As of this past Sunday, June 7, I am no longer a member of Facebook. No, I don’t mean that I deactivated my account. In Facebook terminology, deactivated means that although no one else can see your profile or interact with you, your account is basically dormant, sitting on Facebook’s servers and waiting for you to log in again, after which it will not be deactivated. Deleted, on the other hand, means that at the end of a two-week waiting period, your account is gone forever. You can’t log back in and retrieve it after that two weeks. Your data is gone, too, though I’ve heard it can linger on Facebook servers for up to ninety days.
I signed up for an account a few years after it started and became A Thing. With the exception of a months-long period during one year of college,* I’ve had an active account the entire time. But over the years, I grew tired of Facebook. I started to get sick of seeing obnoxious political debates, inane “trending stories,” stupid photos, and all the other silliness that populates the average person’s news feed.
I also was increasingly sick of the company’s policies. The privacy settings were never intuitive (and that’s coming from someone who’s pretty internet-savvy) and often switched to allow more people to see more things on your profile than you originally allowed. I dislike the CEO both as a private person and a businessman and I really don’t like the idea of Facebook owning everything you do on the Internet. Dealing with the site was mentally draining for me. Towards the end of my time as a Facebook user, I was logging a couple times a month, if that. And no, I never had the app on my phone.
It’s embarrassing how much time we, the millennial generation, have spent on Facebook. Based on talking to my friends and seeing stuff online, I think I spent less time on Facebook than the average person—and even that was way too much. If you took all the time the average young person has spent on Facebook since its inception and added it up, I’m willing to bet it would be enough to learn a foreign language, acquire a new skill like a musical instrument, or read enough books in a certain field to be an expert on said field. As someone who has done the first two, there’s a lot of time required to do that!
Understand that I’m not anti-social media. I love Twitter. It’s through Twitter that I found a writing group I’m always talking about (because it’s just that awesome). I like Pinterest a lot, too. I don’t interact with many potential blog readers on there, but I like finding new knitting and crochet patterns. And I absolutely adore Goodreads. It’s the most amazing website ever, if you ask me. It’s only on Goodreads that you’ll find people as equally disappointed as you are about the final book in a series you really liked is just really bad. I used LinkedIn, too. These days, it looks kind of strange if you don’t have an account and honestly, I kind of like LinkedIn.
For a while, I lived with all of the Facebook problems enumerated above. I knew they were there, but I just sort of stuffed them into the back of my mind. The thing that really pushed me to quit—the straw that broke the camel’s back, as the saying goes—was a new feature Facebook introduced. I don’t know when it went into effect because, as I said, I was rarely using my account. I noticed in the past few months that there was a search history whenever I clicked in the search bar. I assumed it was only the past five or ten searches, but upon further exploration, I discovered that Facebook had my entire search history in my account, just sitting right there. Obviously they were recording it from day one, but hadn’t made it visible to users. It may sound like a strange thing to get hung up on, but that really bothered me. Having the entire history of my Facebook stalking staring right at me creeped me out.
Some people may be wondering how I’m going to stay in touch with friends and get invited to things without Facebook. Luckily, the second issue isn’t a problem for me: my social group doesn’t really use Facebook Events to plan things. I don’t know why; we just don’t. As for the first issue, I already have the phone numbers, email addresses, Skype usernames, etc. of people I want to stay in touch with. I text most of my American friends and use Skype and/or email for people abroad. That’s also another reason I have the LinkedIn account: if someone I haven’t talked to in a long time really wants to get in touch with me, they can do so on there.
If you like Facebook and want to continue to use it, all the more power to you. If you don’t like it, I’d highly suggest following my lead and deleting permanently, if you can. It’s liberating. Whether you decide to stay with it or not, there is one thing you should do on a regular basis: log out and go do something in the real world like call a friend, take a walk, or—my favorite option—read a book.
*Note: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my Facebook-less period was also one of the most productive and intellectually rewarding times in college.