“Should I delete my Facebook account?” is a question that more and more of us are asking ourselves these days. If these three signs feel true for you, it just might be time.
Making a Change
About two weeks ago, I deleted my Facebook account. Not deactivated, not paused, not put on hold – deleted. And although a lot of my friends were completely surprised upon hearing this news, the truth is that my disenchantment with Facebook — an app that currently boasts nearly 3 billion users worldwide — had been growing for some time. When I first joined Facebook at the impressionable young age of 19, it had seemed nothing but fun, exciting, and new. It was a place to look up my friends, see what they were up to, and share photos after parties. But somewhere along the road from 19 to 37, Facebook ceased to be that harmless little app it was when I joined, and instead became a complete time-suck that seemed to cause me nothing but anxiety and sadness.
To Each Their Own
Now before I say any more on this topic, I want to make one thing clear: there are many people for whom Facebook works quite well. For some it’s a great way to stay in touch with family, keep engaged with social groups, or simply have a place to post a question and gather advice and resources from their network. If you’re one of these people – that’s wonderful! And who knows, perhaps you’ll find some value in this post, but it wasn’t written for you per se. I wrote this post with another group of people in mind – those for whom Facebook does not work so well.
I’m guessing you might already have an intuitive sense about whether or not you fall into this latter group, but in case you’re not sure, I hope the following three signs will help you to gauge whether this ever-popular app is having a detrimental effect on your overall wellbeing. These are the signs that told me it was, at long last, time to leave.
There IS a path and life available to you that doesn’t include Facebook, and you just might really, really love it.
Sign #1: You spend more time on Facebook than you’re comfortable with, despite your efforts.
One of the very first things I used to do every morning when I turned on my computer was to go to Facebook and check my notifications. If someone tagged me in a post, I’d read what they said and comment back. If someone tagged me in photos from an event the night before, I’d look them over, all the while judging whether I thought I looked good or bad in each photo and feeling bad about it if it was the latter. If someone invited me to an event, I’d go to the event page, read the description, and look over the guest list to try and decide if I wanted to go. All of this presented me with an enormous amount of mental clutter and was, quite frankly, a terrible way to start my day.
The thing is, I knew this, and yet I had an almost impossible time changing my habits.
As I began to notice that Facebook might not be good for me, I deleted the app from my phone (after repeatedly re-installing and re-deleting it several times). I removed the bookmark from my browser bar. At one point I even installed a URL blocker that stopped me from using Facebook at certain hours. But although these attempts helped to a certain extent, their effect was minimal at best.
I told myself that I just didn’t have the willpower to get things under control.
But the reality is, it had nothing to do with willpower and everything to do with the fact that ALL parts of Facebook — from its infinite scroll to its constant notifications of likes and tags — were specifically designed to take up as much of our attention as (un)humanly possible. I’m here to say: it’s not your fault.
Sign #2: It’s hard not to compare yourself to others on Facebook, and you often sign off feeling that your job, relationship status, or life isn’t what it should be.
We all know rationally that people tend to bring to light the best 1% of their lives when they post to Facebook. But this doesn’t change the effect that browsing an infinite feed of promotions and marriages and babies and happy endings has on our emotional states. Speaking personally, I know that I have quite a nice nice life. I have a business I enjoy, passions that excite me every day, a home I adore, friends who love me, a supportive family, a wonderful place to live, and I love myself very much. And yet, despite all of this, 30 minutes of browsing my Facebook feed can at times leave me feeling wholly inadequate – that somehow, I should have much, much more and am nowhere near enough.
Sign #3: Facebook leaves you with an empty and unconnected feeling.
It seems to me that, in theory, Facebook was supposed to make us feel MORE connected with our families, our friends, our community, and the world than we would have felt without it. So why then, do so many of us feel more empty the more we use it? I think the answer might lie in something I’ve noticed over the years: many friends who used to call me on my birthday now opt to post to my Facebook wall instead. And why not? The reality is that when we can see what’s happening in someone’s life from afar, we’re a whole lot less likely to pick up the phone and give them a call to find out how they’re doing. Maybe, just maybe, the less time we spend on Facebook, the more time we’d spend reaching out to the people we care about and getting together with them face-to-face out in the real world.
Where do we go from here?
I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should delete your account, because that’s a personal choice and entirely up to you. The primary message I want to convey to you is this: Facebook is optional and NOT a requirement. There IS a path and life available to you that doesn’t include Facebook, and you just might really, really love it. It might be a life with less anxiety; a life with more free time to focus on the things that truly matter to you; a life in which you can be more fully present when spending time with the people you love. I know for me, it’s been all of that and more.
Looking for more?
If you’re curious about embarking on a less digital life, I highly recommend either of Cal Newport’s books, Digital Minimalism or Deep Work. Or you can check out these other related posts from Janelle (that’s me!) at Ellanyze: