Facebook-free at 4 months

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s been four months since I pulled the plug on the Facebook account I opened years ago. Honestly, I do miss it … sometimes.

I miss the posts from out-of-town friends and relatives. I miss updates from fellow writers and newspaper colleagues — especially the ones who post links to articles, books, or films I’d enjoy. I miss the automatic birthday reminders. I miss the photos of cute kids, dogs, and (especially) cats posing in costumes.

Facebook-icon

I keep promising friends who ask why I’ve “gone missing” that I’ll return … someday. And truly, I will. All I have to do is type my password to get back in the game and start playing again. Meanwhile, Facebook abstinence has forced me to schedule more face time with local pals, many of whom I didn’t see as often when we were keeping in touch via social media. Gotta love irony.

Still, the things I don’t miss override the occasional bouts of FOMO (fear of missing out). Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

For starters, I like people a lot more when I’m not on Facebook. As human nature dictates, other folks seem more intriguing and attractive when we don’t know too much about them. Or, as rock star Stevie Nicks said: “Little girls think it’s necessary to put all their business on MySpace and Facebook, and I think it’s a shame….I’m all about mystery.”

On Facebook, however, nothing is left to the imagination. It’s not unusual for users to post photos of their bathrooms or discuss personal hygiene products. If you can’t name the top 10 things you should never share on social media, you’ll want to read this article.

When I was following the ever-flowing stream of updates — from more than 600 “friends” — I was often annoyed or baffled by so much weird behavior. Facebook may be a social network, but not everyone who comes to the table follows the basic tenets of courtesy, let alone the Golden Rule. Some users don’t communicate online with same degree of sensitivity or social savvy they’d practice face-to-face at a business function or a cocktail party. Social media is a free-for-all.

For instance, I enjoy civil political discussions with folks who’ve earned my trust and respect over the years. (Even the ones who don’t agree with me.) But I got weary of Facebook users who ranted ceaselessly on their pet causes or candidates, some deliberately inviting war-like hostility from opposing sides. Reading those updates just added more acid to my morning coffee.

Bragging rights?

On Facebook, you can share way too much of a good thing, too. Maybe that’s why they’re called “status” updates.

All too often, I felt as if I were eavesdropping when I visited friends’ FB pages — especially when I stumbled on overly cozy exchanges that should have been kept private.  “My new haircut (six photos included) was worth $125 dollars, don’t you think?” … or … “We just hosted a huge party and hired a rock band” (And, oops, not all of your friends were invited.) … or … “Honey, I am so proud of your perfect SAT score!” … or … “Look at the five-course meal (eight photos included) I just whipped up to surprise my darling hubby!” 

As most of us would agree, even the most clever show-offs tend to alienate the people they’re trying hardest to impress. Real friends, after all, don’t present an over-crafted public persona at the risk of damaging key relationships.

As far as I could tell, Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies were the only ones profiting from my self-promotional activity on Facebook.

To be totally fair, I questioned my own carefully curated status updates, too. Was I bragging or sharing news? Was I overstepping healthy boundaries? And who among those 600 “friends” really needed to know my business? Was I morphing into a … narcissist?

At the suggestion of another published writer, I started a professional Facebook page — to keep self-promotion separate from personal updates and family news. Problem was, fewer than half of my Facebook friends bothered to visit my “author” page, which sort of defeated the purpose. Or maybe my “friends” were sending an unspoken message that reflected their disinterest in my work. Either way, it was twice as exhausting to keep up with both pages. As far as I could tell, Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies were the only ones profiting from my self-promotional activity.

If and when I reactivate my Facebook account, I need to rethink all of this. In the meantime, I’ve joined legions of others taking longer breaks from Facebook, some with no intention of returning.

Wise advice for users

A few years ago, I interviewed Linda Weltner for a Writer’s Digest article. Having admired her work for years, I asked the award-winning Boston Globe columnist to share her advice on crafting personal columns that others can’t wait to read.

Of course, Facebook updates aren’t exactly newspaper columns. But given the public nature of Facebook and other social media, I believe its users would do well to borrow a page from Ms. Weltner.

“Never base a column on anything that costs a great deal of money,” Weltner began. “There’s an upscale consciousness that can lead to complaining about decorating your yacht, if you know what I mean. You must constantly step back and ask, ‘Is this an equal-opportunity experience?'”

Weltner also told me that she always questioned her own motives whenever she put anything out there for public consumption. She never used her columns to “prove” she was right about anything. “It can’t be done without bragging,” she said. And bragging turns people off, no matter where or how it’s published.

UPDATE: 

This post was featured last week on BlogHer, which prompted many new and thought-provoking comments from around the country. Please check the “Comments” section below to read the continuing conversation on this topic.

