About three weeks ago, I made the radical decision to step away from Facebook. When I tell you that this decision was radical, I ain’t lyin’. I’m a girl who was constantly connected. I’ve amassed a pretty hefty and awesome social network; I have used Facebook as my place to vent all of my frustrations, to bare my soul to anyone who’d listen/read, and my openness and vulnerability has garnered me a loyal following of friends, colleagues and clients.
I also have an incredible social network of connected social activists, thanks to some business Facebook groups I’m in. Facebook has been my source of news (I don’t have cable), learning, deepening conversations about social activism, race relations, and so much more. Those who say that Facebook is a wasteland of baby memes and cat videos should spend a minute on my feed. It’s intense.
And so, after the election, it may come as no surprise that my feed was a nonstop flittering scroll of outrage and fear. If we’re friends on Facebook, it’s no surprise to you that #imwithher. (If you’re not, that’s not the point of this post, so you can keep reading.) Given the circles I run in and the passion of the activists I’m connected to, you can imagine what my daily feed looked like.
I’d have given my left tit for a cat video.
But I also felt it was my responsibility to bare witness to what was unfolding, and funnel my rage and panic somewhere, and Facebook seemed like my best bet. I wasn’t able to take to the streets in protest, because a). I’m a mom of a young child and the streets didn’t seem particularly safe, given some of the news I was reading and b). I had been in the hospital for two days before the election and was unable to get out of bed for a couple of weeks.
So, Facebook it was.
Until one morning, about three weeks ago, when, as I scrolled through my feed, I could feel my blood pressure rising. My heart started pounding, and my breath was shortening. I was becoming so enraged, and terrified, and had nowhere to go with it. It occurred to me in that moment that this wasn’t good for me. Perhaps it was because I’d been in the hospital with a heart issue that I was so keenly aware of my physical reaction, but I suddenly dropped my phone. I just couldn’t anymore.
I deleted the app from my phone that morning.
I’ve long-since had a Chrome extension on my computer called “Kill Newsfeed.” It allows me to check into and manage my groups, and receive notifications, but when I go to my homepage, the screen looks like this:
Here’s the truth – I’m not even gonna try to hide it: I was a FB addict. I checked that thing on my phone morning, noon and night. It was the first thing I did in the morning, and the last thing I did at night. It felt so vitally important. The commenting, the conversing, the expressing, the information. All of it. Like, REALLY important.
Until it wasn't.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the three weeks I’ve been off of Facebook, in no particular order:
1. My time with my son is precious. The amount of time I spent checking my phone was, frankly, embarrassing. I was clearly sending the message to my child that my phone was more important than he was; that Facebook was more important than he was; that engaging with strangers over the internet was more important than engaging with my own child. I’m sickened and ashamed of that.
2. I’m happier without it. I’m no longer inundated with all sorts of bad, scary, inflammatory news 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, my networks very deliberately don’t share fake news stories. I’m not friends with too many conspiracy theorists (one or two, maybe), but no one needs to be that informed all of the time. I’m informed, and get my news from reliable sources, when I choose to, and then I go about my life and business.
3. I can’t believe how much time I wasted. I literally can’t believe the hours that were sucked into Facebook. If I tracked them, I’d vomit.
4. Since I got off of Facebook, my business + income has more than doubled. I’ve always viewed Facebook as a networking tool, and to a large degree it is. I still manage my groups, and have loyal Mamas in The Lost Moms Club who engage with me there, when I deliberately set aside time to be in there. But when I opened up space energetically, and made actual time for it, work started pouring in. This did not happen the other way around. If you know me, you know I’m not all that woo-woo, but there are coincidences that cannot be denied. I didn’t start getting busy and then say, “Wow, Facebook is getting in the way; I need to take a break so I can do my work.” Nope. I said, “Facebook is getting in the way of my happiness and peace of mind,” I stopped, and then work started to pour in.
5. I get my news from reliable sources. I subscribe to the New York Times and listen to NPR. While some may argue that these are biased news sources, I’d argue that there’s nothing completely unbiased out there, and that these two agencies don’t ever report anything that isn’t confirmed. That has saved a shit-ton of time and energy that I used to waste fretting about something that may or may not have panned out to be true.
6. I’m looking at ways to be actually active, rather than passively active. Social media activism isn’t activism, and I was spending a lot of time being informed and outraged about a lot of things on the Internet, but not a whole lot of time getting out into my community and contributing. It’s easy to feel like you’re making a difference when you’re posting a shit-ton of stuff online, but let’s face it, it’s pretty limited, and pretty lame. So now I’m making plans with friends to take our kids to our local homeless shelter and cook meals for the homeless a couple of weekends a month. It’s a small thing, but it’s something I get to do with my son, and for my community. You know. Actual activism.
7. I’m connecting with friends more IRL. Facebook makes you feel connected in many ways, and the truth is that I have many very close friends I met on Facebook first, and real life later. Truly good friends, with whom I vacation every year. That being said, those day-to-day friendships I maintain offline, and lately I’ve been having a lot more conversations and dinners and drinks with the people I really care about in my life. It takes more effort, but it’s so much more deeply rich. And actually connected.
8. I’m far less lonely. One thing I’ve posted a lot about on Facebook is the fact that as a single mom who runs her own business alone from home, I can be desperately lonely sometimes. Desperately. Turns out, Facebook, while connecting me with many, also kept me isolated. It kept me feeling like I was connecting with other people, so I did less to do so IRL, and the difference is actually quite stark. Without the false sense of connection, I’m having to reach out to people more, and I feel far more connected now than I have in the last few years. Plus I have way more time on my hands!
I’m not saying I’ll never be on Facebook again. Who knows where this path will lead. But when my friend Melissa gave up Facebook over a year ago, we thought she was crazy. She’s never been back on, and has no plans to anytime soon. She and I are now hanging out on IG, where baby memes and cat videos abound.