My Year Without Facebook

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A dedicated NPR junkie, I find myself most frequently able to tune in during The Diane Rehm Show due to my continuously changing work schedule.  This morning, a story called “Social Media and Loneliness” was playing when I got in my car after yoga.  You’ll definitely want to listen to the hour-long show, so turn it on as you cook dinner this evening or while you work tomorrow.  Rehm’s guests discussed “what increasing digital connections mean for the epidemic of loneliness” (Source).  Similarly, CNN just released its Living Without Facebook assignment.  Check it out here.  With so much Facebook-free news surrounding me lately, I decided to write my “A Year Without Facebook” post. The end of May marks my 365 days of Facebook freedom, and since I gave up the social media website, my life has changed for the better.

First, I no longer compare myself to others on a daily basis.  In turn, former everyday feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and self-doubt are no longer present in my life.  I don’t compare my life with others, and I don’t need “likes” to validate my ideas or “friends” to feel loved.  Sherry Turkle, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argues that there is “pressure to put your profile out there and be validated by a lot of people” and “pressure to present yourself as the self you want to be – the ideal self – not as who you are but as who you want to be” (Source).  Facebook preys on our most basic insecurities, needs, and desires: the desire to be loved and the desire to belong.

When I used Facebook from 2004 to 2011, I found myself constantly comparing my life to the lives of my Facebook friends.  Everyone else’s life looked so perfect: one friend had the perfect career; one had the perfect wardrobe; one had the perfect home.  During the year I’ve lived Facebook free, I’ve realized that Facebook is less about being your authentic self and more about presenting and performing the person you want to be.  It’s all an act!  For the past year, I’m no longer acting, and I don’t feel the pressure to act… I can just be who I am and live my life without the constant worry and fear of scrutiny from 2,000 Facebook friends.  Additionally, I no longer live with that daily reminder that my life is insignificant when compared with the “perfect lives” of my Facebook friends.  Jealousy is no longer a constant emotion.  My life is instead focused on living the best life I possibly can for me.  The faking and the pretending, those phony elements of Facebook, have been completely eliminated from my life.  I find myself at the end of this year more positive and truly happy; I’m proud of myself and my accomplishments.  And I don’t have to compare my success to others on Facebook… I can compare my present to my past and focus only on what works best for me and my personal growth.

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Second, I am not the first to see, hear, and know about things.  For example, a dozen friends either got engaged, married, or pregnant during the year I’ve lived without Facebook.  I’m always the last to know about anyone’s big news.  On a local scale, I might be the last to find out about a party or social event.  I eventually find out.  I may be the last to know, but I’m okay with that.  Living Facebook-free allowed me to delay that instant gratification and to be fine with knowing I will frequently be out of the loop.

One of the guests on The Diane Rehm Show uses the acronym “FOMO” – the fear of missing out.  We really feel that without Facebook, we’ll miss out.  If we don’t check our Facebook pages, somehow, we’ll miss something.  Facebook feeds our desire to know but also to know immediately.  

I won’t say this transition is easy.  Sometimes, I will feel a little pang of jealousy in my heart when I’m at work and hear everyone laughing about an inside joke I would understand if I had a Facebook account.  However, coping with this teeny negative downside is worth the positive changes in my life.

Third, being able to manage my small symptoms of jealousy has been easier because I’m no longer on Facebook.  How?  I am more comfortable than ever spending time alone, reflecting, reading, writing… just being still and thinking.  Sherry Turkle says, “Solitude, the restorative capacities of solitude, are the bedrock of our ability to form relationships.  And now, you see people at a red light, you see people at the checkout line of a supermarket, and they look like they’re in a panic; they need to connect […] And that compulsion to connect is really not good as the foundation for the kinds of friendships where you really get to know another person” (Source).  Some people have a hard time just existing alone by themselves.  They have to constantly look at other people’s lives on Facebook, text, IM, and Tweet.  I’ve found that during this year without Facebook, I am back to being completely happy all by myself.