38 thoughts on “Facebook-free at 4 months

  1. I understand, Cindy. But I still miss you on FB. You were one of a handful of friends whose posts I looked forward to reading. I need to make sure to check here more regularly.

    I hope all is well with you and yours…

    • Thanks, Leslie … I miss you too! I do use this page more often for personal columns and personal news, in lieu of FB posting. I can go into more detail here, as a rule, and I like that readers make a “choice” to read the blog. And I will be back on FB, probably in the fall. Hope your summer is going well, Leslie
      xoxo

  2. Cindy, you are lucky to have the luxury of disconnecting. I have friends and family that only through FB do I know what’s going on with them. I don’t like it but I don’t have a choice if I want to have a connection.

  3. I have a love hate relationship with Facebook. I appreciate your insights here. I post status’ rarely and when I do it is for something that inspired me or a special gathering or information I think people need to ponder. I do try not to be confrontational or convince others when they post something I do not agree with. Thanks for a thoughtful piece and confirming that for the most part I have tried to be honorable in my use of the medium.

  4. Sharon, I totally understand. But wow, I think it’s interesting that some people would only communicate with loved ones through Facebook. What did they do before Facebook, I wonder? 🙂

  5. Debus, I haven’t seen anything you’ve posted on FB since March — but I recall your posts being thoughtful and nice, never confrontational. Anyhoo, it’s good you live nearby, so we don’t have to rely on social media to share our news. 🙂

  6. That’s a great post about FB, Cindy. I haven’t given it up, but am finding myself with longer periods where I go without it. And truthfully, I don’t miss it. Until I go on again. Then I stop. And I don’t miss it. It’s all that you say it is. Sometimes we present our lesser selves when our intent is to do the opposite.

  7. Thanks, Pam … your posts and links on FB are among those I miss! You always posted interesting things, especially of interest to writers. Thanks for your comments, and hope to see you soon — in person!

  8. Good lord, that is one dumb reporter! Sheesh. Talk about over sharing!

    I’m with you on stepping away. I did quite a while ago and haven’t missed it. And I’m hearing from many friends that they’re stepping away from FB… but onto Twitter. Maybe 142 characters will get them into less trouble?!?

    xo jj

  9. Cindy, I was going to “like” this on FB but then realized you wouldn’t be there to see it. I have a fantasy of quitting FB but my kids are too far away and their wives post lots of pictures! Good post, though. And it makes me wonder about some recent updates I made. I will think more carefully before I post my status again!

    • Thanks so much, Cindy! I do hope Facebook users are inspired to think about how they use Facebook. Social media is relatively new — on the grand scheme of things — and it’s good to keep the conversation going.

      As I mentioned in my email to you, I like the idea of having two Facebook pages: One for very close friends and relatives, and a second page for professional or promotional use. I tried it, but had trouble figuring out how to steer FB users to the appropriate page without hurting feelings or alienating them.

  10. I walked away from facebook as in deleted my account, leaving no forwarding address. don’t regret it.

    I took this action as a part of the gift I gave myself on my birthday. a gift of accepting no drama either from myself or others.

  11. I completely get where you’re coming from. I had to create a “work” Facebook account so I could access/manage my company’s page, but personally I’ve been off of Facebook for nearly two years now. While it was liberating to be free from seeing dramatic/angry/TMI posts, I do miss the connection and seeing updates from everyone, including birthdays that were rarely discussed. Not everyone thinks to call and tell news anymore, because Facebook has become such a natural medium.

    I’m reluctantly considering re-connecting, but I’m ridiculously hesitant. Great post, Cindy.

  12. I “pulled the plug” on my personal Facebook earlier this year and I find your experience to be very similar to mine. I even found that I would feel jealous and irritable toward people that I really do like because of the “Status” updates. I am still not on Facebook and I think that it will likely stay that way.

  13. I posted this on the BlogHer link to this post but wanted to share here, too. I definitely went through the same thing. My act of pulling the plug was to switch my profile into a page. Then my friends became “likers” and many of them “unliked” it in the process. I’m okay with that and I figured it the “likes” got too low, I would just delete the page. It’s too much work to manage so many accounts. I miss a lot of the connections I developed with people, but I also had a point right before switching where I had 15 unread messages from the same person that was STILL messaging me. I had people demanding I read them and questioning if I liked them because I didn’t answer their PMs. It was just too much for me since I was trying to write other things besides emails. Anyway, here’s my BlogHer comment:

    I’ve taken several breaks from Facebook over the last two years. Then a few months ago, I did something radically different: I switched my profile into a page. There are some major drawbacks to having a page-only interaction with people. Namely, as a page, fewer people see your posts unless you advertise each post and/or the account. Also, it was confusing for people to figure out how to message me. On my end, I can’t see anyone’s profile without a lot of difficulty and I can’t “like” a status or comment. So I’m very out of touch with my friends’ lives now. I also don’t see any links shared or birthday reminders.

