8 min read
About 3 months ago, I quit Facebook. By quit, I mean deleted. My profile is gone—I can’t get it back. Deactivating, I knew, would not work for me. (Somehow my biz page is inexplicably still up, but that’s a glitch.) Bye bye, weird blue monster. I’ve gone AWOL.
By the time I left, I had a robust few thousand “friends” and an active profile page. Not bad for someone with a personal brand who never actively tried to network by friending people.
So, why did I leave?
First, let me just say that having a personal brand online has always been a bit strange for me. At times, it can feel like the internet has allowed us to internalize toxic, old-school capitalistic notions of “self-as-commodity” more than ever before. Facebook, by nature, can encourage this cultural psychosis. There’s a whole clan of two-dimensional cheerleaders online who use their personal lives to sell pyramid schemes, regurgitated platitudes, and airbrushed realities. It’s downright icky.
And don’t get me started on the rampant misappropriation + theft of culture, quotes, and ideas. No no no.
I say this rant because I know I’m not the only one, and I imagine there’s a least a head or two out there nodding in agreement right now. These shared feelings are the foundation I’m working from. Ok, rant over. Onto “being a personal brand.”
So, when you’re “supposed” to be a “spokesperson” for yourself online, shit gets…weird. Let’s just start there.
- First: friends, family and high school creepers don’t really get that everything that’s posted on your profile [including photos + comments] somehow reflects on your business, even if that’s not how you want it to be. [I know you can shut off interactive posting, but that didn’t fully jive with me.]
- As well, everything YOU say/have said, ever, since the beginning of time, can reflect back on your reputation in life + business. Queasy, eh?
- This goes for your visual imagery, the photos of yourself, the amount of likes/comments you receive, and the people you’re friends with.
That’s a lot of pressure, at least for me. See, I’m a private + sensitive person—but I’m also deeply passionate about a lot of things. That made Facebook an easy place for me to make large statements and feel emotionally affected by other people’s content. Kind of a disaster, because I had been on there during the bumpy ride of my twenties when I went through major bouts of isolation, depression, and incredible shifts and growth-spurts. There was a lot of “old me” online.
I also know I spent a lot of time putting my well-thought out ideas into a space where they’d just evaporate—instead of noting them and using them in a much more fulfilling (and enduring) form of creative expression.
There was also the distinct and unpleasant feeling of being watched.
Watched by people who were no longer in my life.
Watched by people who loved me but didn’t feel like picking up the phone.
Watched by peers, watched by competitors, watched by a giant global force that was hanging onto every word I used to decipher how best to sell to me.
Look, I know Facebook does a lot of good in this world. And everyone gets to make a living, including me [I myself have written my fair share of Facebook ads], but the real question was this: was all of my discomfort worth it? Which brings me to my next point.
What was I getting out of it?
I first requested to join Facebook before it was even open to my little art school, back when “Tom” was a real dude who looked like a t-shirt clad high school boyfriend of mine. So by 2016, I had been on there for quite a while. Something like 13 years.
I had “lived” basically my whole online adult life on Facebook. I had been thinking about leaving for quite some time, but when that realization struck me, I literally stopped what I was doing, looked up towards something larger than me [probably a tree], and thought:
“Huh. Interesting. My whole adult life.”
Once I realized that I didn’t know what life was like without Facebook, I had to know. Immediately.
I want to interject myself here because I realize that some people, if they’ve even gotten this far in this post, might be thinking…”what’s the big deal?” Well you, sir or madam, might be new here. In my world, life is thought about deeply. I even have deep thoughts on soy sauce. [No, really.] If you don’t like depth, it’s cool. #nojudgement
Anyhow: deep is where I tend to live. And on it’s surface, Facebook as an online social platform is simple. Except that it’s not.
Let me circle back and explain the deep [plus some super shallow!] reasons I liked Facebook:
- As a long-time digital nomad, Facebook helped me keep up with connections, folks I met through international travel, dear friends, and…people I wanted to spy on but whose friendship I didn’t want to fully commit to on any level. #Honesty.
