Why I’m Giving Up on Facebook (Sort of)

Image: National Library of Medicine
Image: National Library of Medicine

30 seconds ago, I held that iOS Facebook icon until it started trembling in fear. (Really, it did exactly this… I swear!) A nanosecond later, I have pressed that small black X in the corner. I soon do the same to its sibling to the left, Twitter. Later today I will put a link to this post on both sites, just so my folks aren’t left with the idea that I was hit by a bus, or mangled in some kind of gnarly cheese grater incident.

While I often bemoan the tedious nature of sites like Facebook, I am, for the most part, full of crap. I enjoy these services. More accurately: I adore them. While I’m not sharp enough to say funny things in real life, Facebook affords me adequate time to think about quips, before posting them. Sometimes, I can pull off “clever” pretty darned well; and when I do, it’s a bloody delight.

My problem is that I like Facebook and Twitter a little too much. I adore the little pellets of affirmation they dispense, be they in the form of likes, comments, or cheeky rebukes. I’m somehow happier when I stir up a little friendly banter, and almost disappointed when my sub 140 character wisecracks don’t warrant a single re-tweet. When my follower/friend count goes down, I even fret that I may have somehow, unwittingly, offended someone.

You may wonder if I’m being facetious; I shamefully admit that nothing could be further from the truth.

It gets worse than the garden variety social media adulation, though. Toss in Google Real Time Analytics, and folks like me are fucked beyond any conceivable explanation. For those unfamiliar with the service, Real Time provides a running play-by-play of every visitor coming and going to posts like this. Those smarty-pants Googsters even go so far as to color-code the experience, with a halo around the visitor count as it shrinks/expands. (Green halo, good; red halo, bad.)

I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, I am watching you. And I’m awfully grateful that you haven’t left yet. Stick around… Please… I don’t know what I’ll do if you go. Honestly, it could be bad.

As one might imagine, all of this becomes rather time consuming. Between trying to think of smart things to say; using my hunt-and-peck method to type them out; realizing that my grammar is “whack” and in need of adjustment; and then scratching my head to come up with sufficiently snarky/glib/playful retorts. Oh, it can all prove quite a commitment.

Worse yet, I’ve found myself in the middle of some funny, personal, even inspiring moments thinking, “this would make a great tweet.” It’s at these times that I wonder just where it all went so wrong. Trading the best moments in life for a digital “thumbs-up” seems like the very description of lunacy.

Perhaps all of this is simply indicative of us evolving as a species. Maybe we’ve become increasingly immune to the puny addictions of generations past… like alcohol, sex, and heroin. (Of these three, I’ve tried two, and could quite readily teeter over to the addiction side in both instances.) Regardless, I am an addict. I crave those likes, get a rush from online tit-for-tat, and find myself hoping for validation from those photos of dinner I just uploaded. Yes, I’ve hit rock-bottom.

There may be no twelve-step program for my particular affliction, therefore, I must leave. Well, sort of. I’m not moving my things out of my Facebook flat or my Twitter pied-à-terre. I just won’t be showing up as much any more. I’m not so self-deluding to think I’ll leave it forever; in fact, I might not even make it a week.

I’m not approaching this in a dogmatic fashion. I don’t have an axe to grind, bone to pick, nor protest I wish to attend. In fact, it’s not like I intend to avoid the site completely. It’s just that I want it to become an occasional visit, for fun, instead of something that’s stitched into every part of my day. Perhaps more like porn, which—at least in my case—knows its place.

I like social media and I think it’s useful. I like doing things more, though. My hope is that in not posting status updates three times a day, I might take in more of what’s actually going on around me. (You know; in the non-digital sense.)


  1. Amen brother.

    I wish I weren’t so dependent on these. For some reason all my European friends don’t have this problem. I will have to learn their secret.

    *make me miss Europe*

  2. I dumped both Facebook and Twitter and haven’t looked back. I don’t think your weening strategy will work. Given the intense nature of this writeup I feel like you should just pull the plug and move on. Cold turkey is the only way to go. Believe me, you’ll feel better and have so much extra time!

  3. Varying levels of addiction require varying levels of action.

    For me, I simply turned off all emails/mobile notifications for both Facebook and Twitter. I only check it a couple times a day now and it’s made a big difference.

  4. I don’t know if you’ve read The Shallows (Nicholas Carr), but it’s got a lot to say on the topic of distraction and bite-sized consumption. Highly relevant to what you wrote about.

  5. I love the pellets analogy. That’s how i see everyone with their phones out, checking for new notes every 30 seconds.. they’re like rats at a trough.. more pellets, more pellets, more pellets.. :) happy to see youre breaking the stranglehold of being always on.. :)

    1. It’s certainly strange. Sometimes I wonder if social media is the largest-scale study of Pavlovian Conditioning.

      As for the stranglehold, I’m really trying… Breaking away from Analytics and responding to every comment is tougher, though.

  6. The facebook “like” widget that pops out the side of this page when you finishing reading this post is the most ironic part.

    I like. :)

  7. It is, admittedly, a little perverse (even hypocritical). That said, we’re all for leveraging the power of social media in spreading a message—even if I, personally, feel a little overwhelmed by it.

  8. This…

    “I’d like to, but I think there’s still utility there. Additionally, it’s (sadly) an important part of the work I do.”

