I have a complicated relationship with Facebook: Facebook is the bane of my existence, and it’s also one of the best things to ever happen to me. I’m addicted to Facebook, it destroys my productivity, and it’s also been the source of some of my best friends and favorite experiences. Facebook gives me inspiration for creativity and it gives me ideas for new stories and new ways to be productive, and it also drags me into other people’s negativity and depression and hateful political troll fights. I’ve met some of the very BEST and some of the very WORST people in the world on Facebook.
And I post on Facebook A LOT. Facebook is kind of my primary social outlet, because I work from home and I tend to be socially awkward in real life – Facebook is ideal for me because I’m a freelance writer who is good at building relationships with writing. And I’ve gotten lots of great things out of Facebook! I’ve built up a bit of a side hustle as a standup comedian – hundreds of people in Des Moines have come to my shows, and I’ve had video clips of my standup act licensed for money, all because of contacts I made via Facebook. I’ve done fundraising comedy shows for progressive causes – I’ve raised $3,500 so far in 2017. I’ve made amazing new friends in my own home city and all over the U.S. and overseas, and I’ve stayed in touch with old friends who I otherwise would have lost touch with – and that’s wonderful, because my family and I got to go visit some of these friends in Europe this summer. Facebook has in many ways broadened my horizons and given me a more expansive sense of what I can offer the world; it’s helped me make friends and be influential in ways that are deeply meaningful to me, that might never have been possible without social media.
So I’m grateful to Facebook! But I also hate it.
Clearly, something needs to change in the way I relate to Mark Zuckerberg’s stupid website, right? How can I get more of the “good” stuff from Facebook without ruining my whole day in the process?
I’m in the midst of working with a business coach and making some big moves behind the scenes in the way I manage my career. Ever since Labor Day, I’ve cleared my calendar. I’m barely leaving the house. I’m not going anywhere or doing anything or seeing anyone; I’m not watching TV or going to movies or going to bars. I am 100% LOCKED IN on work right now – and that’s good! It feels really good and I don’t regret or resent a thing I’m doing right now, because it’s all for ME and my family’s financial well being. So as part of that newfound sense of focus, I’m trying to re-evaluate the way I relate to Facebook.
So I decided to quit Facebook. For 24 hours. Secretly, silently, just for a day. Some people go through a big show of saying that they’re going to quit Facebook, and they’re going to deactivate their account, etc. and then they come crawling back. Some people just go ahead and disappear from Facebook for days or weeks or months at a time while leaving their accounts active. I decided to take a different approach: I tried to go 24 hours without posting any new posts on Facebook. Here’s what I learned:
I Don’t Have to Post on Facebook to Be Happy
Did you know: Facebook will go on without you! The chaos and clutter and human misery of the Internet WILL continue, whether or not you contribute to it! Facebook doesn’t “need” you at all! No matter how funny that joke was that you wanted to write on Facebook, chances are, thousands of other people already had that same thought and posted it without you. The Grand Ballet of the Human Experience will go on, even if you don’t contribute.
And that’s okay! That’s wonderful! Just spend some time living in your immediate world instead of constantly grappling with the infinite gushing fire hose that is the Internet!
I Feel More Focused
Facebook is an interruption machine. It chops up your day into hundreds of useless pieces as you feel like you have to keep “checking in.” And I don’t even have Notifications on my phone – I still check Facebook 900 times a day even without the stupid little Notification bubbles popping up on the front of my phone. If I can just go 24 hours without posting on Facebook, I don’t get sucked in to as much of that sense of neediness – I can just focus on my actual real life in the real world instead of getting distracted by 1,000 pieces of impersonal online content! Amazing!
I Feel More Calm
(DISCLAIMER: I absolutely despise Donald Trump – you should know that about me; not to get all “political” on my “business brand” website, or whatever, but I really really hate Donald Trump and everything he represents, I think he’s the worst thing to happen to this country since the invention of Slavery, and I don’t want to work with anyone who loves Donald Trump. So if you love, support, or even “mildly like” Donald Trump, stop reading this and go away and never contact me.)
