Quitting Facebook Part 4 – Life After Facebook

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

quitting facebook

The first time I went back to my news feed after unfriending everybody (I logged in to check for final messages), I was stunned.

No stories.

Suddenly it hit me in full force – I actually had no way of knowing what anybody was up to unless:

a) I texted/emailed/called and asked (a bit odd), or
b) I suffered the humiliation of admitting I was returning only 48 hours after announcing my intention to leave.

But actually, later that day I noticed a new feeling settle in. It was… relaxation.

I couldn’t find out what was going on. So I didn’t need to. And suddenly everything seemed much easier and freer and I realised that I might actually start looking forward to meeting up with people more. As I said in lessons learnt, meeting people in real life gives you a much truer picture of who they really are.

Two Months Later

The funniest thing about walking away from facebook was that as part of quitting I exchanged contact details with a lot of people that I only spoke to via the site, but I haven’t contacted any of them (and they haven’t contacted me) since.

I fully believed I would keep in touch with them. They were all geographically distant friends from the past that I had reconnected with, but as soon as facebook was out of my life, they literally faded back into the past.

And I realised that actually, that was really where they belonged.

On the other hand, I have had more contact with other friends – it is almost as though facebook was a poor substitute that was hindering the emails, texts and even letters – yes handwritten letters – that mean so much more than just status updates, likes and comments.

Basically, my social relationships feel more meaningful now.

Facebook and Happiness

One of the reasons I wanted to leave facebook, was the fact that you inevitably end up comparing your real life to everyone else’s edited highlights.

This is also reported here after a study was published that suggests that using facebook really does make you feel worse.

I can completely understand why this is the case – seeing the fun, exciting, entertaining, non-stop activity from a large news feed is obviously going to make your own life seem quiet and mundane on multiple occasions. Every time you log in, someone, somewhere has done something exciting while you’ve just been watching TV or cleaning the bath.

I don’t think it is healthy to frame your own existence in the same light as the 75+ new status updates that have appeared since you last checked your feed.

Missing Out?

A few times now I have been out with a group friends and had a conversation that goes a little like this:

I thought that picture was so cute/funny/awful that Edith posted. Oh you’re not on Facebook are you Faye? Here take a look… (smart phone appears).

Or like this:

Did you read about Delilah’s nightmare with her doctor? Oh you’re not on facebook are you – let me tell you the story… (big discussion follows).

So I guess I’m not missing out. Or if I am, it’s only by being late to hear the news. Something I’m quite happy with. People do love to tell a story and I am now an even more willing audience 🙂

Less Pressure

The other thing I have noticed is the lack of pressure to like, comment, support, enthuse and applaud other people ALL THE TIME.

If you have close friends on facebook (and I have done this myself), you might feel a bit put out, or worried, that they haven’t commented on your latest status announcement that’s been up for 24 hours.

24 hours!! Where are they? Do they not approve?? Don’t they CARE?!?

If you’re not on facebook at all, no one gets offended that you don’t adore their new kitten the second they get it, agree that their landlord is an arse in the middle of a deposit-dispute, or congratulate them on their niece’s friend’s mum’s new painting sale.

It’s OK.

Happy them, happy you.

Wrapping Up

I’ve probably gone on about leaving facebook enough now – enough to bore you all to tears and incite stories of missing people being reunited and old sweethearts finding each other and getting married.

No, it’s not all bad.

No, I don’t think you should quit.

Not unless you want to 😉

I was surprised that in the end, after 6 years, facebook disappeared from my life silently – within 24 hours I wasn’t even thinking about it any more.

For all my fears – of whether I would be lonely, have to go back, miss out on things, whatever – none of it happened.

For me, life is better without it.

Quitting Facebook Part 1 – Data

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

quitting facebook

I recently wrote about some of the reasons I was thinking of quitting facebook.

Well, I did!

This is the first in a four part series covering my experience of opting-out of the world’s biggest social networking site after 6 years of membership and almost 1600 status updates.

Funny enough, after I’d written the post about quitting, making the decision was easy. It was something I’d been contemplating for a long time, so it suddenly seemed obvious that quitting was exactly what I needed to do.

What didn’t seem so easy was my actual exit plan.

In the 6 years since I joined facebook I had bought a house, got engaged, got married and had two children. All the emotional ups and downs, and frustrations and rewards of these events are catalogued in my status updates, along with encouragement, support and laughter from my closest friends.

I couldn’t just delete that information – I had to extract it somehow for my own records. But how?

Well, it turns out there is a very simple way to request your facebook data (status updates, photos, videos and messages are all included, but your comments on other people’s pages are not):

Go to Account Settings from the gear icon menu on the top right.

At the bottom of the list of settings there is a small link that says Download a copy of your facebook data.

Click on it, enter your password, and wait.

It takes them a while (several hours), to create a downloadable archive of all your information and you get a notification email when they are done.

When I downloaded the archive I was initially pleased – everything is laid out in web page format, just like a basic facebook, but it’s all on your own computer.

