Why I’m No Longer on Facebook

Why I’m No Longer on Facebook

This is a personal decision. But it’s one I have to make.

Origins

I’m actually quite grateful for social media. Many years ago — what? about 15 years, give or take? — I remember logging into MySpace every day at work. I was at a dead end office job. Bored out of my mind, nothing to do. The boss didn’t even wander in until just before lunch. I had a lot of free time on my hands. And I was miserable. It was one of those soul-sucking jobs. One of those places that paid just well enough to convince me to stay, while my lifeforce slowly withered away and died.

But through MySpace, I could reconnect with old friends. Find and make new ones too. Back then, MySpace had something of a basic blog included with your profile. And nearly every day, I wrote something in that blog.

Sometimes it was just funny or interesting stuff I wanted to share. This is a time before “memes” were a thing. People created their own content. There wasn’t a whole lot of random images to share yet. (Although, I do have a vague memory of a 3-D animated dancing baby… And this was the era when people first began “Rick rolling” each other.) Anyway, I used my personal MySpace blog as an outlet. Most of the time, I wrote about my own personal thoughts and feelings. My hopes, my dreams, my desires… My fears, my obstacles, my challenges.

Many, many of my blog posts were really me just talking to myself, trying to keep myself motivated. Keep myself from giving up or giving into despair, as this job slowly sucked my life away. It was heartfelt, honest, authentic, and raw at times. I honestly wasn’t trying to motivate or inspire anybody else. Not really. I was just trying to keep myself going.

And in the beginning, just a few real life friends read it. But then they started sharing (actually, linking back to and/or referring people to) it. It turned out I wasn’t the only one struggling through life, and my words and heartfelt raw feelings were connecting with and inspiring others. More and more people — total strangers — started regularly reading my blog. Some of them, gradually over time, became in-person real life friends too.

One of them eventually became one of my all-time top favorite girlfriends!

Social media started as a great experience for me.

In fact, after a while people started encouraging me to gather my “best of” blogs and put them together into a book. That became my very first book ever. Self-published. Only ever sold a handful of copies. Who knows, there may still be one or two floating out there in the world somewhere. But it was a start. My start. Where my self-publishing writer’s journey began — the first step that, years later, actually led to me making a living as a writer!

Enter Facebook

Eventually, all the “old people” (I guess age 40+? lol) started getting on MySpace, and us younger folks didn’t want to keep posting the same stuff knowing that our parents and their friends would be reading it too. But no worries. There was this other little known website called Facebook.

Gradually, more and more of us migrated over there.

The rest is history. Inevitably, all the old people eventually followed and came over to Facebook too. But by then, we were tired of hopping to new platforms, and quite honestly, Facebook had already entrenched itself into much of the Internet. With the single click of a button, we could log into countless other websites, just by having a Facebook account. And businesses and schools had started using Facebook for group meetings, project collaborations, professional networking, fan pages, and more.

Facebook was suddenly an integrated and essential part of all of our lives, without any of us realizing it was happening.

In fact, I remember about 5-6 years ago, I actually wanted to delete my Facebook account. I tried to. But then I’d work on a film set and meet all these amazing people. When the project was over, everyone was like, “that was great, let’s stay in touch, let’s do something together again … what’s your Facebook?”

I had to re-activate my account, for the benefit of my career.

In the following years, I leaned into it. I wasn’t feeling a whole lot of actual connection (more on that later), but I saw that it was essential to have. So I decided to use Facebook more as a marketing platform. An easy and convenient way to share exciting news (“woohoo! I just booked another role!”), advertise opportunities (“I’m looking for someone to join my crew on my next film”), find guests for my podcast, that sort of thing, and so on.

And, yes, I “kept in touch” with friends through it too. Although, to be honest, my real (close, meaningful relationship) friends kept in touch by phone/text anyway. If something important (good or bad) was going on in their lives, I knew about it without the help of social media.

I tried using Facebook for professional networking. It did lead to a few tiny gigs, but honestly, 99%+ of my acting and/or directing opportunities came through either mutual offline friends or the through traditional auditions, independent of any social media.

2020

And then 2020 hit.

Politics, the pandemic, protests and riots, wild conspiracy theories, rampant misinformation, an economy in ruins… People were understandably stressed, angry, frightened, and confused.

I certainly was.

I wouldn’t say this started in 2020, but the events of this year have absolutely magnified and enhanced it. Many people on social media, somewhere along the way, stopped using it to connect with others — and started using it to spread agendas, argue their biases, and call anyone who disagreed “part of the problem.” I saw this happening across the board. It didn’t matter if you were conservative or liberal, religious or secular, male or female, young or old — everyone was stressed and angry, and suddenly, we were taking it out on each other.