- I sometimes enjoyed looking at photos…of myself. And other people. These activities gave me a false sense of intimacy…with everyone. It also fed my vanity, which, on its bright side, is about having pride and esteem in my artful outward presentation…but on the dark side, is just plain narcissism.
- I loved the business + lifestyle groups I was in. I still enjoy talking to some of those people via email + in person. I don’t regret building those relationships, helping others professionally and personally, and accepting their help too. But the groups I was in only got me so far, and there were times when I felt uneasy in those spaces. Sometimes I knew for certain that this unease was not self-generated—it was that online groups have an intimacy ceiling + other wonky dynamics that can take up too much mental space.
- I needed community, especially because I was often traveling long-term, and solo. I’m not alone in this need for community. I believe the lack of it is a fundamental reason why we’re so driven to be rampant consumers, experience deep isolation and depression, and so often feel an inexplicable feeling of being lost. Community can be created in Facebook, but for me, it wasn’t enough.
I liked sharing my life, and I liked feeling connected to others. All of these reasons, some silly, some totally understandable, were why I stayed. Except that:
Facebook wasted a significant amount of time.
I know what you might be thinking.
“Why couldn’t you just grow up and let Facebook be the digital business tool that it is?”
The answer to that is…because I cared.
It wasn’t like I could hop online without seeing photos of my friend’s dog/house/baby/article/protest/vegan casserole. I didn’t have the choice to go to my own page directly and post something before I’d get bombarded with other people’s stuff.
That’s not accidental, ya know. The team over at blue monster headquarters are UX geniuses.
So I would care. And scroll. And react [usually internally, which made my stress levels go up]. And click. And click some more. And lose track of time.
In addition to wasting tremendous amounts of time, I also…
- Used Facebook instead of taking real breaks + engaging in self-care.
- Used Facebook as a way to escape work when it got hard.
- Multi-tasked my brain to exhaustion.
- Felt like I was doing something productive when I was just taking in vast amounts of [forgettable] information that largely did not add to my life in any meaningful way.
Here’s all the things I could have done in the last decade other than go on Facebook:
- Write more: poetry, letters, prose, blogs.
- Write my senators and other political leaders (instead of share/read political articles).
- Read, read, read.
- Spiritual efforts: meditation, ritual, oracle card readings, etc.
- Spend more time in nature, in solitude, or with RL folks.
- More community/activist work.
- Orgasms. #Truth.
One last thought about being on Facebook.
When I was in yoga teacher training 8 years ago, my wizened, silver-haired teacher taught me that everything starts with intention—whether we’re conscious of that intention, or not.
When I connected to Facebook all those years ago, I was in the throes of pursuing a poetry degree at art school, and passionate romances, and being a “wise-in-theory-but-not-in-action” twenty-something. So my priorities looked kind of like this [the order of which changed daily]:
- Macaroni and cheese
- Hemingway, Anais Nin, Faulkner, Adrienne Rich
- Not falling into depression and/or climbing out of depression
- Daydreaming in the forest + general tomfoolery
And now my general priorities are more like:
- Fulfill my soul’s desire to write for love + humanity + my profession
- Meeting tiny + massive goals that match my obsessively thought-through annual plan
- High-intensity interval training and other forms of heart health [wink,wink]
- Daydreaming in the forest. [Some things haven’t changed.]
Overall, Facebook helped me score at my 20-year-old intentions of general tomfoolery. But my current self’s intentions? Far and away not gaining anything from being on Facebook.
That’s what made it simple for me leave. My intentions for life, for my business, for my precious, precious, precious time being spent…changed. Drastically.
So I left.
Part II details what changed when I did…because a lot changed, and even some of my worst fears came true. Part III will be a guide on how you can quit, too, if your heart calls for such a change.
More next time.