I have long had a love-hate relationship with Facebook.
I love all of the fun, conveniences, information, conversations, and ability to find like-minded interest groups.
I don't love the addictive time-sucking nature of Facebook, the seemingly inherent negativity, and the ability to unwittingly make an idiot of myself before a large audience.
Several years ago, I wrote a short series about Facebook. Read the first part here: "Facebook: Flighty Friend or Fiendish Foe?" In that post, I detailed all of the different things that I liked and didn't like about Facebook, and I find that I still agree with what I wrote in that post.
When I wrote the above post, I realized that many things needed changing at the time.
- Firstly was the fact that I was part of many birth groups that tended to have combative or negative attitudes. "You don't like what we've got to say? Well, in your face!" It was very negative, and very depressing. I immediately went through and deleted those type of birth groups. Indeed, in the intervening years I have deleted almost all of my birth groups - I've only kept a small handful.
- Secondly was a large number articles appearing in my newsfeed that ridiculed my beliefs, my politics, my parenting, my religion, etc. (Not that they were intentionally targeting me, but it sure can feel like it.) Again, incredibly depressing. I spent some time cleaning up this area of my account. Again, a big improvement.
- More about the changes I made here.
- You can also read about what I learned about the benefits of Facebook breaks here.
After I finished cleaning up my Facebook account, it was a much cleaner and happier and more positive place to be.
The addictive nature of Facebook remained the same. The "complete huge waste of time" factor remained the same. And a lot of the negatives of Facebook - namely, the arguments and negativity, seemed to be constant regardless of what I did.
And even though I had changed to more positive groups - like Christian mothering and parenting groups - my account was still filled with argument and debate threads. Just have one woman in a group post something like "I want more children, but my husband doesn't. What should I do?" - and watch women fly for each other's throats.
About two months ago, around 10:00 p.m. one evening, all of the unrest I'd been feeling for years about Facebook came suddenly and unexpectedly to a head. All of a sudden, I'd had enough. I walked into my husband's office and said:
"I want to get rid of my Facebook account. Right now. Okay with you?"
He was fine with it, and so I went ahead. I dashed off a quick, "Goodbye, world!" post, and then deactivated (not having the guts to do the final deletion).
My first feeling was a feeling of intense shock and grief. It was like receiving a death blow.
My second feeling was a feeling of intense relief and freedom.
I stayed Facebook-free for about six weeks.
Here's what I loved leaving behind while off of Facebook:
- The temptation to gossip about or eavesdrop on issues and conversations that were none of my business
- The never-ending time-suck
- The drama. Oh, the drama.
- Arguments, fights, and squabbles of various sorts - And even worse, how those arguments sucked me in, both time-wise (being glued to the computer) and mentally (having my mind fixated on an issue and preventing me from being emotionally present with my family).
- Violent politics
- Seeing posts I would rather NOT see
- The dangerous side of Facebook*
- Facebook-regret - that nasty feeling you get when you suddenly wake up and think, "Oh, my goodness - I can't believe I posted that on Facebook!" I can't tell you how often this happens to me (though thankfully not nearly as often as in the past).
- The risk of hurting someone accidentally - usually by unwittingly revealing information that was meant to be private. I still feel sick about the time I face-planted in this area.
* Several months ago, I witnessed an unknown troll (a troll is someone who joins a group in order to intentionally hurt people) take a member's innocent status update, twist it, and get the family in trouble with the law. True story. This incident really made me rethink Facebook and the internet in general.
- Sharing family pictures, especially for those who don't see our family in person often.
- Sharing our home education journey - I love Facebook as a way encourage others considering home education and also to educate those who are ignorant about or even hostile to home education, and I've had a wonderful response to my home education posts. I really missed this.
- Sharing articles - Okay, I know - I share way too many articles. But I really missed this while being off of Facebook!
- Promoting books and events - I love promoting great books and upcoming local events. This is something I definitely couldn't do while off of Facebook.
- Participating in like-minded niche groups - Facebook is great about having niche groups for just about anything, and I was a part of several otherwise hard-to-find niche Facebook groups. I haven't rejoined those groups due to the time-suck issue, but I do miss that fellowship of like-minded mamas.
- The ability to post requests for local information - I really do use Facebook for this. "Does anyone know of a good local source for raw milk? Who has an extra SCOBY? Where is a good mechanic in the east valley?" etc.
- Receiving friends' family news - Especially the wonderful news items of engagements, pregnancies, and new babies!
At the end of the six-week time period, I came to a tentative decision. I would go back on Facebook... but I would share my husband's account. That way, I would receive absolutely zero notifications, invitations, messages, etc. I would not participate in any groups. I would only log on once a day to make posts, and then scram.
And that's been the status for the past month.
It's worked beautifully.
I am on Facebook for five minutes or less per day. I stop by once a day to post pictures, articles, and updates, and then log off within a few minutes. I don't see the drama or the endless debate threads that can take my attention and my peace for hours and days at a time.
I miss a lot, but it's worth it. It's a huge improvement.
Right now we're in a holding pattern. I don't know if I will keep this method, or if I will end up permanently deleting my account in the end. But I love being mostly Facebook-free, and I don't want to go back to the bondage that I felt before - of the relentless pull to the computer to "check on developments" of the latest debate, or scrolling through my news feed for the hundredth time, or of feeling the irresistible compulsion to check Facebook every single time I sat down at the computer.
Now that I don't have a Facebook addiction to battle, I can use the computer much more constructively. Computer time is still addictive, but not nearly as much when it's just email and my blog reader. And now that I'm not receiving endless Facebook notifications, my email load has been reduced by an easy 50% or more, meaning that my inbox is much more manageable. (Additionally, I have more time to devote to blogging!)
Facebook was fun. But for me, it was also a form of slavery.
And life is much better (mostly) without it.
I'll write at a later date to let you know how it comes out in the end!
Dear friends, I'd love to hear how you manage Facebook! Do you battle Facebook addiction? Do you choose not have an account? Do you have a way to manage it effectively? Write and let me know!
(Note to friends: My personal Facebook account has been reactivated, as I found that I needed access to information within my message inbox, but I am no longer using it.)