Say the wrong thing? You might be blocked and unfriended. Or at the very least, attacked relentlessly by total strangers and have your character insulted and degraded.

If you’ve been on social media lately, I don’t need to elaborate.

You know. You’ve seen it happen. You’ve probably had it happen to you.

Facebook had become a toxic environment — and it was getting worse over time, not better.

Suddenly It Made Sense

I knew I needed to take a break from social media.

I was actually starting to feel stress and anxiety in my body, anytime I logged in to check messages, read my feed, or post something new.

Did some “friend” leave an angry comment on one my posts? What new hate speech, conspiracy theory, or political agenda would show up in my feed today? And when posting something, I began to think and worry “how will somebody misinterpret this?” I began to feel afraid to post anything — because somebody, somewhere, would attack me for it, no matter how good or loving my intentions and message.

I did my best to minimize all that. I reduced my friend list significantly. I unfollowed all but a handful of close real life friends and others who reliably only posted positive, funny, or uplifting things. I knew Facebook wasn’t all bad. There were good people posting good things on it too. But despite all those measures, the toxic stuff was still slipping through. I couldn’t escape it.

So I took a break. Stayed completely off for a little while.

Then a funny thing happened. I suddenly had a lot more free time. I didn’t realize just how addicted to social media I was, or how much of my life it was sucking up.

I felt more relaxed. I was more productive in my business. Spent more time outside in nature. All in all, my little vacation from Facebook was a positive thing.

It felt awkward and uncomfortable at first — like an addict, I needed my fix. I wanted to log back in and check for the little red notification icon. Or see what other people were posting. Or post some important news article or clever meme. But I stopped myself. And after about 7-10 days, it got so much easier. I actually didn’t miss Facebook at all.

And with my free time, I felt like investing in myself. I started watching more documentaries and educational videos. Things that might improve my health, happiness, and business.

And that’s when I came across a TED talk by Yael Eisenstat, a former CIA analyst and Facebook employee, about how Facebook profits from polarizing its users.

It turns out that Facebook’s algorithms and business model actually encourage all this hate speech, extreme “us verses them” tribalism, and the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation. Previously, I had assumed that “there was nothing they could do about it,” because there was no way to monitor or control what its billions of users were posting every day. I honestly believed they were doing their best to get things under control, and make Facebook a safer and more pleasant place to be.

I had believed that once the election and pandemic were over, things might return back to normal.

But it turns out that, for years, Facebook has been actively driving us down this road, simply because the more “engaged” we are on their site, the more money they make. And the most engaging content is the stuff that makes people as angry and riled up as possible.

Facebook is financially incentivized to polarize its users — to divide you and me from others … or each other.

They make more profit that way.

And it doesn’t have to be that way. As Yael explains in her TED talk, they could use a different algorithm. They could use a different business model. They could actually be connecting people together, as their company slogan claims they’re here to do. But instead, they choose not to.

Digging Deeper

When it became apparent to me that Facebook wasn’t merely trying to “deal” with all this division and toxicity, but was actually profiting from and encouraging it, I had an important decision to make. To me personally, according to my values, I cannot and will not support and be a part of an organization that is knowingly and willfully choosing to profit from other people’s suffering. I will not be part of any organization that actively seeks to and benefits from dividing people against each other.

I can’t believe I’m saying that about Facebook. It seems like it should be the opposite.

But I also know that the face of a company — what they show and tell the public — isn’t always their true nature or intention behind the scenes. And there’s documented evidence that Facebook, the corporation, isn’t necessarily the good friend they claim to be.

Out of moral integrity, ethically, I felt I needed to delete my account.

I remember seeing a meme years ago about social media in general. It went something like, “if you’re using their service for free, you’re not their customer, you’re their product.” It was talking about how sites like Facebook mine your data and sell it to advertisers. They learn about you — where you live, what you like, what kinds of fan pages you interact with, what you recently searched online for — and sell that information to other companies, who can target their ads and more effectively sell their products and services to you.

Facebook is making money from my account information.

Therefore, my continued use of Facebook is financially supporting them.

Facebook is dividing and polarizing people, encouraging the spread of lies, conspiracies, and misinformation (people “engage” with that content more than the less-exciting truth), and causing mental and emotional distress to an untold number of its users.

I do not wish to financially support an organization who does that.

Therefore, I cannot continue using them or allow them to keep re-selling my data.

I need to completely delete my account.

But that was no simple or easy decision. After all, Facebook is heavily integrated throughout the Internet. Apps, websites, video games — so many of them offer instant Facebook logins. So many of my friends are on Facebook, and conveniently communicate with me through it. It’s theoretically a great way to advertise and promote my business (although that’s debatable). Do I really want to let all that go, over some moral issue? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Is this really so bad?