Living Facebook-free for one year takes me back to that harmonious place of loving who I am and continuously working to become better as a person instead of continuously updating a Facebook status.  For many years, I couldn’t enjoy or appreciate that stillness.  In fact, during 2008-2009, when I was miserable, full-time jobless, and broke, I spent more time on Facebook than ever before.  Especially during that time, Facebook was an addiction for me.  I spent hours a day on Facebook.  From 2004, when I first developed a Facebook profile, to 2011, when I deactivated, I spent at least an hour a day checking the social media site.  That’s approximately 2,500 hours of my life completely wasted.

My students are similarly addicted, so I know it is a problem for a great number of Facebook users.  Every time we have a break in class, my students are logging in, updating, and looking.  If they spend 30 minutes a day in my class alone on Facebook, imagine how many hours they’re spending total…

It boils down to this: only a few rare folks can use Facebook in a positive, meaningful way without becoming addicted.  You probably think you’re one of those people, naturally, but I challenge you to log your Facebook time this week.  After reviewing your one week tally, consider how much of that time could have been spent doing something worthwhile.  What did you actually accomplish on Facebook that you couldn’t accomplish using the phone, email, or an in-person meeting?

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Fourth, Facebook feeds into our celebrity-crazed culture.  One of Diane Rehm’s guests suggested that the connections on Facebook are “shallow” and “narcissistic,” and I agree.  As opposed to focusing on keeping in touch on a deep level with close friends, many people use Facebook to create the largest network possible: a sea of adoring fans to help the Facebook user feel more and more like a celebrity.  But from what we know of celebrity, it is a shallow, hollow lifestyle…

Living without those 2,000 Facebook friends has an upside.  These days, actual friends will text me or call me.  They will email me.  They’ll reach out and say, “I haven’t seen you in so long!  Let’s have lunch.”  If I were still using Facebook, this person wouldn’t reach out and make the effort, as they’d feel they were connected and know what’s going on in my life.  I have seen my relationships deepening… or, on the opposite side of the coin, eliminated altogether.  The superficial “friends” and folks who were just there to build my “Facebook Friends” list are no longer around, and I don’t mind it.  The live relationships I have in my everyday life are real, meaningful, and rewarding.  The petty superficiality left along with my Facebook account, and I feel so much more like a satisfied adult and less like an awkward teenager trying to be the most popular girl in high school.

In the past year without Facebook, I’ve been focusing on myself and what’s important in my life.  I’m now making positive steps toward true happiness and self-fulfillment.  I work… a lot.  When I’m not growing and evolving as a superteacher, I’m volunteering with my sorority’s alum chapter or with JLGO.  Putting in all that time volunteering scored me a position on the 2012-2013 JLGO Executive Board!  I’ve also begun to exercise; developed better eating and drinking habits; used my free time to read, write, and blog; gained stronger and deeper friendships; and eliminated so many horrible feelings and emotions.  Living without Facebook is a lifestyle change.  Now that I’m a year free from its clutches, I realize Facebook doesn’t meet any of my needs, goals, or wants.  What does it do for you?

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36 thoughts on “My Year Without Facebook

  1. Brandon

    I am on day 1 of (hopefully) 365 of being away from Facebook. I’m going about it a little bit differently; I haven’t deleted or deactivated the profile, I’m just not going to the site or looking at it for a year. I’ve found the “time drain” thing to be a very valid concern, and I would like to spend my time differently.

    What did you find to be the hardest aspect of moving away from Facebook (if anything)?

    • Hey Brandon, Good for you! I wish you all the best. It was always hard for me to receive emails about a wall post or a new friend request. Experts say we get a little burst of joy, of validation, when we see those emails. I’d say that’s one of the hardest thing to eliminate from your life… What do you plan on doing with all of your spare time? I hope to hear back from you in May of 2013 with a one-year update! Good luck, Alex

      • Brandon

        Alex, thanks for the response! As for my free time, well….there’s a big list of books and movies I would like to finally tackle. Perhaps take my running to the next level and finally get that 1/2 marathon under 2:00:00. Who knows, really?