    However, I have been happier in the past few months than I have been since I got so involved with Facebook. Facebook was depleting me of creative energy and it was making me angry and frustrated. I found myself biting my tongue a lot but found people weren’t doing the same with me. As a matter of fact, nearly every day I’d have to ban someone for vitriolic comments. It was an interesting study in human behavior and how we all deal with people we don’t agree with, for sure. But I’m so glad I’ve said goodbye to the profile.

    I went on Tumblr for awhile and loved that the things I was taking in were primarily creative posts and shares. I also like Instagram. I’m trying out Google + again and am finding that my feed is full of a good mixture of posts and I’m happy with it so far. (If you have other suggestions for social media, let me know. Otherwise, I’m here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113380463740673622905/posts)

  14. For Kaishon: If you’re enjoying it, you must be doing something right and your intentions are good.

    Ed: I like the idea of “the gift of no drama” for your birthday!

    Parker: Thanks so much for your comments. I’m “reluctantly reconsidering” FB too …

    Amanda: I talk with more people who share your sentiments. And there’s a lot of new research on the animosity and alienation that FB often creates between old friends, for the reasons you stated. In that case, I call it “anti-social” media.

  15. Lisa — I want to respond to your comment too. I was in EXACTLY the same quandary over keeping both a professional “page” and a personal profile at the same time, as noted in this essay. You explained it perfectly.

    You also mentioned the creativity/energy drain on your time. That was a major problem for me, too. I found I would spend too much time answering private messages, or trying to “reciprocate” comments and attention from other FB friends. It took hours — in addition to my regular email — and by the time I was finished “socializing” on FB, I felt used up and less inclined to go out and meet with people in person.

    Facebook is wonderful for keeping in touch with out of town friends and family, but all too often, my status feed was clogged with people who were posting stuff every 5 minutes, or ranting over politics, etc. I know there’s a way to control all of this, but my god, who’s got time to play around with all of those settings? 😉

  16. Good post, Cindy. I continue my “love/hate” relationship with Facebook. It is a great way to keep up with friends and family, send out invites, birthday reminders, etc., but the drama can be draining, and the hostility over differences in opinion can be off the chart! I try to have a “stay-away-from social-media-day” on Sundays, and I find that to be a refreshing break.

  17. I have been taking progressively longer and longer “hiatuses” from Facebook, and I am finding that I miss it less and less. I am coming up on 3 weeks in to my most recent hiatus and I haven’t even thought about Facebook in days. We managed quite fine without it before it existed. In fact, I venture to say that we managed even better as far as being polite and just enjoying the company of others was concerned. I do miss keeping up with events that are happening, as I have a lot of acquaintances who are in very good local bands and only seem to post their events on Facebook, but in the end it seems a fair trade-off for me to escape the pointless mental drain on my creativity and love for the simpler things in life. You can’t hug a Facebook profile.

  18. Great article, and very thought-provoking. Let me tell you a story. I used to be super-active on Facebook, and then I started realizing something. It was stressing me out.

    For example, I posted a link to a very thoughtful opinion piece regarding the Rolling Stone cover of the Boston Bomber. I read both the RS article and the editorial that I posted, so I felt I was “informed” enough to give an opinion (which, I did, very carefully worded so as not to invite DRAMA), and one of my “friends” immediately commented about how I had “bought the Kool-Aid” and went into a diatribe about how disgraceful it was to glamorize him, etc., which is NOT what RS did — you have to read the article to know that, though. Thus begin a back-and-forth that was more about insulting me than about real, thoughtful discussion.

    I also posted several articles about the George Zimmerman trial — thoughtful, provocative pieces about race and justice, etc. WOW. The hatred and vile comments posted in those threads made me delete them. And, made me distressed over the state of this country, and the state of mind of people around me. I was naive in thinking that trying to encourage talks about justice and equality would be nothing but positive. It’s never 100% positive, unless your audience is 100% like-minded.

    Then I realized, oh, that’s because it’s FACEBOOK. People don’t say these things (usually) to your face or in public, because it’s rude, offensive, inappropriate. But, on Facebook, somehow that all (stuff like manners and civility and common sense) gets checked at the door, and people use the platform to unleash upon others or just in general. It has caused me to take a huge step back and not interact much on Facebook anymore. It’s just not worth the stress or the disappointment.

