About a year ago I did an experiment.
It might sound small, and in the grand scheme of things, it was. No one will write about it in a history book, nor compare me to ye brave men of olde making wondrous, costly sacrifices. But I’ll write about it on a blog no one knows about.
The Experiment : Delete all social media apps on my phone ( and then all social media in general )
Simple, I barely use them. After holding down my thumb on an app, making them all shake and grow a red “x”, I deleted everything social media. Simple.
And for the first few hours, it was. Then I had to wait for an elevator on my way to a meeting. Standing in the lobby, waiting for that green “up” light to shine and the elevator doors to peel open, I already had my hand on my phone. My thumb tapped home and my fingerprint was read, and my phone was unlocked. But this time, my thumb had nothing to press on. Zuckerberg’s app was gone, Instagram vanished, twitter absent, reddit no longer existed. My thumb hovered over the screen, lost and confused.
Not even ten minutes later, sitting in meeting, the same thing happened. The same hover, the same recognition that I had nothing to look at, but really wanted to.
That’s when I realized this little experiment of mine was going to be a bit harder than I thought.
Not Really A Step-by-Step Guide
Clearly, this blog post is not going to be a step by step guide to deactivate or permanently delete your Facebook account. If you want that, go here.
This is about what goes into deleting social media – and maybe a bit into why our phones and connection have such a massive part in our lives.
The small experiment above revealed a lot about me. I was someone ( and still am ) who prided themselves in being old school – not needing the latest gadgets, using pen and paper, sending smoke signals instead of texts. This experiment though, cut through all that. It cut through that person I was presenting and showed me that I am way more attached to my phone and social media than I thought. It showed me that when I was bored or confused or whatever, I could distract myself with some form of entertainment or information.
There’s feelings behind deleting Facebook. And as weird as that is to type, it’s not the old world anymore. This is what I want to talk about :
- What it means to delete Facebook
- How should you delete Facebook
- Why you should think about deleting Facebook
What It Means To Delete Facebook
Right out the gate, I’m not asking for people to hit rewind on the tech timeline until we all end up churning butter with Mennonites. This idea of ‘deleting Facebook’ isn’t going off the grid to stop people from spying on you or a plea to stop lining the pockets of massive corporations. I don’t really care about those reasons.
Our world is different than it used to be. My family didn’t get the internet until I was in the second year of my undergrad, about 8 years ago. It’s funny to think about that now. Now when I travel I’m annoyed if cafes or restaurants don’t have Wi-Fi. I remember, when I was in grade six, one of my friends had dial up internet – the holy grail. It was a cornucopia of funny videos and games ( and really long load times ). I was enamored by instant messaging – which almost seems archaic now. One night, my friend with dial up and I, we were IMing with girls, one of them I had a crush on. But then the time came for me to go back home, where the connection was nil and the flirting was naught. Sitting in the back seat of my dad’s Corsica, I was jealous. Jealous I couldn’t watch videos or play games or chat with girls. I mean, I don’t think it really plagued me then – I probably went home and played outside a bit then went to bed. But that feeling, that jealousy of connection and mild dread of not enjoying what others got to enjoy, existed then and continues now.
Our world is different than it used to be. It isn’t one of watching over my buddy’s shoulder as he typed a message to a girl named Carly. Now, everything is in my pocket. In my pocket lies the keys to the life, the universe, and everything. Where once, if I wanted to go play outside, I would leave that connection behind. Now it comes with me. Now that connection is always with me. It’s pretty safe to say that there is significant anxiety if we’re more than a couple feet from connection. The classic pocket tap to make sure we don’t forget our phones.
Our world is different than it used to be. It isn’t novel to find a connection to the internet anymore, it’s normal. The opposite is true – it’s novel if we’re in a place where there is no connection. It’s no longer dial up, its LTE networks and Wi-Fi hotspots.
I guess the “What it Means to Delete Facebook” could be summed up with this :
Think through how connected your are and what the impact of it is.
What I am explaining is not a pendulum swinging to times before TVs and phones and Netflix. I’m trying to put you in a place where you think about deleting Facebook – and what that means. There’s so much written on this topic that I hesitate to write about it. But the more I think about it – the more I see a big lack in what’s being written. There’s psychological articles that explain the effects of constant connection and there are memes and gif articles that show how tough it is to break up with your phone. The gap I see is this
What does it mean for you to delete Facebook.
That’s tough to write about, because you’re different than me. What we need, instead of a list of things you need to do, is a couple questions worth asking yourself – you can take it from there.
How Should You Delete Facebook
It’s not as easy as the steps it takes. When my little experiment came to an end, I had a new choice – do I want to get rid of Facebook entirely.
How will I stay connected with my friends and family ?
How will I know about events and parties ?
Will I be able to keep up with what’s going on in my friends’ lives ?
How will people get in touch with me ?
Will they forget about me ?
I don’t even know what else I thought. But what I do know is that there are A LOT of excuses for keeping that app kicking around on my phone and in my life. It’s easy and convenient. I could open that app and get the low-down on my thousand friends’ lives ( at least what they wanted to share ) and see what they were up to. But you lose that.
For a while I wanted to get rid of Facebook ( and Instagram and Twitter and everything ), but I didn’t because my list of questions and excuses were huge. The list was huge, but it wasn’t heavy. Here’s what I mean.