        It’s not like my friends are going to disappear. At least I think they won’t. Ha. I’ll be sure to let you know how things are progressing.

        Stumbled across your site here today, and have been enjoying it. Very interesting stuff here!

  2. Kiri

    I have always believed things happen for a reason such as ‘stumbling’ (as Brandon put it) onto your blog when I have only made the announcment an hour ago, to my husband that I am going to switch off my Page for the year (if thats how you do it?)
    My main reason is I need to complete my Diploma and facebook is just such an automated thing to go onto when I turn the laptop on and then next thing I know an hour has passed and no study
    I love the idea of being so fulfilled and secure within myself that I dont need to compete and compare with everyone on the news feed as to how my life is going
    I don’t own a mobile phone so I guess if people want to contact me they will have to pick up the old land line or email, lucky for now I am a SAHM so not many people will need to contact me
    I must be honest however and say the thought of “going off” is actually making me feel anxious, which is strange it’s only FB! it’s not like giving up smoking or chocolate…..any suggestions for the first day?

    • Hey Kiri, Good luck with deactivating your Facebook! It is going to be really, really tough, and my only advice is to not be so hard on yourself if you have a lapse in self-control and feel the need to check in with Facebook. For 7 years, Facebook was an important part of my everyday life, so one year of living without it was a struggle because I had to break those daily habits ingrained in me for nearly a decade. Be patient with yourself! Slip-ups don’t have to mean giving up on your resolve to live Facebook-free. Check back in soon and let me know how you’re doing! All the best, Alex

  3. hey..wow..what an amazing article..what you said is totally true.. i have been facebook free for 4 months now!!!! do you think i can get a girlfriend without it? I am 26 PhD student..i mean not desperate or anything..just that everyone seems to be on it and what if i meet a girl and she wants to know more about me and i dont have one..thanks a ton!

    • Hey there! Of COURSE you can meet people without Facebook, and it might be a good thing that a potential love interest can’t stalk you and learn everything about your past and your personal life with the click of a button ;) Thanks for reading! Alex

  4. Hi there Alex,

    I just read your article and I must say, it is wickedly awesome :) I’m embarking on a 30-day Facebook Fast, as inspired by a similar article where the author went off Facebook for 30 days and never came back. I started my fast on November 1, 2012 and I have to say, I feel good ;) Without FB, there’s a lot I can do. Since November 1, I’ve been able to tie knots, shuffle cards (I finally learned that awesome arch trick!), juggle two balls and do a coin roll. All this I did because I decided to deactivate Facebook.

    I completely agree with you. Everything you said makes perfect sense. I’ve always thought of going off Facebook because it was the same as when Friendster years ago: it wasted my precious time. I tried using Facebook responsibly but I could never do so. Even after I made a new profile, and added only people I trust, I still felt like I was wasting my time. I even felt stress and negativity :(

    So I decided to go on the 30-day Facebook fast and see the difference. So far, I’m lovin it :D And the part about solitude, it really hits the nail. Before, when I was using FB, I felt being alone was so depressing. But after not using FB for days, I finally felt at peace. I actually enjoyed time alone :) I could smile at the little cool things of nature. I could listen to music calmly. I could walk and just enjoy that natural essence of life.

    I’m thinking about extending my “fast” and go full-throttle with 365 days. In fact, maybe I’ll even do it for a lifetime, until I get a more suitable social network. You think it’s good that I go ahead and extend this to 365 days? I like this new kind of “quiet” that I’ve found.

    Oh, and I’ve read a lot of Quitting Facebook articles a lot since I went on a Facebook fast, just to see how, as my dad said to me yesterday when he saw how happy I was doing knot tying, “there’s a life behind Facebook” Your article just tells me that there is indeed, life behind Facebook. What you learned, the ways you adjusted… it makes me happy to know that I made a good decision.

    There’s so much I want to do, and now I’m slowly doing them. :-) So thanks for this great article, Alex. Glad you went through and gave up the site. Now I can listen to myself more.