  19. Kristin, I’ve had very similar experiences, and was left with an equally bereft feeling about people and the politics of our country. I also doubted the social (and mental) intelligence of people in America when I spent an hour daily on Facebook. Pulling the plug brought me back to my sense of normalcy, or maybe I am just hiding my head in the sand now. It feels better, either way.

    When people can duck behind a computer screen, they say things they wouldn’t have the gall to come out with in person. And that’s why I like people more when I am not on Facebook, just for starters 🙂

  20. Hi, Cindy.
    I enjoy not only your posts, but also the “online community” you attract! Thanks for a thoughtful post. I read the suggestion of avoiding Facebook on your day of rest. Actually, I have a twist on that idea: I prefer doing social media only one day a week, as many here have said, I can easily spend more time on Facebook than I was planning. I think Facebook can be a good servant, used judiciously. But I think it can also be a poor master. I know some people recommend posting something on Facebook everyday to keep up an online presence, but that just feels as if the tail is wagging the dog. I stay on Facebook because that’s the only way I can keep up with some friends and relatives who live in distant places. But I have to wade through a lot of TMI to find the gems.

  21. I deactivated FB for a summer when I was in college, and I’ve been thinking about doing it again for a little bit but worried I’ll lose the pages I run if I do. I can also not check it for awhile but that takes a lot of willpower!

  22. Wow. Difficult to imagine my day without Facebook. I’ve scaled it WAY back — only go on in the mornings unless I know someone has pending news to report (hospitalization, birth of a child, etc.) and keep my “friends” to TRUE friends. A while back, my 17yo special needs daughter and I went 24 hours COMPLETELY technology free for part of a homeschooling project. No lights, no AC, no TV, no FB, no microwave, no nothing that can be plugged in (although I didn’t unplug the fridge). Talk about eye-opening. What freedom! I couldn’t do that all of the time, but going without something you love and depend on for even a shirt time certainly puts it all in perspective.

  23. I’ve made my peace with Facebook for the moment by regarding it as a strictly self-promotional medium, on my part as well as that of my “friends.” I post links to my blog. I skim through people’s updates. But I don’t spend a lot of time on it–if I do, it tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

  24. I have used Facebook in the past but I wised up over a year ago. I do not miss it because my so-called ‘friends’ wouldn’t know me from Adam anyway. The ultimate time and money waster.
    I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would be the least bit interested in the minutiae of
    anyone else’s daily life.?!?

  25. Merryl,
    In some cases (not all), I think Facebook is a showcase for people who want to be known, or be seen. They want other people to be interested in the minutiae of THEIR lives. Some people have told me they feel as if they don’t exist unless they have a presence in social media.

  26. Hi Cindy,
    I really enjoyed reading this. It speaks to the times I’m left with a feeling of disappointment or envy after a FB visit. Now why did this post only get 28 likes when the photo of my dog got 45? Much as I hate to admit it there is something about the approval of others that, at times, has motivated me. The euphemism sharing for bragging is true. It is. And I’ve found myself taking FB personally. It’s not the post, it’s me. Though I have opinions, I never respond to political and religious posts. Anymore than I’d advertise or warn others about the podiatrist who permanently damaged my foot, though I’d love to. And why not the guy who broke my heart in high school? T I think your disconnect is a good idea. I agree the friends I e-mail are the ones I most want to be in contact with. But then I argue, I’d miss the posts about art that I enjoy, I’d miss learning about events and interesting sites. Your inspirational quotes and insights were a bright light on my feed. I suppose it’s a matter of weighing it, or possibly getting some therapy. I’m going to give this some thought. Maybe start out by not checking in every day.

  27. Diane,
    First, it was great to see you at Norm Prady’s writing lecture yesterday! I love that DWW is hosting these.

    Secondly, you speak to my heart with your comments here. I miss YOUR posts, too, and I always thought FB is an excellent vehicle for promoting businesses like your gallery, and perfect for sharing events news with everyone … that was Facebook at its best, in my view! And I learned a lot about art while reading your posts.

    Like I said in my post here, I need to rethink how I use FB when I do return. When it’s used with care and discretion, it can be a wonderful tool. But at its worst, it’s one big narcissism fest. 😉

  28. Cindy – I enjoyed your recent fb article and your latest narcissism comment too. You always help me open my eyes and horizons with everything you write.

    I’ve enjoyed the chat on your blog on this topic as I too have been limiting/targeting my use and fine tuning what’s important in my life. Similar to other activities and tools, FB may be useful when used in moderation.

    Ciao and see you soon! – SF

  29. I totally get this! I have found out things about my friends that I wish I hadn’t. I’ve come to realize people have FB balls and say things they wouldn’t say in person. I have also come to realize that, at times, social media can mess with my self esteem. I have been pondering the idea of leaving FB – thanks for this post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.