Facebook is an anxiety machine. Especially since the election, I had started to follow lots of political sites and local progressive activist groups, and all day long on Facebook I was getting dozens of increasingly hysterical headlines and ACTION ALERTS to CALL YOUR SENATORS and COPY AND PASTE, DON’T SHARE and it all creates this constant sense of low-lying anxiety and dread, like the world is ending, and you have to stay glued to your screens – it makes you feel simultaneously helpless and transfixed, like there’s too much to do, like it’s all happening too fast, it’s all too late, but here, you have to sit here and watch the apocalypse unfold in real time.
And I don’t want to live like that! So I’m changing the way I relate to political activism. I’ve quit and unfollowed most of my groups on Facebook. I’m still going to be involved and give money and maybe even do another fundraiser comedy show in 2017 or early 2018, but I can’t bombard my brain 24/7 with too much distressing news. You can’t stick your head in the sand and ignore what’s going on in politics, but you also can’t let yourself get deluged by too much alarming information that you’re helpless to do anything about. Manage your information diet; no one else gets to decide what goes on in your own mind.
I Make More Money Without Facebook
I’m not like most people with office jobs, who get paid to sit in a cubicle and screw around on Facebook all day – I only get paid for DELIVERING WORK. I know, this is a radical concept, but I have to WORK to GET MONEY, and the more work I do, THE MORE MONEY I MAKE. So I can’t let myself get paralyzed by Facebook, because it’s literally COSTING ME MONEY.
Facebook Is An Unpaid Part-time Job
One of the things I dislike the most about Facebook is how you get dragged into lots of other people’s crap. Everyone has to comment on your posts, and then you have to sit there and decide whether/how to reply to their comments. It’s insane. It’s like an unpaid part-time customer service job, where the new Customer Support Tickets just keep coming in. Sure, it can be fun to have lots of conversations with people all over the world who are smart, funny people who have worthwhile things to say, but lots of Facebook is just useless clutter. I block people on Facebook all the time because they annoy me. I don’t have time! Why should I let some random jerk on the Internet waste 45 seconds of my life? I had to block a guy one time because, even though he posted funny stuff and was smart in lots of ways, he kept coming on my posts with negativity and cynicism, and I said to him, “Your cynicism and hostility have grown tiresome. Good luck in life!” and I blocked him.
That’s the thing: NO ONE ON FACEBOOK is PAYING YOU MONEY to be there. We’re all just on there making more money for Mark Zuckerberg. You are under ZERO obligation to tolerate any nonsense or negativity from ANYONE. Banish all toxic people from your life – online or offline. As a freelance writer, my only true “stock in trade” is my time and my positive mental energy – anyone who wastes my time or tries to drag me down into their cesspit of cynicism is taking bread out of my children’s mouths.
Lots of media commentators have bemoaned the rise of Facebook because they think it’s making people more isolated and lonely; like real-world interaction is being shortchanged because of all the time we spend on Facebook. I totally disagree! Facebook hasn’t made me more “lonely,” it’s made me feel spread too thin! It’s almost given me too many people and causes to care about and worry about; I only have so much mental bandwidth and sometimes it gets overwhelming to see all the distressing news and GoFundMe fundraisers and heartbreaking stories about people dying of cancer and everything else. Sometimes I have to disconnect and just take my mind off of the never-ending stream of updates that make me feel like I’m living inside of thousands of other people’s heads.
Because that’s the thing about Facebook and social media and The Way We Live Now on the Internet: at it’s best, you have the reassurance of being constantly connected to great people who can make your life better. But the downside is, it gets overwhelming and you have to be able to give yourself permission to take a break.
I don’t think I’ll ever “quit” Facebook entirely – it’s too valuable and I really love the friendships I’ve made and maintained because of it. As a writer, it’s a wonderful way to put your ideas out into the world and make an impact. But we’re all living inside of each other’s heads now! We’re living in the future! We’re just a few steps away from becoming a telepathic global hive mind! And I don’t think we’ve fully grasped the magnitude of that; the technology has outpaced our ability to cope, and it requires new standards of etiquette and new methods of self-care and setting boundaries that lots of people are still figuring out.
I love the Internet, I love living on the Internet, it’s given me so many wonderful experiences and relationships. But sometimes you just need to shut off your phone and go for a walk.