    And just like Osita, maybe I can get a girlfriend the natural way, now that I won’t be knowing stuff the creepy way ;)

    • Hey Miguel, I loved reading your comment! Thanks so much for posting and for sharing your Facebookless adventure with me. You’ll have to keep me updated on your progress :) -Alex

      • migzmarfori

        Your welcome :) And thanks for reading the comment. I just like to write long, meaningful comments. (by the way, I’m using my WordPress account, that’s why you can see my last name. Yup, my nickname is Migz)
        Sure, I’ll keep you posted. Hmmm, I’ve thought about it on whether I should go Facebook-less for the year. I checked the ups and downs, and I think…. I’ll do it.; :) I’ll go Facebook-less for a year! It sounds really exciting to do. I’ll definitely experience some downs, especially in the social department, but if it means being able to cultivate new connections in a positive way, live life awesomely, and more… why not? :)

        All right, I’ll give you updates, every month. So expect the next update on December 1, 2012. It will all lead up to November 1, 2013 :) Then we shall see if Facebook is still worthy of my time.

        Say, Alex, I got a question: were there times you logged in Facebook in your 1-year journey? I wanted to ask because there might be a time I’ll be forced to log-in Facebook, maybe to see a picture or check some info. Does it count if I do those kind of logins?

  5. in order to be facebook free you need to totally delete the thing..seriously..i mean yea its tough but deactivating it DOES not count because you still have that inclination of okay maybe i can log in..and logging in doesnt count..its like taking the drug again hoping it wont affect you.it will! ..think of facebook as an ex girlfriend..lol.. NO CONTACT! and i still am facebook free and you wont believe how much DRAMA I realized i have been avoiding without this thing..well i kind of have to..i am in a small college town..i teach and am a student..so i really need to keep my life a little on the DL..but yea..delete it…use your time well..read the bible….go out and meet people and do things the natural way.blog…write…call..text etc….but facebook really to me is a primevil..yes i know i know..but as a man..THERE ARE MANY MANY things about it that can draw you down the wrongg path with this thing…so be a man..and make a change..DO SOMETHING FOR THE WORLD!!! NO TIME FOR LIKING AND DISLIKING AND SEEING NOTIFICATION..GO OUT AND LIVE

    CARPEDIEM!

    peaaaceee

    • I hear you, dood! :) I’ve officially put a delete on my account. It’s partially your post that inspired me to go for it. The rest… I feel better without it. Yeah, you’re right, deactivating doesn’t count. I logged in 2-3 times the past 20 days since I started November 20, so I decided to go for it. Also, it was kind of unsettling to find that only 4 out of my 100+ friends joined me in Google+. So I guess it just pains me to go. But hey, it’s great to get off Facebook, especially now that I feel great pressing the delete button. ;)

      Carpe diem, dood. Carpe diem with gusto!

      Cheers \m/

    • Awww, I can’t “delete” my account yet. My family found out that I’m deleting my account (I didn’t tell them ‘cuz I knew they would say something). They found out when they told me to log-in my FB account to check a new photo, they saw the “deletion” confirmation page. They got surprised, and told me to keep it “deactivated” instead. Hahaha. Well, anyway, the FB account doesn’t have that much info put anyway. Oh well.. I’ll still continue doing something for the world :)

  6. Hi Alex,

    I want to make an update: I’ve officially pressed the “delete” on my FB account today. I’ve decided to go ahead and just delete the thing, like what Osita suggests. 20 days in this journey, I did log-in, to inform my friends I’m on Google+ right now. Out of the 100+ friends I got there, only 4 joined me on Google+. Wow. I guess it shows over 90% don’t want to leave FB. And as for Google+, it doesn’t sway me into spending more time in it. In fact, I just use it now for communication. I don’t share much of my data on it. It’s like: Google+ doesn’t add much at all to my time. It’s “log-in, check on messages, message back, chat and log-off” Google+ doesn’t have that thing that gets you addicted into it. Google+ is very minimal in design, so it’s a nice alternative to Facebook.

