On quitting Facebook: a status update

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Just over a month ago I announced my intention to quit Facebook. It probably shouldn’t have been a big deal but it turned out to be kind of a big deal and, from the comments and emails I received, I realised the idea was kind of a big deal for other people, too.

So here I am a month on to tell you how things are going.

To be succinct: it’s going great! I genuinely love being free of what I hadn’t even fully realised had become a millstone around my neck. For maybe three days after quitting, I’d have a moment where I’d sit down and I’d go to pull my phone out to look at Facebook and then realise it wasn’t there. And do you know what, the rush of realisation wasn’t loss, but HAPPINESS. Every time I forgot I didn’t have Facebook and then realised it again, I felt the weight lifting and the sense of freedom ALL OVER AGAIN. It is seriously NUTS that I stuck with it so long, considering how much I must have hated it without even knowing it. And it is even more nuts that I bothered to use it, given this reaction. I suspect I may not be altogether bright.

Here are some other things I’ve learned and experienced about quitting Facebook, in no particular order:

1. Facebook is REALLY difficult to quit. As in, they make it super hard to get out. I didn’t want to just “disable” my account and maybe come back to it later, I wanted everything gone, for good. It took some googling and tutorials and then MULTIPLE pages with tiny, almost-hidden text for me to figure out how to properly cancel my Facebook account. Even then they had a cooling-off period of several weeks. I can’t remember how many (two or three or four) but I don’t want to go back in to check, just in case that launches everything back up again!

2. When I’m with my kids, I’m WITH them. I’m down on the floor pushing trains over wooden tracks, instead of up on a chair half-watching them do it, while flicking through Facebook.

3. Keeping up with friends is not as difficult as I’d feared. I’ve been making more of a concerted effort to email, text and call my long-distance friends (and have had more time to do that since I’m not on social media), and it’s been going fine. I’m sure I’ve missed some of their photos of their new cats or trips to the country or children’s ballet concerts, but Facebook elected for me NOT to see them more than half the time anyway, so when I’m in touch with my friends, I have to ask them (shock! horror!) questions like, “What’s been going on with you?” and “Oh, little Jude was in a concert? How cute! Do you have any photos?” It’s not rocket science and it turns out that we (or at least I) don’t need Facebook either to stay in touch with or to learn about the lives of the people we love.

4. I’m writing and painting a lot more. I didn’t think quitting Facebook would have a big impact on these activities, because I didn’t tend to spend time on social media during my specially carved-out “creative” times of the day. But it turns out those quick “I’ll just check if anyone has messaged me” or “I’ll just read what that notification was about” moments add up – and probably the fact that once in there reading a notification, I’d get distracted and end up losing precious minutes reading and scrolling whatever was there. Now, I’m loads more productive.

5. When things happen in the world, I don’t always find out straight away. It’s not that I can’t keep up, it’s just that there is certainly the possibility of a time-lag in the things I find out, versus the things that YOU find out, if you’re on social media. For example, when the news broke about Paris last week, I’m fairly sure it was all over social media. I remained blissfully unaware, dead-heading the climbing roses on our front porch. Later, when I took out my phone to look at the one remaining social media app I still regularly use, Instagram, I kept seeing drawings and photographs of the Eiffel Tower. That made me suspicious, so I googled “Paris,” and there the horror unfolded. If I hadn’t used Instagram, I probably wouldn’t have found out until later that night, watching the news. So I guess in these sorts of cases I’m a bit behind the times, because social media is THE place to get instant updates on what’s going on in the world. I’m ok with that. I do think it’s important to stay abreast of what’s going on, both at home and abroad, but in most cases I don’t think personal timeliness makes a big difference. I can’t see how me knowing a few hours sooner would or could have helped anyone in Paris, nor would it have been particularly edifying to me. I’m content to read the papers, watch the news, read the websites, talk to friends: I feel like that keeps me fairly well-informed and the world won’t end without me knowing it.

