By Samantha Papesch
Last year, right before Christmas I deactivated my Facebook account. It wasn’t unexpected.
Twelve months before that, I started simplifying many areas of my life through the philosophy of minimalism.
Part of that journey included decluttering my digital space, so I ‘unfollowed’ every single one of my Facebook friends, and systematically placed them into ‘Lists’.
For a while it seemed I was in control of my Facebook experience, deciding who and what I wanted to see – and when I wanted to see it. Yet, I still felt this nagging obligation to keep ‘up-to-date’. Then, I found myself skimming and ‘liking’ content purely to reciprocate the interest others were showing in my posts, and before I knew it the whole thing had become contrived.
By this point my own posting had slowed down too. Previously I’d upload a photo, post a status, or check-in almost daily, but I began to realise that documenting activities, checking for likes, and responding to comments meant I was spending more energy tracking my life than being present in it.
I started questioning ‘what value was I really getting out of Facebook?’. I had information overload; it felt like a chore, and worst of all my perception of various friends was becoming increasingly negative. I knew that the concentrated glimpses into their world were a poor indication of character. But, because I was interacting with them more on Facebook than in real life, I became incredibly judgemental of their opinions, intentions, and the values that I perceived them to have.
Unfortunately, small town claustrophobia had also set in. I love the town I live in – and my amazing community – but over sharing left little space for conversation in ‘real’ social situations. Occasionally, it also evoked feelings of exclusion. For me, this was the turning point.
One day I made an uncharacteristic comment on a post of what looked to be ‘friends having fun without me’. But, in my resentful haste I’d completely forgotten the context of the situation, and that I’d previously chosen not to be part of this activity. As well as feeling embarrassed, this ‘public’ reaction created an unnecessary and irretractable awkwardness for everyone.
I decided it was time for a Facebook hiatus.
But, I faced a dilemma. I drew inspiration from my favourite Pages, and I used Pages, Messenger and Groups as tools to communicate. I didn’t want to withdraw from these positive features, so I needed to find a balance.
In the end I came up with a (slightly clunky) workaround that would meet all of my needs:
- I created new Groups with my existing profile
- I set up a ‘ghost profile’ with only one friend – me (my existing profile)
- With my existing profile I gave my ghost profile admin rights to my Groups
- I deactivated my existing profile
- I re-liked all my favourite Pages with my ghost profile
- I searched for, and contacted friends on Messenger with my ghost profile
It’s been five months since I deactivated my existing profile, and after ten years of (me) allowing Facebook to dictate my life, I feel like I’m finally ‘at peace’ with it; I’ve got the balance right, and I’m using it for all the right reasons.
Since then, these are some of the things I’ve learnt, and the positive outcomes I’ve experienced:
- I don’t need that much information – ever
- I still hear what’s newsworthy, it just takes a little longer to reach me
- If friends want to make contact, or invite me places they will
- I’m more present in the moment and focussed on what’s important
- I have time to nurture the people and passions I love the most
- I value authentic human interaction, and have a renewed interest in others
- New friendships evolve more organically
- There are more elements of intrigue, mystery and surprise in my life
- Any social anxiety has disappeared
- Life is simpler
- I am happier
Having been entrenched in Facebook for so long, it took a little while for friends to get used to my new ‘modus operandi’. Some were so surprised at my departure they even contacted my Mum (bless them) to make sure I was OK.
What’s become clear to me now is that social media has a place in my life, but it is not the cornerstone of my life. Simplifying my relationship with Facebook has been a bold step in the face of societal norms, but it’s given me back more than I ever expected.