    So yeah, I just went for it and clicked delete. These past 20 days have taught me: it’s a nice life without Facebook. There’s so much to learn and do. I’ve committed mistakes, I’ve done things I’ve never done before, I’ve spent great times with friends… :D I’m happy to have finally quit. Well, it’ll take 14 days to delete the account.

  7. Hi there Alex,

    It’s me, Miguel. You know, the guy who posted a long posted about going on a 30-Day Facebook Fast and then turned into a a 1-Year Facebook-less journey? How are you? I’m also the migzmarfori who posted here
    the migzmarfori is my WordPress.com account.

    I wanted to give you a heads up on what’s happened since going off Facebook. For this December 3 update, other than a few occasional log-ins (just for announcements and picture-fetching), I’m actually happy not being on Facebook anymore :) It’s awesome!

    So awesome in fact that now, I’ve finally put up my blog:
    http://thereactionblog.wordpress.com
    Yes, I contribute finally putting up the blog with going off Facebook. If I had not gone off Facebook, I wouldn’t be here right now telling you this :)

    And I’ve learned some cool skills like origami and additional card shuffles.

    :) So yes, I’m happier to be out of Facebook. :) All right, give you another heads up next month!

  8. Becki Alvarado

    Alex, I LOVE your article. I have had FB for years; but have been on the verge of deleting it for the last 2 years now. We moved to the West Coast where we know no one and thought that FB would be a nice link. Nope. People on FB just want to play games, talk about other people and stalk old flames; huge waste of time in my book. I cannot remember the last time I logged in.

    I appreciated your view of learning to be ok with learning the news (announcements, etc) eventually. I think that is my biggest complaint regarding FB. I do not like that most people are absolutely ok with a computer screen being their only link to the world. I want real communication. I pick up the phone, actually dial the number and speak to my friends and family (text does not count). I like getting together with people and seeing them face-to-face. FB cannot provide that. I was telling one of my friends that I am not happy with virtual friendships and she said she prefers her virtual world to her real one. How sad.

    I will choose reality over FB any day of the week.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Becki! If you do decide to delete your FB account, please email me at alexrister1@gmail.com and let me know how you feel… I’d love to hear your updates and your progress.

      My favorite part of your comment was your friend who said she prefers her virtual world to her real world… I think many of us do love this fantasy we’ve constructed through Facebook, but you’re right… That’s not life! -AR

    • You go there, Becki! Nice of you to share your experience.

      Like what you mentioned: I prefer reality. It feels better. You get to do a lot of things. FB? Nah. It doesn’t tempt me anymore. I’m glad you’ve joined us.

      But it amuses me, like Alex, that your friend prefers the virtual world. REALLY? That is not life at all.

      Good of you to finally kick the bucket on FB. Let’s enjoy the FB-free life! :)

  9. katiekoppin

    Loved your article. I have been on and off Facebook but have officially permanently deleted my account for the new year and just blogged about it. This way there is no temptation to go back :)

  10. Hi Alex!

    Tanjoubi Omedetou or Happy New Year, in Japanese. :) How’s things going there in the USA? Hope 2013 brings new stuff for you, me and the rest of the world.

    Well, as promised, let me give you an update on my FB-less for a Year update.

    So far, it’s great :) I’ve done a lot of self-improvement time since “quitting” FB. I’ve played the video games I always wanted to play, and I still get to enjoy the quiet I’ve found,

    The only time I logged in FB was on my pre-bday and bday (Dec 6-7) just to get bday greetings. But after that, I deactivated again and I never went back to FB. I’ve been off FB for so long that my urge has been depleted.

    These past two months since quitting FB has shown me a lot of areas I need to improve on and has shown me the goals I want to achieve. The fact that I’m already thinking like this shows that being on FB for too long never lets me get this time to reflect.

    Also, I got to finish the draft of an ebook I’m planning to release very soon. :) Now that’s something huh? That’s update no. 3! :)

    All right, ’till the next update ;) Tanjoubi omedetou 2013!