6. I’m reading a lot more of the blogs I love. Genuine, original content, that’s positive reading, as opposed to Facebook dross that I haven’t chosen. These are blogs I subscribed to because they inspired me, but rarely got around to reading before.

7. I’m commenting more on blogs. Often when I did find the time to read blogs, I’d flip through on Feedly and just mark the ones I kind of liked (sometimes to share with you) before moving on. Now, I stop and comment, creating or entering conversations. I don’t do this every time, but I do it a lot more.

8. There’s no getting around it, I probably AM missing out on some events and invitations. On the other hand, I don’t know about them so I’m not breaking my heart over them. When it comes to personal events, I hope I’m loved enough that if my friends are planning a party and using Facebook to do it, that they’ll reach out to me via email or text or some other way if they want me to come. If not, though, that’s ok. We’re not all everybody’s best friend, and my closest friends and I have used Facebook but never relied on it as the framework of our friendships. We will carry on without it. However, the more public, open invitations are what I probably WILL miss. Fun events and festivals and meet-ups that are organised almost exclusively on Facebook. That’s a shame, but again, not enough to make me want to go back. I follow a lot of blogs, so I get a lot of information there, too.

9. Not having access to the Facebook groups and events functions makes things a bit trickier, but not insurmountable. Recently I had an idea to start a kind of snail mail club. A bit like a book club, but we all get together and pool our cool stationery resources and listen to music and sip tea (or wine!) and write and decorate letters to pen-pals, friends, relatives, whoever. I’m part of an online alumni group called Blog With Pip, and this would have been RIGHT up the alley of a number of members. Ordinarily, it’s the sort of thing where I would have emailed the woman who runs the group (Pip Lincolne of Meet Me at Mikes) and asked whether I could announce the club on the group page, and invite participants. That would have been handy. Instead, I emailed some friends and bloggers I knew who might be interested, and some of the members of the group who I had met in person and who I thought might enjoy this kind of club, and asked them directly. A number were keen, so we’ll have our first club meeting shortly. If they want to, they can ask other people in the Blog With Pip group, or make an open invitation if the group leader is ok with that, themselves. Either way, once we find a public venue (the first one will be in my house), I’ll share all the details here and invite all of YOU, so again, I think I’m ok doing this without Facebook.

10. I do miss out on membership in groups, but I can work with that. To be honest, the only group I was active in was the Blog With Pip group, and yes, I did fear missing out on the community that gave me. It is a largely positive group, full of creative people genuinely trying to support and inspire one another, and was one of the main reasons why I stuck with Facebook for as long as I did. One idea Pip had was to create a new, secret profile, and join the group under that pseudonym. I’d do it without having any Facebook “friends” so it would exclusively be an avenue to be part of the group. I may still do that. But for now, even the white-and-blue branding of the Facebook website makes me feel queasy in the stomach. I just don’t want go there, in any way. I’m guarding my new-found freedom closely. So I read Pip’s blog and the blogs of a lot of other members, and I keep up with what they are doing that way. It’s not ideal, but it’s a compromise I’m willing to make.

11. Blog traffic hasn’t changed. Facebook was by far the biggest referrer of traffic to this blog, and I was aware when I made the decision to quit that my blog statistics would likely drop accordingly. This is not a particularly big blog at the best of time, so while I’m not monetised and traffic doesn’t matter in any material sense, I still want to be connecting with YOU. I don’t want to be writing into the ether, you know? However I was willing to take that hit, in order to be free of Facebook, my old “frenemy.” To my surprise, so far, I haven’t noticed any real difference in numbers.

12. Quitting is addictive. Once I’d told everyone I was quitting Facebook, I couldn’t WAIT to do it. I’d said I’d wait a week (to put my affairs in order, so to speak), but my finger was itching over the “delete” button (that’s speaking figuratively, of course, there is a LOT more to do than hitting “delete” – see point 1). I went into Twitter and quit that account, which wasn’t much of a concern since I rarely used it. By the following day, I just couldn’t wait any longer. I quit Facebook. An email came through from Mr B that same day, “I want to quit Facebook too. How do I do it?” So that night, we cancelled his Facebook and Twitter accounts too. Then I cancelled my LinkedIn account, which I hadn’t updated anyway in years.