If you’ve ever helped someone move, you know how heavy fridges and freezers and desks and drawers can be. You know how boxes of books can require a lot of gusto. After lifting all these heavy boxes, you expect everything to be heavy and tiresome. There sits a huge box, and in your mind you think, “it’s gonna be hefty.” Then you go for it, and it’s just some wash cloths and a picture frame. Light as a feather. It’s in a huge box and looks so heavy – but it’s light.
That was what it was like for me. The list of questions and excuses seemed so big and heavy – but they were light. I had people’s emails and numbers; my friends would invite me to parties and share about their lives as we hung out and talked. Addressing those excuses isn’t so much as coming up with ways to fix them. The solution, I think, is asking yourself :
Why do you need Facebook ?
Why do you need to be so connected ?
Why do you need to know about a thousand people and what they’re doing ?
On top of getting through the excuses, there’s thinking through using your time. I recognized that I was wasting truckloads of time scrolling on newsfeeds and reading comments on reddit. If I was bored, I’d be on my phone. If I was on the subway, I’d be on my phone. The list goes on. Then I started thinking about all those moments in terms of minutes. How many minutes a day was I spending on my phone ?
The answer was too many.
How should you delete Facebook : figure out how much time you’re wasting. I started to cringe a bit when I thought of all the other things I could do with my time. Learn a new skill or language. Spend some time reflecting. Read a book. Actually talk with someone. Produce.
Bound up in that idea of wasting time is being purposeful. That was the trickier part. At first when I deleted my accounts, I just added in more wasteful things. Angry Birds. Tetris. Whatever. I cut out social media for more distractions. That’s when I really recognized how passive I was being with my life and time. How should you delete Facebook : be more purposeful with your time.
Lastly, you delete Facebook one day at a time. It’s not really a one and done sort of action. I deleted everything in one go. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. I did it about a year ago – and just the other day I had this urge to get back on. Truth be told, I’m back on Intagram. But that feeling of getting back on is real. I don’t miss the connection, but I miss the idea of it. Social media is like a cult leader sometimes. So charming and charismatic. Whispers me back on all the time – just for a taste, a bit of connection. There’s a longing, almost insatiable, to be up to date, to see the latest, and connected the most. A longing to share and have a response to that status or picture.
I sort of picture it like forming habits. You make the decision – and at first you’re all set. Like gym memberships at the turn of the New Year. But eventually, making the choices and following through with it all gets tough. It’s tough to keep overcoming those excuses and maybe even tougher to be purposeful with your time. I get that and feel it pretty often.
This leads into the next idea :
Why You Should Delete Facebook
Again, I don’t really care if you do or not. All I care about is you thinking about why. I don’t care if your phone is riddled with social media if you’ve thought about it and use it well. I asked myself some questions and put myself to the test and I came up with my own conclusions. You’re going to have to do the same. You’re going to have to think about it – and here’s why :
Life is filled with connection.
And I think there is a kind of dichotomy in how this connection plays out. There is real connection and then a sort of fake detachment. I can try to define it – but it’s mostly personal. And I think that’s how it should be. It’s not a list of do’s and don’ts – it’s a chance for you to assess your own connections.
I started getting sick of the idea of so much of my communication happening over text. And I also got upset that when I was out for a drink with friends, I’d have an impulse to check my phone and texts. When I cut all this out, I was in conversation more. Instead of connecting online, I was truly connecting in person – not just being there, but being present and engaged. I’ve always been a social person, but it felt like someone had cut chains off my ankles – it felt new again.
I saw a change in my connection, and that made me question how detached I was. It made me wonder when the last time I took in the golden sunset over the meadow, instead of taking a picture of it and adding a million filters to it. It made me wonder when I was last lonely and bored for a moment, instead of sending generic texts to people or looking for some funny, dank meme. Mostly, it made me wonder when I last called someone, or wrote to someone, or sat down and talk, uninterrupted, with someone instead of messaging them, snap-chatting them, or checking your phone ten times during a conversation.
The world is still mesmerizing. People are still compelling. The connection we need, or at least I needed, was much less through the buffer of social media, and much more through the normal way of living. That was the real connection. What I really wanted was being dulled by social media – not enhanced. I made it a point to have real moments with real people and be confronted by real thoughts and opinions.
Wrapping It Up
I’m not telling you to do what I did. And I’m not telling you to delete Facebook. Though, the thought of the Zuck’s face if millions of people mass migrated away does intrigue me.
What I am saying is this :
The world is different now, and we need to be thoughtful about how we connect. I don’t think we should cannonball into the pool of every new connection app. Nor do I think we unplug everything and start communicating in tribal grunts and cave pictures. There is a middle ground.
When you start to think about why you want / need to be so connected, I’d encourage you to do what I did : start thinking about how you’d do it and what keeps you from it.
What are the reasons ( or excuses ) that keep you scrolling and posting ?
What is the best use of your time in these situations ?
Why should you consider getting rid of it ?
Consider what you know and think about connection and friendships. If you don’t think about it, if you act passively, you may be amazed at how detached you are ( just like I was ).
Ultimately, I’m back on some social media. I just have boundaries – and I have ways to keep myself in check. I don’t need the convenience my phone offers as much anymore, and I definitely don’t want to be the guy who watches his life and loves pass by behind a screen.