I wanted to find a better alternative. Another social media site, perhaps, that used a different algorithm or something. So I began searching. And then I came across this.

It listed several alternatives to Facebook — but they also explained why you might want to delete Facebook too.

I was shocked by what I learned.

Massive data security breaches. Extremely invasive methods to acquire your personal (and even private, health-related) data. Investing in research to make themselves all the more addictive. Scientific studies proving that social media has a negative impact on our mental and emotional health. Horrific worker exploitation. Financially profiting from hate speech and misinformation.

Facebook is not our friend.

There was no question now. I can’t be a part of this anymore.

But How Will I Stay Connected?

Some people have asked how I will “stay connected” if I’m not actively using Facebook.

I actually felt this was an odd question. First, obviously, I’m staying in touch with friends the “old fashioned way” through phone calls and texts. Plus there’s the occasional Zoom chat while we play an online board game together. So even during a stay-at-home pandemic lockdown, there’s ways to stay connected without Facebook.

And the rest of the time, there’s things like meetup.com, church, classes/workshops, mutual friends — all kinds of ways to meet new people and make new friends.

But more importantly, this question of how I’d stay connected without Facebook felt odd to me because, honestly, I haven’t gotten much true “connection” from social media in a long time.

I get lots of “interaction.” But not real connection.

They’re not the same thing. At all.

Facebook, at least in my experience, has been pseudo-connection. There’s been moments where I actually had a heart-to-heart connection with somebody. Usually in a private chat. There’s been times when I posted something honest and vulnerable, and someone commented with encouraging and supportive words, and I did feel a little better.

But for the most part? The vast, vast majority of the time?

At best, it’s clicking “likes” and replying to comments. Which kinda almost simulates a conversation, but not really.

Did you know that 88% of communication is non-verbal? Facial expressions, body language, etc. Of the remaining 12%, about 7% is things like tone, volume, inflection — various audible cues. Only 5% of communication are the actual words we use.

But that’s all we get on social media. Just words. Just universally-formatted text on a screen.

You don’t even get to see their handwriting.

And currently, you can’t even bold or italicize your comments on Facebook, to put a little emotion and flavor into your dialog. Nope. We all get the same font, at the same size, in the same color. SOME PEOPLE CAN YELL WITH ALL CAPS IF THEY WANT! But… that’s it. That’s all we get.

That’s not communication.

That’s not connection.

If I can’t hear you, see you, feel what you’re feeling… it’s no wonder communication breaks down on the Internet so much.

And honestly, at least for me, all the “interaction” I was getting on Facebook — that almost, kinda-sorta, not quite felt like real connection — was actually making me feel more lonely, and less connected. It was simulated connection. Virtual connection. Pseudo-connection.

Not real.

I want something real.

Facebook was just sucking up my time and energy, slowly making me feel worse and worse about life, other people, and the future of our world.

It wasn’t healthy or beneficial to me.

Facebook had become an endless stream of hand-picked (usually highly biased) news articles, that frequently made me feel angry, stressed, or depressed. Day after day, I saw countless people shouting at each other about politics or health or the economy or whatever — shouting, often angrily, without anybody ever actually truly opening up or listening.

Endless misinformation, crazy conspiracy theories, hate speech…

And, it seemed like, a new ad every 3-5 posts, too.

Sure, yes, of course, there were some people in my feed who posted positive, uplifting, and funny stuff too. Like I said earlier, I had actually filtered my feed down to just those kinds of people after a while. But the negative stuff still kept slipping in. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t escape it. And I realized, overall, that my time spent on Facebook was actually having a net negative effect on me and my outlook on life.

Facebook was a source of stress and things to be upset about. Not connection.

There’s no substitute for the real thing.

“Likes” don’t actually make me feel liked. Comments aren’t an actual conversation. A heart emoji may tell me you care, but what I really need is a hug.

So what benefit, truly, is Facebook giving me?

It’s an addiction. It gives the illusion of connection.

But it’s not actually making me feel happier, healthier, or more connected in my real life.

Social media is like junk food. It kinda sorta looks and feels like connection. And perhaps it’s better than nothing if it’s all you’ve got. But if all you eat is junk food, you won’t be very healthy. And if all I’m getting is pseudo-connection, I won’t be very healthy either.

And I can’t in good conscience continue supporting a company that’s actively, willfully, knowingly profiting from the increasing division and suffering of others.

It wasn’t that long ago before social media even existed, and we all did fine staying connected.

So I’m choosing to go back to that way of life.

That’s why I’m choosing, for me personally, to stay off Facebook — or any other social media platform they own or behaves the same way.

It’ll take some adjusting. I’m used to logging in and using social media nearly every day for the past 15+ years now.

But everything’s hard at first. And then it becomes easy.

There’s a better way to live. I’m starting that today.

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