However, a closer look revealed that 9 months of 2012 statuses were totally absent. Not only that, but I *think* that some of my early updates from 2007-08 were missing.

Facebook has no real support, so to obtain the data from 2012 I expanded that year on my facebook page to include all stories, and then expanded all the comments too (yes, this took ages). Then I saved the entire web page by right clicking in Chrome and selecting Save As.

There wasn’t anything I could do about 2007-08. I guess that they may have irreversibly cut down those early years to just highlights (to save space?), or lost them in a system update, but either way I didn’t feel that I’d lost too much, as I could only remember a couple of things that were missing.

I now have all my statuses and all comments saved in html format on my local drive (and backed up to a remote location, of course 😉 ).

After finally getting all of my data out of facebook, I went through by hand and manually deleted everything from their website (yes, this took even longer).

I don’t 100% trust that a request to delete my account would really delete everything (I’m kinda paranoid like that).

Once my data was all out, I announced I was leaving.

I talk a bit more about the data I saved and it’s significance in Part 3, but next up is Part 2: the social aspect of leaving Facebook.

Why I Am Thinking Of Quitting Facebook

I joined Facebook in 2007.

Almost 6 years of checking, posting, poking, liking and sharing have passed, and for the most part, they have been fun.

These days however, I’ve noticed that Facebook, and the way people use it, has slowly morphed into something I just don’t really enjoy any more.

In fact, it’s beyond a lack of enjoyment. It’s actually turned into an annoyance. A source of stress in some instances. A source of sadness and anxiety in others.

Why on earth?

Because Facebook is no longer just a place to share what you did at the weekend, what you think of the pint you’ve just been served at your local, or how much you just enjoyed a walk in the woods.

Now Facebook is a soapbox for anything and everything. And I have no real control over my feed (since I do not control my friends), or the statuses I see that I would rather not have read, or over the range of emotions that can be provoked in a 10 minute Facebook check.

More and more over the last few months I find that when I log in and check what’s going on, the whole experience just leaves me feeling irritated.

And I know I am seriously thinking of quitting because I have gradually gone from checking Facebook several times a day, to checking it so infrequently I now get emails that tell me I am missing out.

I haven’t posted a status update for exactly 2 weeks. The only other time I have gone so long without checking in was when I lost my pregnancy last summer (yup, I really have been a total Facebook addict for the last 6 years).

So, here we are. Some of my reasons, in no particular order, are:

  • Time. I spend far less time on facebook now than I used to, but it is still a distraction and time-stealer.
  • Facebook sponsored posts. There is no way of removing or opting out of sponsored posts for games and corporate offers. I find it intrusive and annoying to have to scroll past them every 5 or so updates.
  • Political statements, pro- and anti- campaign links. It can be unsettling to see emotional and vehement posts sandwiched between a wish for someone’s happy birthday and a new album of someone’s holiday snaps.
  • Weird privacy rules. When I use facebook on my computer, I get a feed at the right hand side that tells me all of my friends activities on ALL things. So if a friend comments on a non-friend’s job loss, divorce or other tragedy, I can also see the non-friend’s status. Hmm.
  • Distressing news. For me personally, I find that I need to avoid a lot of the news because it can be so upsetting. I will cry and not be able to sleep over a child’s death or abuse, so to unexpectedly find this sort of story among humorous posts and pictures is something I do not deal very well with.
  • Self promotion and validation. We’re all guilty of this, and in fact I think it is probably the one thing that provokes the most anxiety. Everyone likes a nice photo of themselves, or their family, or their holiday, or their hobbies, but sometimes I scroll through my feed and I can’t help but feel that other people’s lives are somehow shinier, better, more exciting and more glamorous than my own. This is a dangerous thing to be exposed to regularly because a) it simply isn’t true – everyone has their own problems and their own crosses to bear and b) over time it can affect your view of the world and make it seem that you just can’t “keep up”, promoting feelings of inadequacy that tend to find an outlet in over-eating, over-spending and general over-indulging.

For all these reasons (and other less rational issues), I am not really enjoying it at all any more.

Today for example, I scrolled through several rants about abusive family members, a tragic news story, a handful of shared pictures of naked men, some music video links and various comments on Britain’s Got Talent.

Is this really enriching my life?

I am beginning to think it is something I can live without.

In Game Graphics

I was playing Prey this evening on Xbox 360. It’s a great game, rated 18, but similar to Halo in playability. Suddenly I came across something rather peculiar on the floor of the level I was on, and I took a picture of it, so you could see it too. Incidently, just before I took this, a mutated man jumped out of that thing and tried to kill me.

Hmm.

Unidentified Vegetable

We.
Have.
Broadband.

Yee Har!

NTL have been excellent so far.

Look at this – I found it growing in the garden. Neither me, nor Steve, nor my Mum had any idea what it was. We cut it up, but it smelt like it might give you belly ache, so we composted it instead of eating it. If anyone has any idea what on earth it is, please enlighten me.

(photos lost in transit)

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