Breaking Free from Facebook
I imagine I’m not alone when I say the decision to break free from Facebook has been a struggle. For me, quitting has been an effort long considered but never acted upon. More and more, I find that Facebook user experience, operation, and leadership are incompatible with my beliefs. Leaving comes at a high cost, but if you share this desire, perhaps my story will help. It’s time to quit Facebook.
Recent life changes have me looking to stop time-wasting activities. When I take a moment to reflect on daily time sinks, Facebook ranks highly as one of the least productive and most used. So it should be pretty straightforward, but I’m struggling.
I find the platform addicting in the most literal sense, and some brief research shows that I’m not alone. It grabs my attention for moments when I should be focused, and for what? I don’t feel good after browsing the platform. More often than not, I leave disappointed. Dialogue is rarely mature, and every meaningful conversation seems to spiral out of control quickly.
Facebook is an attention merchant, their platform a habit builder. Molding perceptions and actions with each visit and I’ve been engaging with it for too long. Even as I write this, I casually open up a new tab to login, only to relive the same unfulfilling experience over and over again.
Part of the problem that I cannot presently escape is that portions of my work revolve around social media. Fortunately, it’s an easy problem to solve as it’s not subject to my account, and even if it were, there are pathways around it. If you have to work for a living, there’s no getting around the power of Facebook advertising to specific demographics. I fault no one, including myself, who survives by using it. In many ways, my intimate understanding of Facebook advertising only adds to my desire to break away.
Leaving Facebook also comes with real costs. The most damaging aspect is losing direct access to the people connected with over the years. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many different groups, all filled with people I admire. While I know that I’ll stay in touch with some outside of the platform, I will lose others. There is a genuine sadness about losing these connections, but paths naturally diverge over time. More than likely, the impact of not occasionally seeing their activity will be minimal.
Facebook is my go-to events platform, or at least it was until COVID-19 hit. I’ve used it to organize several community rallies and attend countless events hosted by others. Now, my wife and I will soon welcome a new life into the world, so any large social gathering is out of the question. Still, Facebook remains the best method for staying informed about events and local activism, and now connects gatherings in a digital space. Losing these activity connections removes necessary information access, but this is merely an obstacle to overcome. At the very least, I can continue to support organizations whose causes I believe in financially.
There is also the temptation to share intimate family details on the platform. My wife and I intend to not share photos of our daughter often on social media, whether or not I can keep to that vision is to be determined. It’s not a jab at anyone who uses the platform to connect with friends and family, but rather a recognition that she is unable to consent. There is a profound sadness for generations who will have their life cataloged by a for-profit company that owns the rights to use the images in whatever way they see fit. As if growing up isn’t already stressful enough, one can only imagine what might pop up in middle school and high school from old posts on a parent’s Facebook page.
There’s also Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, with whom I can only feel disappointment. I’m in no position to critique his brilliance. Still, his actions suggest he embraces the philosophy of corporatist dominion—beliefs that challenge my core values. Now in some of America’s most turbulent times, he wields his power precisely, prioritizing the organization over the collective well being. To fellow activists organizing on Facebook, you are actively supporting and empowering an individual whose views act in radical opposition to your own. In a culture that worships money, sometimes the highest form of protest is simply to opt-out—there are other options.
Facebook is a shackle that ties us to incorrect ways of organizing ourselves and our beliefs. It molds our shared behaviors and changes our universe in the process.
There is a small part of me that wants to hold onto Facebook for recognition. In 2019 I amassed a small, local following through my State Assembly campaign. While it’s not much (~650 followers), it’s still difficult to let go of as someone looking to share their writing and perspective with the world.
Caring about followers is an inescapable aspect of social media influencing. It molds attention-seeking habits that bleed into our worldviews. Recognizing that my desire to remain fuels the bad habits that only serve to increase that desire—a self-perpetuating cycle of personal degradation. As the Buddhist truths teach us, desire causes suffering—expectations misaligning with reality. I understand that wanting to become a better writer has everything to do with writing and nothing to do with recognition—making the choice simple.
Like ripping a band-aid off, deleting my account is the only pathway for me to move forward. To keep it live and attempt to avoid it would be futile, I’m a glutton for procrastination. I’ve always found there to be significant benefits of sharing your vision and goals publicly. Therefore, I use this moment to proclaim that I will permanently delete my accounts seven days after publication of this article. If I ever return, it will be unattached, possibly using a third party to share new projects or adventures.
Building connections will be more difficult, and although I am moderately active on Twitter, it doesn’t capture my attention the same way. In the end, I have to believe this action will be a net positive. The alternative is a self-subjugation I am no longer willing to endure.