And it all feels GREAT.

Image credit: Benjamin Combs, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons

 

17 comments

  • Selise

    Oh Naomi, I am ALL ABOUT that snail mail club! It’d kinda be difficult to participate via Skype though, huh? Tell you what, if I’m ever in Melbourne around the time you’ve got one of them happening…

    Brilliant to hear you’re still loving being free of FarceBook (I called it that the other night and it’s stuck). I quit in March last year and have not missed it for a single second. I do have to use my Husband as an intermediary for communicating with some people on there (mostly it’s in a “saw this link, thought of you” capacity), if I don’t have alternative means. But that’s no biggie.

  • lois

    Oh Naomi! This post…This is ABSOLUTELY exactly what I feel. I, too am hesitant only because of my Barnwords biz page… but honestly I barely get any views since FB has changed so drastically. I feel I am ready to do it!!! You are so right about how crazy addictive it is.. and for me of late…how depressing. LOVED reading this so much, THANK you. and thanks again for the snail mail. I am sending you some back. <3

    • Naomi Bulger

      Oh thank you, and I’m so glad it has helped! If you click back to my original “I’m quitting” post (linked at the top of this one) there are some really encouraging and inspiring comments there, too. xx

  • Deb @ Blossom Bomb

    Lovely to hear this update! I truly find it compelling. x

    • Naomi Bulger

      Our phone call today was lovely. Didn’t miss Facebook chats at all (and got to tell you inane stories about our family’s overabundance of garbage without resorting to social media 😉 ) xx

  • Marian

    Hey Naomi! I just found your blog today and have loved looking through your mail art posts. Then I saw this post it was right up my alley!

    I’m glad to hear your quitting facebook experiment has gone well. I have had mine deactivated for a couple of weeks but I am not sure if I am ready to take the plunge and fully delete it yet. I totally agree with #4. It’s a lot easier to focus on your own projects w/o facebook. haha

    • Naomi Bulger

      Oh hi Marian, thank you for stopping by, and for your kind words! I can totally see that quitting Facebook isn’t for everyone: it has become such a big part of the way we connect and communicate, it’s not an easy thing to leave behind, and for many is still a very positive place. x

  • Annette

    I miss you there, especially in BWP, but it sounds like the leaving has been, and will continue to be, happily freeing for you, and that’s awesome.
    Big love to you Naomi, you’re a champ!!

  • Tracey

    I love reading your thoughts. I recently took a long break from facebook and I loved it! I do have a lot of friends overseas and interstate etc, and they use facebook a lot. I fear that without it I won’t feel as connected to them anymore (unfortunately some aren’t a snail-mail minded as I am). I am still pondering the “quitting” altogether bit. But after my break I am definitely on it less. I loved reading your first post just after I decided to take the break. It was very inspiring hearing that others (you) felt similar! Thank you.

  • shani

    I AM STILL HERE! AND I LOVE YOUR BLOG ! AND ALL OF IT!

  • Linda Horsburgh

    As a mother of a 7 year old and a 3 year old I quit Facebook 6 months ago and I couldn’t agree with you more. The feeling of freedom post fb was crazy, just wish I’d quit sooner!

  • Ana

    Good for you :) and, Wow, I never new facebook could steal so much of a person’s time, I’m really happy I never joined in.

  • sharon

    I’ve quit facebook before, but I created a new account after I got engaged & married to share my news. Its so easy to get sucked back in. Creating a new profile to join that group could lead you back into the facebook world in no time, so think hard about it. I wish I had never gone back on. I try and stay off it most of the time now & may deactivate my account, but not fully delete it. I find its mostly “too much information”. And its refreshing to get news from people face to face, instead of reading a mass status update that comes across as impersonal. I also stay off news websites on weekends so that I can really enjoy my “off” time and be with family & do things around the house without letting the world in. I’m plugged in enough during the week. Any news can wait until Monday morning.

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