Over at Drew Myron’s blog, I mentioned that I had recently nuked my Facebook account, and, six weeks later, did not regret a thing. She was curious as to my experiences with it, and I decided that rather than write a lengthy comment, I’d put up a blog post, especially in light of the fact that several other people asked why I deleted my account.
I was an early adopter of Facebook – I set up my account in the fall of 2004, back when it was still only available to college students, was ad- and app-free, and all you could do was poke people and write on walls. In fact, I had a Facebook account before I had a cell phone (although this is because until I was about 20 I had some strange Luddite attitude toward portable technology; I preferred that both my computer and phone stay confined to my room).
Back then, Facebook was fun. It was a nice little diversion from studying, and nothing more. You couldn’t use it to send event invitations or instant messages. The reason it was fun was because it was so simple, so bare-bones. You didn’t have to waste time trying to reconfigure the privacy settings it had changed without your permission. You didn’t have to search around to figure out how to make the ticker disappear. You pretty much just left silly messages now and again, and that was that.
In the seven years (seven years! I feel old!) that I had a Facebook account, so many things changed. It became open to high school students, and then to the general public. Apps came out, and those apps spawned games, none of which I actually wanted to play. You could send messages, instant messages, and event invites. You could post photographs and notes and links. Ads showed up. Most of the time, I either accepted or embraced these changes.
But then, about a year ago, Facebook became more trouble than it was worth, at least for me. It seemed like every three months, my privacy settings changed without my knowledge or consent, and I had to put them back. That timeline ticker showed up, and even though I made it go away, my settings got usurped by some upgrade or another, and it came back. At that point, I lost interest in trying, and consigned myself to an ugly layout. Worst of all, Facebook kept deciding which of my friends’ updates I wanted to see when. Even when I adjusted my settings to make sure I was getting everyone’s updates, I would eventually realize that people had somehow gotten excluded again. Facebook stopped being fun in part because it become more trouble than it was worth to keep my settings the way I wanted them.
Eventually, I became concerned that I wasn’t really connecting with friends at all. I was getting brief updates, and while they were sometimes substantial, most of the time, they were not. This wasn’t friendship. It was just bits of information crossing my consciousness without contributing to my life. Of course, deep down, I always knew that. But when Facebook was just a fun diversion, that lacked clutter and frustration, it didn’t matter so much. When it began to feel like work, the lack of meaningful connections happening on the site became all the more apparent.
For a while, I still resisted quitting. For one thing, Facebook is my primary place to find photos, especially from dance competitions. And I also worried that, without Facebook, nobody would ever bother inviting me to anything ever again. In fact, mere hours after I deleted my account, a friend admonished me that by quitting, I ran the risk of not getting invited to parties.
And then I thought of this line from Infinite Jest (and yes, I know I didn’t actually like the book very much, but it’s the one line from the novel that really sticks with me):
He . . . realized intellectually that the feeling of deprived panic over missing something made no sense.
As I was doing yoga on Christmas Eve morning, I realized I’d had enough. I didn’t care what social events I’d be missing. I didn’t care that I’d have to work a little harder to find photographs of dance events. I was just done with the whole mess. Facebook wasn’t fun, and I was done with it. So I decided to keep my account for the rest of the year, and deleted it moments before leaving for a New Year’s Eve party. I started 2012 free of Facebook.
Six weeks later, I don’t regret a thing. Yes, I know I’ve missed a few social events that I discovered after the fact, but it’s not as though I spent those nights holed up in my apartment, pining for something to do. But I have no interest in bringing my account back. I don’t miss it in the slightest. I still have Google Plus. I still text my friends. I still blog. That’s all I really need, and I don’t think my life is lacking from the avoidance of one little social network.