    …sounds like what I used to say before I deleted my Facebook account and stopped using Twitter all together (although the latter is still open; it’s just a placeholder).

    You “think” there’s utility in Facebook until it’s gone and you realize how useless and pointless the thing really is. My solution was to make my business partner the admin for our company’s Facebook page and he does all of the updates so I don’t have to, plus he sends me the reports when I want to take a look. If we help an organization with their Facebook strategy and tactics, it also goes through him. I know enough about Facebook from my years there to know what and what not to do for clients.

    As for Twitter, I no longer use my personal account, as above, but keep our company account alive but only follow a small list of other companies, like smashLAB, for example. This cuts down, dramatically, on the noise.

    I suggest you de-activate, but don’t yet delete, your Facebook account for a few weeks and try it out. Just go cold turkey and see what happens. I bet you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel about the world and how much more energy and focus you’ll have for life, work and family.

    1. I think that’s good advice. It won’t happen entirely for a while, given that we’re still using it to do smashLAB/Deliberatism promo. On a personal level, though, I’m going lukewarm turkey.

  9. I’ve had these feelings myself lately. Getting really tired of all the political crap that I was seeing and the frustrations of only negative items. I do agree that we are devolving but I still see some benefits of the media. I, also have to limit myself otherwise, I end up losing countless hours to the couch and could be doing much more productive things. I have limited myself to a couple of cups of tea…. That seems to help for now.

    I also thought it was funny that the “like tab showed up after I was halfway through the posting.

    I don’t like twitter and can’t seem to get into the “conversational” aspect of how it is supposed to be. BUT, it seems that with starting a new business, I need to be doing some of the social media so that I can build an online business to allow myself the freedom of not using my car as much. I suppose it is all a trade off. Saving the environment by not using my car compared to using up battery life in my laptop. AND it is cheaper than snail mail to my international friends.

    Good Luck and don’t deactivate the blog. I would miss you and I just found you.

  10. Hey Eric, good luck with this!

    Part way through 2010, I deleted my Facebook profile (not deactivated, but fully deleted). Just 2-3 Months later, and I was on there again because, well, there were some friends using the site who were absent elsewhere on the web.
    Fully leaving Facebook: Failed.

    Twitter, even worse, I’m on my fourth or fifth account! Most likely staying with it from now on.
    Fully leaving Twitter: Failed.

    What I do these days, is really pace how much I use either site, post far less often, but posting better too (well, a little bit). I completely abandoned Google+ and I can’t see myself going back to it anytime soon.

    1. I think moderation is likely the wise choice—as you seem to have discovered.

      Our social connections are in large part digital now. There’s little wrong with this, so long as it doesn’t become overwhelming.

  11. Just echoing Jeff’s recommendation. The Shallows is a great book. And a little scary.

    If you read that, as well as The Brain That Changes Itself (Norman Doidge) and The Talent Code (Daniel Coyle), you might be truly frightened by what we’re doing to our brains with our internet addictions.

    The challenge is to learn how to use these media tools without letting them run our lives. I think it’s important to not just reduce our use of social media, but to increase our offline activities and skills.

    But that requires conscious effort, rather than just clicking for the dopamine rush. :)

  12. Well, for me it has been easy I am simply too busy for social media, with all the other things there is to do. If you take up a horse riding for example you won’t have time enough for the Face book and twitter. This combined with work, children and…
    I have an addiction with my emails to which the best option is to shut it down while trying to get some work one… funnily I read them while walking with my Great Pyrenean Mountain Dog which resulted to flying over a lifted payment stone and bruised knees like a little kid, taught me a lesson but just for a few weeks because now I am doing it again, walking and reading my emails… The real challenge is to learn to leave your electronics home or to the office when going out.

    I am also addicted to these likes, I just send you a one like more.

    1. The funny part is that I’m busy too. That hasn’t really gotten in the way of social media, though. Mostly, this is because I squeeze it into bus rides, waiting for a coffee, or while I’m taking my morning poop.

      I think that’s my real problem with it: those in between moments that allow us to get a breather and reorient ourselves disintegrate quickly when there’s always something to check. In the long run, I think what starts as a fun distraction becomes fatiguing.

      But thank you for that like. :-)

  13. PS: just don’t stop posting to Deliberatism… it is the only one I actually follow.
    Maybe that’s your solution, be more selective and reduce the quantity not the quality.

    Signed by very selective digital noise user.

  14. Hi I’m Andrew, and I’m an addict. It didn’t occur to me that I am going the same route until I read it here. Thanks Eric. Amazing a writer and an Illustrator in one.

    1. Thanks—it’s awfully fun to get to work on those little drawings. My son and I sit at the kitchen table, and draw together, with each of us showing one another what we’re working on. I have him to thank for help me find the joy in such things. It’s been years since I was able to work on illustrations like that, just for fun.

  15. Hi Eric, I used to be addicted to Facebook – obsessively checking in every few minutes and updating my status, posting random photos etc. Then, I decided to taper off using it slowly and now I just log in once every week or so and that too for about 10 minutes each time. I’m very happy with this, though at first I got a lot of comments from friends who were used to my (hyper) activity. :)

  16. I just deactivated my Facebook for the first time since 2004. It’s been 3 hours and I’m already googling “I deleted my Facebook account.” I’m curious to know how this has progressed since September.

Add a Comment