A few months ago, I unfriended Facebook.
Unfriended isn’t really the right word for this as it implies a clean break – you unfriend former co-workers, your ex, and someone you haven’t spoken to since high school. But not something that’s been woven into your everyday life for the last twelve years.
I joined Facebook in eighth grade. Initially, I simply used it to share one-word updates on my mood, or vague song lyrics that were supposed to make me sound interesting. But as I went through high school and university, Facebook became a bigger part of my life. In college, it was the best way for me to keep in touch with my high school friends.
Following which, as a blogger, managing Facebook turned into a part of my job. And when I moved abroad after graduation, it became the best way for me to keep in touch with my people from America.
By then, Facebook had already woven itself into my every day. It was always open – in another tab, on my phone, or in a chat window. At some point, I realized that I was always on Facebook. Since the articles took up most of my Facebook time, I did some digging and found a plugin called Kill News Feed that blocked any updates from showing up on my homepage. Now, to see an update, I’d have to navigate to a friend’s page; to read the news, I’d have to turn to a news website.
At first, this solution was perfect. Without the constant influx of articles and status updates to read, I spent significantly less time online.
My focus improved, and I felt more present. But I still had Facebook open constantly, just in case I got a message from someone I cared about. Since I liked the clarity that came without using my newsfeed, I went a little farther than just that – I asked my friends if they’d mind moving over to a messaging app outside of Facebook.
This too was a great solution – for a while. Between the fewer messages I got and my empty newsfeed, I didn’t have the nagging feeling that once made me check Facebook so often.
And I thought this was the end of my process – until I read an article about Facebook and privacy.
Through links to Facebook’s terms of service, lawsuit news coverage, and think pieces on digital outlets, the article pointed out that Facebook was doing a lot more than connecting me to my friends. It tracked articles I read elsewhere online, and for how long; scanned the contents of the private messages I sent; tracked my location through my phone; could turn on my phone microphone without my permission; and used this information to create a comprehensive profile on me, which it could sell to insurance companies, banks, and advertisers.
This information didn’t upset me because I had something to hide. It concerned me because, like anyone else, I have parts of my life that I keep private. And that’s the reason why there’s a password on my email, a key to my gym locker, and curtains in my bedroom. It’s why my mail comes in an envelope.
I do have a life full of moments and opinions, which should only be mine to share if and when I want to. Somewhere along the line, when I shared that life on Facebook, it became Facebook’s to share however it wanted.
That day, I deleted Facebook and Messenger from my phone. And, to my surprise, it felt great.
For the last year, as I slowly disentangled Facebook from my life, I worried about missing something important. But the fact was, I didn’t miss Facebook at all. I didn’t miss the news stories as I could read the news elsewhere. Neither did I miss my friends’ updates since they could tell them to me privately, over the phone, or in person.
Most of all, I didn’t miss the countless hours I had lost on the site. And with that time back, there was so much more life I had, to be lived.
My life truly changed after I left Facebook. In my last month on the site, I read 30 pages in one book. In the month since I’ve left, I’ve read five books. My new attitude bleeds over into other areas of my life – my boyfriend and I wanted to waste less time watching TV, so now we take online classes together in the evenings.
On my walk to and from the gym every day, I listen to podcasts instead of pop music. Even my friendships benefit because without Messenger, I talk on the phone with a friend while she gets ready for work in the mornings, and email back-and-forth with another friend a few times a week. I see more friends in person now – life feels fuller.
As I said at the beginning of this article, my journey with Facebook hasn’t been quite as quick and easy as pressing unfriend. It’s more like the slow process of distancing yourself from someone toxic. I still have an account, though I check it rarely. And that may be the last thing to go because, for all the promises the site makes about sharing my life with my friends, I feel more connected without it.
I don’t just like life without Facebook – I love it, and I’m not looking back.