Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

dvdp:

1 minuteFollow one row from the beginning to the end.This is 1 minute of your life (ca. 40 million minutes).
1 minute can pass fast. 1 minute can pass slowly. It depends on your actual situation/conditions (even your body temperature).
Feel the time for a minute.

dvdp:

1 minute

Follow one row from the beginning to the end.
This is 1 minute of your life (ca. 40 million minutes).

1 minute can pass fast. 1 minute can pass slowly. It depends on your actual situation/conditions (even your body temperature).

Feel the time for a minute.

Goodbye, Facebook

I recently decided I would be deleting my Facebook account and wanted to share with others why. It’s difficult to let go, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the advantages don’t outweigh the costs, which I will now proceed to explain:

What does Facebook offer?

  • A way for anyone in the world to easily find anyone else by name and communicate with them instantaneously.
  • A way to find out how a person is doing and what predominates their life (assuming some level of engagement and authenticity).
  • A way to send and receive event invitations.
  • A way to share and receive ideas, opinions, and beliefs on a wide variety of topics.

Each of these involves tradeoffs. Facebook can be a boon, a vice, or a nuisance depending on the time of day. It can be employed both altruistically and selfishly. It is, without any doubt, a fucking amazing tool.

So what’s the problem?

Needless to say, Facebook is quite addictive. It’s easy to access and offers immediately “relief” in the form of a distraction from X, where X is anything less interesting than what your friends did last weekend. Further, Facebook fulfills a sense of connectedness looked for by every human being and provides a cheap form of external validation.

Not one of these is inherently bad, but following a brief period of restriction I was able to recognize numerous unhealthy patterns brought on by Facebook’s impact on my life:

1. Lost time

The deal breaker for me was the amount time I spend on Facebook (and the inherent difficulty in avoiding it).

If I go on Facebook an average of 3 times a day for an average of 10 minutes on each visit (a conservative estimate but remember I’m paid to stare at my computer screen all day), that’s 168 hours of my life spent on Facebook each year. Think about that for a moment.

Facebook itself is not bad. Video games are not bad. The internet is not bad. Food is not bad. But when we consume a thing to the exclusion of other more healthy or enriching things, it becomes a problem.

2. Compromised attention

A constantly available and addictive product like Facebook can rob us of our attention, but in Facebook’s case the time spent using the product is only half the burden.

While I’m more productive now–actually 3-5X–I value this less than being rid of the consistent feeling of worry I began to associate with social media (Facebook, in particular).

From my own experience, Facebook exerts a micro-stress on us to perform as we subconsciously feel we are being watched: sometimes we react in direct response to an invitation, other times just to feel like we’re not being misrepresented.

This stress manifests in many small, subtle ways. If I post something to Facebook, I feel obligated to respond to invitations to converse on the topic (especially in the case of controversial material). It’s also not uncommon that after posting a sarcastic status update or new photo album I feel pressured to “monitor” the response from my network. And then there’s the issue of how Facebook impacts our real-life choices given our awareness that what we decide will likely be catalogued in some manner. This alone deserves further study (c.f. “chilling effect”).

Of course, these are simply other ways of expressing the utility or “fun” of Facebook, but each comes at a price, which took me quite some time to recognize.

3. Lack of appreciation for time spent with loved ones

The medium is the message. – Marshal McLuhan

In allowing Facebook to become the primary mechanism for “staying connected” with the important people in my life (think close friends and loved ones), I unconsciously began treating those relationships as being on the same level as everyone else I was becoming “connected” with. Far worse, I disregarded many important people in my life simply because we weren’t connected through Facebook, which was fulfilling [read: exhausting] my “social needs” to the extent I failed to actively connect in other meaningful ways.

Having (mostly) quit Facebook, I feel more rewarded in the ways I spend my time. To begin with, my real life social interactions seem to serve a greater purpose by playing a functional role in “keeping me connected.” As if that’s not enough, when I’m working, I’m more productive and diligent, and when taking a break, I feel more entitled to spending the time however I please. I’ll watch a movie on a weekday, spend an extra hour at the gym, or chat with an old friend for a couple hours. I rarely did these things before I quit Facebook. Granted I’m somewhat of a workaholic [read: passionate], but these days I’m taking time off consistently. And before, when I did take time off, it felt more like “I need to do this” rather than “I deserve this.”

4. Disenfranchisement

By far the most subtle. After years of using Facebook I became fairly dependent on it as a broadcast medium for interesting things to do. Upon leaving, I realized I had failed to develop any “independent” means of figuring out what the hell was going on in my city, and since I no longer had the option of crowdsourcing my weekend I actually had to do something about it. In two short weeks, I’ve noticed a monumental shift in the way I approach going out and making the most out of life in SF. I’ve started tracking the jazz scene (something I’ve wanted but hadn’t bothered to do) and even begun moving to a new location closer to the beach. On the whole, I feel empowered to pursue my own interests and wellbeing rather than predominantly accommodate others, which it turns out I was doing far more than I realized.

Concluding remarks

When Facebook first took off it really was the new hotness. Times have changed:

And for actually finding out how someone is doing, at the very least there’s a phone call involved.

Why not deactivate, take a break, change your posting behavior, etc?

I have tried more than a few things to reduce my time spent on social media without satisfactory results. Unlike other possible addictions, as a society we simply haven’t yet developed customs to guide behavior.

I’m not claiming everyone should quit Facebook. As I’ve already mentioned, I believe I am particular susceptible to overuse. I can even think of several scenarios where Facebook wouldn’t be so problematic for me personally. I’ve considered, for instance, writing a program that moderates my Facebook activity by changing my password and granting me random 30 minute windows once a week to peruse the life updates of my friends. But I really don’t have time to build this (I blame Facebook).

I could go on rambling about Facebook, I haven’t even touched on privacy concerns or why I think this topic is taboo, but there’s really not a lot more to say that’s relevant to you all.

Old and new friends alike, I’d love to hear from you. Leaving Facebook doesn’t mean you (or I) have to leave relationships behind. For myself, I’m actively choosing to deepen the real relationships I already have, and create more space for new ones.

So, adieu. It’s been real.

I’ll be editing this over the next couple days and eventually posting to Facebook