After extracting and deleting all my data (see Part 1), I wanted to ‘unfriend’ everyone before requesting deletion of my empty account.
I needed to warn people that I was going to cut them off, so I simply put up a status that said,
I am leaving facebook. It has been fun 🙂
Reactions were instant:
Are you ok hun?
Hey, it took 30 years for us to get back in touch!
But I love reading your status updates!
I wish you luck and happiness in your life xxx.
You’ll be back.
I was touched by the sudden influx of messages from people all wanting to know why I was going away.
And I wavered for a bit:
How was I going to keep in touch with these people?
Was I cutting myself off from them?
Unfriending each person in turn gave me a chance to evaluate how much contact I had with that person and what I wanted to do going forward. All of the people on my facebook friends list were people I know in real life. Here’s how I went through the list:
- First off, I deleted a handful of ‘deactivated’ profiles. These people had already gone.
- Next I deleted the people that never used facebook, e.g. the ex-colleague that said hello in 2010, but who hadn’t posted much since. I didn’t bother to contact any of these.
- Next I deleted the people who used facebook regularly, but who I personally had very limited interaction with, e.g. old schoolfriends who I didn’t know well at school (but we had enjoyed nosing around each other’s lives for a while). Again, I didn’t bother to contact any of these.
- Next I removed my few family members. I know them all and speak to them regularly, so didn’t need to worry about losing them!
- Next I removed my true friends – people that I meet up with and see on a regular basis. These people I text and email and see regularly in person, so I had no need to worry about maintaining contact.
- This left a difficult category of people who I genuinely liked, and who I swapped comments and updates with regularly, but who I had little or no contact with outside of facebook. These were the hardest people to unfriend. In these cases I contacted each of them individually and we swapped email, twitter or linkedIn details where we had them. For example, my old university flatmate who lives in Canada, my best friend from primary school who lives the other side of the country, an old work colleague who has just had a baby. These people have lives full to the brim and are just as busy as we are, so yes, in some ways it will be sad that I won’t be seeing their pictures and updates any more. But I think I am marginally more likely to meet up with them at some future time if we are in one-to-one contact. And if I don’t, then I can accept that I can’t keep up with everyone and that maybe that little bit of extra time I was spending on facebook looking at their lives should go to strengthening the relationships I do maintain in real life.
You can still message people on facebook, even if you aren’t actually linked as friends, so once I’d sent off my messages I unfriended the last batch of people and I was almost done.
It was only later that day, when I sat down to read a couple of replies, and purely out of habit I clicked on News Feed, that I truly realized what a big change it was.
My news feed was empty.
There was no way for me to know what people were doing.
Unless I actually texted or called and asked, everybody had become invisible to me.
For a minute it seemed like I was cut off, in the dark, missing out…
I needed to know what was going on!
But I didn’t at all.
Immediately after that, came a feeling of what I think I can identify as relief.
I couldn’t see what people were up to. I didn’t need to know what everyone else was doing five times a day. I knew that when I spoke to them next I would probably be more attentive and ask more questions because I wouldn’t have seen a recent summary of their day in two lines.
With relief, I could see that I had done the right thing :-).
In Part 3 I’ll talk about the positive lessons that I have learnt from using (and then quitting) facebook and how I feel that leaving it has actually enhanced my social life, not limited it.