One week ago, I deleted Facebook.
Needless to say, I don’t miss it at all.
The simplest answer is this:
Facebook is a timesuck, and I need all the time I can get.
Because of its artificial and forced two-way friendship model, amassing hundreds of Facebook friends is easy. One might even consider it difficult to avoid.
Having lots of friends is desirable, even if those friends are mostly meaningless acquaintances. It makes us feel like we aren’t alone, like we’re a part of something. It’s nice to be popular.
I joined Facebook circa 2005 as I was preparing to graduate high school. Before long, checking Facebook became part of my routine. As a college freshman, it was an attempt to meet people. New town, new school, no friends… But there was Facebook.
For many, Facebook is ingrained to the point where we can’t imagine living without it. It seems so useful. You can look at people’s pictures. You can check relationship statuses. You can stalk guilt-free because everyone does it. You can “keep in touch” with friends and relatives. You can play games.
And you can post statuses.
The status update is the source of Facebook’s superficiality. When I post a status, I know that at least some percentage of my ~400 friends is going to read it. No matter what it is. A description of my lunch. The story of my great workout. A photo in which I look particularly attractive.
What’s the motivation for sharing these bits of information with hundreds of mostly-strangers?
Because I know I’m guaranteed to get some attention in return.
People love what I’m having for lunch. They cheer me on when I post about running my latest 5k. And they won’t hesitate to tell me how great I look in this photo.
And if I have a bad day? It’s like ordering a rush delivery of attention — all from the comfort of your laptop.
Consciously or subconsciously, the underlying motivation of a Facebook account is vanity. Self-affirmation. Titillation.
Facebook is very mainstream. Everyone is on it. But the mainstream is called such because of what it is: shallow.
And what it lacks in depth, it makes up for in breadth. Hundreds and hundreds of “friends”, few of whom we care about, and most of whom we need to wade through to find who really matters.
As I wrote in Ubiquitous Distraction, whenever we check an input, we severely inhibit our ability to create.
This is not to say we can’t find inspiration in blog posts, or escape in a great novel, or levity in a funny YouTube video. But what separates these inputs from Facebook is value.
Facebook provides very little value that cannot be obtained elsewhere. It provides hours of distraction with almost no reward.
I was fortunate to never find Facebook very addicting. Years ago, I began hiding all of the people I didn’t care about, and so checking my News Feed was easy. Log in, read a handful of new posts, and get out. I rarely felt compelled to stalk, check pictures, or play games.
But even still, those few minutes added up. Between the iPhone and iPad apps and logging into the website, I would still manage to check it multiple times a day.
Rarely would I find anything worth the time. Sure, I’d like a status or two, or make a comment if something particularly witty came to mind.
What am I getting out of clicking that little thumbs-up button?
What am I contributing by clicking that little thumbs-up button?
Nothing, except for a fleeting moment of gratification.
Every moment I was reading a Facebook status was a moment I was not thinking about making great stuff.
Of course, we can argue that the same is true of Twitter, Path, Instagram, et al. But these inputs are far more likely to provide value because of their models for following and connecting.
You follow people on Twitter whom you find interesting. They do not have to follow you back.
Path is specifically designed for sharing with close friends. You may share your Path with someone, but they do not have to share theirs with you.
Instagram (for the moment) follows the same model as Twitter. Follow those with good pictures. Ignore those without.
You only encounter bullshit in these places if you choose to follow people who post bullshit.
This is where Facebook differs from other social networks.
So, how does one go about departing the land of Lucida Grande?
1. Download Your Information
If you’ve been a member on Facebook for years, as I was, you’ll probably be fearful of losing all of your wall posts, pictures, videos, etc.
Facebook allows you to download all of your information fairly easily, provided you know how to do it.
The steps are as follows:
- Click the account menu at the top right of any Facebook page.
- Choose Account Settings.
- Click on “Download a copy of your Facebook data”.
- Click Start My Archive.
The archiving process takes a while, and you’ll receive an email from Facebook when your download is ready.
I want to mention here that when I tried to download my archive, I received an error several times stating that my data couldn’t be downloaded. I had to try again the following day before the download link worked.
2. Permanently Delete Your Account
Note that Facebook distinguishes between “deactivate” and “delete”:
If you deactivate your account from your Security Settings page, your profile (timeline) disappears from the Facebook service immediately. People on Facebook will not be able to search for you. Some information, like messages you sent, may still be visible to others.
In case you want to come back to Facebook at some point, we save your profile (timeline) information (friends, photos, interests, etc.) so that the information on your profile (timeline) will be there when you come back. A lot of people deactivate their accounts for temporary reasons.
If you do not think you will use Facebook again and would like your account deleted, keep in mind that you will not be able to reactivate your account or retrieve any of the content or information you have added. If you would like your account permanently deleted with no option for recovery, log in to your account and then submit your request here.
Fortunately, there’s an easier way to quit Facebook: visit DeleteFacebook.com and click the red button to be taken directly to the account deletion page.
Upon doing so, your account will be deactivated for fourteen days. Afterward, the account will be permanently deleted. If you log in during the grace period, you will cancel the deletion request.
I was on Facebook for eight years and who knows how many hours.
I still catch myself wanting to type “f-a-c-e-b-o-o-k-.-c-o-m” in my URL bar once in while. It’s muscle memory at this point. But then I remember I don’t need to do that any more.
And it feels good.
I’m not saying that everyone who uses Facebook is an idiot. Most of my friends are still on it. However, I do believe the large majority of content on Facebook is worthless. The cost outweighs the benefits.
For me, it was time to move on. The cost outweighed the benefits. Like the week I changed my life and started rising early, leaving Facebook was the result of self-evaluation.
It’s going back to basics: when something no longer works for you, or no longer contributes value to your life, it’s time to let go.
Eliminate unnecessary things — that includes social networks.