the groups they invite me to. I don’t have to worry that I’m being rude by ignoring or declining a friend request from someone I barely know. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rejecting genuine acts of friendship. I’m talking about those situations when people invite hundreds of their closest friends to everything. It’s overwhelming.
Of course I still get to see cute pictures of my friends’ kids and pets, hear about those fantastic recipes they tried and chat about work, home and creative projects because I actually talk to my friends. I’m not able to see everyone in person all the time because it can be difficult to go places when my health isn’t great, but there are phones and emails and messaging apps for keeping in touch.
I appreciate that everyone’s experiences are different. Some people reading this may feel the same way about other social media platforms as I feel about Facebook. Whatever your experience is, it’s valid. My experience was that Facebook had become at best an obligation and at worst a source of deep frustration and negativity. Now that I’ve deactivated my account, I wish I’d done it ages ago.