Deactivating Facebook, Reactivating Facebook
My one resolution for 2010 is to only do things that feel good and right. Last night, as part of that resolution I deactivated my Facebook account. It wasn’t an action I took lightly, but it was something that I felt like I needed to do.
By the end of 2009, I was making several visits to Facebook a day. I’d have a moment of downtime during lunch, in between meetings, after dinner or before sleep, and Facebook was the first site that would come to mind. I’d hit the site, and of course I’d have to click through all of my notifications and see what comments people had left on my posts. Read, comment. And why not check the news feed? Read, comment, like In addition to the times I’d visit Facebook on my own, throughout the day I’d receive an occasional message or event invite via the site. Read, mark as attending, reply. And oh while I’m here, let’s check the news feed again. Read, comment, like.
(On Facebook, you can get notifications for a lot of things, but I didn’t really use Facebook apps, so I generally only received notifications when someone commented or liked one of my posts or when someone commented or liked a post that I also commented on. If you put a lot into it, you get a lot out of it. And me, I was putting a lot into it. Beyond simply commenting and liking news feed posts, I was posting updates and links almost daily. So the influx of notifications I received with every visit was mostly my own doing.)
I was probably spending at least an hour a day on Facebook. That’s 7 hours a week, 28 hours a month - and at least two weeks a year.** I’m not a terribly busy person but I personally find that to be a huge chunk of my time.
I realize that many people have no issues spending this amount of time browsing, commenting and liking on Facebook. While writing this entry, I asked a friend of mine how much time she spent on Facebook, and she answered “maybe an hour or two.” But she couldn’t use it at work.
I also realize that many people find Facebook entertaining, useful and/or valuable. I sometimes found it entertaining, useful and valuable as well. But many more things didn’t feel right: the compulsion to visit the site several times a day, the endless yammering, the “likes,” the dating ads, the distorted idea of “privacy” that Facebook promotes, the lack of control I felt when using the site.
I had a few options: I could post and comment on Facebook less, I could login less, or I could deactivate my account. Posting to Facebook less was easier. Restraining myself from commenting was hard. Logging in less was harder. In short, I couldn’t change my activity on my own, so I needed external moderation. Deactivating my account was really easy, and it would automatically keep me from logging in, posting and commenting. My plan is to keep my account deactivated for at least rest of January, watch how often I try to use Facebook (and for what reason), see if I miss it - or see if I forget about it - and then go from there.
Facebook isn’t just a website anymore. It’s become part of our lives. And like anything in our lives, especially something that we spend so much time using, it deserves a critical evaluation. I hope to reactivate my account someday, but next time I visit I want to feel better about my experience there. I want it to feel right.
** Some may be asking, “What about Twitter.” I feel like I have more control over my Twitter experience, mainly because Twitter only has a stream. It’s really just updates, mentions and an occasional direct message. No “friends,” no mysterious news feed, no notifications, no photos, and not a million other things have no need for. As a result, I spend much less time on Twitter, and the time I do spend there feels more valuable.
For folks who weren’t following along, I deactivated Facebook back in January because I felt like it was slowly taking over my life. Basically, I wanted to prevent myself from being able to immediately log in and using the site. It worked, and I didn’t use Facebook at all for a little over three weeks.
I’m proud to say that I use Facebook significantly less now. Essentially, I only use it as an extended address book and to RSVP for events as it’s practically become the de facto standard for events and invites.
A few services I use (Tumblr, Netflix and YouTube to name a few) still automatically post to Facebook on my behalf, which I’m okay with because I don’t ever have to worry about comment notifications on these posts. In fact, I don’t ever have to worry about comment notifications on any post because I’ve turned off commenting. If you want to reduce the time you spend on Facebook without deactivating your account, turning off commenting on your posts is probably my top suggestion. (As a sidenote, I tried disabling my wall for a short period of time, but I felt like that was going a little too far. Visiting a profile without a wall feels like visiting a site without a home page; I re-enabled it shortly afterwards.)
It’s hard not to pass through Facebook without at least glancing at the News Feed, which I’ve done on several occasions. I think I’ve read a small handful of posts and have left two comments. Overall, my 1+ hours a day has been reduced to a few minutes a day at the most. I’d say that’s a very good thing.
I feel like I can say that it’s a good thing because I don’t miss it at all and the little interaction I have with the site feels much healthier. If you do miss Facebook when you don’t use it, and you enjoy the time you spend on there, that’s great. But I would ask you to take a more critical look at your experience on Facebook and ask yourself, despite how entertaining it might seem in the moment, does it truly feel good and right?