  11. Good article. I too have deleted my Fecesbook account and don’t have any regrets about it. I’ve been encouraging others to do the same, and amazing enough it seems to be working.

  12. Hi Alex,

    Another update of my Year-less Facebook journey. I’ve successfully not logged in my Facebook last month! Woohoo! :) It’s been deactivated for so long I don’t have that urge to even see my profile again. :D

    Much like the last months, I still see a few things I need to improve. But there are things that have improved since quitting. First, there’s a cool new idea for an Ebook I’m making right now (I’ll tell you more about it when it’s almost done). Second, I find that the new quiet I got really keeps me calmer than ever. And third, I’m able to enjoy more time with my friends. I no longer have to worry about posting on Facebook; just spending face-to-face time with friends beats Facebook anytime.

    So overall: going off Facebook for another month feels awesome! All right, next update on March ;)

  13. Hi Alex!

    Another update of my year-less Facebook journey. Okay so for the last month (and a part of this month, March), I’ve logged in my FB account. It’s only to send some files to friends whose emails don’t work (or they’re too lazy to open their email). But I’ve only logged in a few times but the rest of the time, I’m always off FB.

    Like the last months, I still see more things to improve. But like before, it just gets better. Being off FB lets me enjoy life as it is. Now, I’m thinking of how to expand more time into the open world. I never thought like this when I was always-on FB. :)

    Next update on April. I hope this time, I won’t be logging on April. I’ve already logged on my FB this month, but only to send some files (this time, it will work)

  14. Hi Alex,

    Here’s my update on the journey :)

    Unfortunately, I’m back on Facebook. It’s for a promise I made to my college friends, so they asked to keep my FB account open. It’s important, so I’ll keep it open for the time being. But that doesn’t I’ll give up my time off Facebook. :) You know, being off Facebook taught me a lot of things in this world. I’m glad I read your post when I went off FB months ago.

    So rather than feel like I have to give up my time off, what I’ll do is just… stay off FB less than before. I was scared I might go back to my old ways but you know what? I still got a lot of things to do outside of FB. What I’d do is just keep in touch with my friends (the friends I made a promise with) on FB Chat.

    Anyway, not sure if I’d still call my journey A Year Without Facebook. Why not we call this… a Year of Less-Facebook. :) Sounds good right? I’ll give you an update on May.

  15. just stumbled on your article. my facebook account is about 5 days away from being deleted permanently (as facebook deactivates your account for two weeks prior to deletion). have been on the fence for the last 6 months, deactivating a couple weeks earlier this year before a friend talked me into going back).

    between all the memes, political posts, the “making soup for supper, YUMMY” posts, and facebook showing me posts from people i am not friends with because somebody liked their status, or posts from pages i dont like because that page pays over my “friends” posts and the pages i like post, it was time to take action.
    the final straw, i broke my own rules of not friending anybody i work with and it bit me in the but, so my decision was an effort to keep my circle tight. 287 friends (small by todays facebook standards) is not tight. the 5-6 people i stayed in contact with in real life will continue to do so.

    i keep hearing how people use it to stay in contact with friends and family….but i wonder, is there really any contact made outside of reading posts (and with facebook messing around with the algorithms of what you see on the timeline, are you even seeing those?). i feel if those people are important enough in your life, you wouldve been in contact prior to fb (or if you reconnected on fb, you would make an effort to text, email, skype in real life). everything else is just for stroking an ego.

    i have gained a couple real good friends in real life because of facebook pages with mutual interests in facebook, but i have also lost friends (a couple of them couldnt get over the fact that i held different beliefs than them and did not know how to deal with it without unfriending me if i didnt remove posts they didnt agree with).

    so far, life has been good without facebook. i could assume that if i was on it, the majority of my feed the past week would be ice bucket challenges or posts about the situation in Ferguson, Mo. also it is amazing how long a phone battery lasts when you arent checking facebook and instagram (i deleted that account as well) when you are “bored”

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