Observations From 4 Years Off Facebook

Four Years Off FacebookSometime around March in 2018 it will have been four years since I logged into Facebook. I don’t know the exact day or if it was February or even April. All I remember is it was about three months prior to my son being born in July 2014.

I was talking to a friend of mine a couple of months ago who was amazed I still had not logged in and said I should write about it.

After thinking about it I decided to. And as I started jotting things down the list kept growing. It didn’t occur to me how much Facebook was apart of my life prior to logging off.

Now here’s the thing. I wanted to get all of this out there so I can come back to it later and re-evaluate if the things I have written below are of value or if my logging off was silly.

Facebook Missed Notifications iPhone
I hardly notice it anymore.

Because for the past five months or so I have been telling myself to log into Facebook and yet I have not. How messed up is that? Open a new tab. Type in Facebook. Go. And I still have the Facebook app on my iPhone staring at me with a red 35 on it but yet I have not touched it in 4 years.

Every time I want to log in I talk myself out of it. In my mind I’m trying to get psyched up as if its a big game that I’m about to play in. And I just can’t do it. Maybe I know its a game that cannot be won and spending any effort on it is a waste of time. Maybe I’m just being silly.

So Here We Go

One day four years ago I noticed myself starting to get anxious every time I was on Facebook. I logged in over 20 times one day and did nothing. I was not posting, commenting, liking, or sharing. Nothing. Then I realized I had been doing this for over a month. It got me thinking.

  • What on Earth am I looking for?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • Why does Facebook make me feel sad?
  • Why am I self-editing everything I want to post or comment?
  • Why am I comparing myself to my friends?
  • Why am I comparing myself to acquaintances?
  • Why am I checking Facebook on my phone and computer all the damn time?
  • Why does it feel like I need to use Facebook to prove my existence as a human being?

Its like this wave of thoughts kept building over the years with how I used Facebook along with what role it played in my life. It had become quite powerful. The thought of me becoming a dad in four months was the crest of the wave followed by the break. Seven years of heavily using Facebook came crashing down.

I realized I probably had some sort of addiction to Facebook and it needed to be addressed. Going cold turkey and not logging in was the only way. Swimming sideways out of the rip tide of Facebook was what I needed to do to get back to a clear mind. Not charge head on back to it.

I figured nobody would miss the posts I was not posting and nobody would miss the comments I was not leaving. In the month prior to not logging in I had not sent or received a message nor was I tagged in a post. Its as if I wasn’t using my account at all even though I was on it all the time.

I was not quiting Facebook. Merely stepping aside until I deemed fit to return.

I did not forget about Facebook. Its like homecoming weekend at my alma mater (Central Michigan). I made it to every one of them for seven years following graduation including flying back from Colorado one year. We would start making plans a month out every year and it was always a blast.

And then life got in the way. I haven’t been to a CMU Homecoming weekend in seven years.

This is what happened with me and Facebook. I know its there but life got in the way again. What used to be something I would keep up to date with was now buried in the back of my brain.

But what happened when I did not log in was interesting. You don’t understand how engrained Facebook and social media are in our lives until you step away from it. I call them the:

Six Phases Of Facebook Separation

1. Detox

Try to not log into Facebook for a month and pay attention to how many times you reach for your phone. I bet you can’t sit anywhere without logging in.

It took me two weeks to detox. My guess is because I had not really been using it the months prior so it wasn’t like I went completely cold turkey.

2. Did You See What So And So Posted On Facebook?

“No. I did not. I haven’t logged in in awhile. What did they post?”

This happened a lot during my first six months. I’m guessing 30% of conversations started with this question which is quite impressive.

3. Wait, What Happened?

Is what I said a number of times when a conversation was going on with friends. And since I did not see the original post and comments it made me the odd person out. Nobody wanted to tell the story again to bring me up to speed.

4. You’re So Annoying

Is what was said to me a number of times since I had not logged in. I was annoying people because I did not see everybody’s posts. Whats up with that? How is that my fault?

5. You Still Haven’t Logged In?

Somewhere around year two people forget not seeing you on Facebook and then they ask, get ready for it, “Did you see what so and so posted on Facebook?” And I would tell them I still haven’t logged in. Amazed they were at first and then, get ready for it, “You’re So Annoying.”

6. You’re Dead To Me

Around year two and a half you no longer exist except in folklore. Basically, you’re Bigfoot.

When people see you its a “sighting.” When you see them its “exciting.” You see the difference?

Party Like Its 2008

It felt a lot like 2008 in that there was just enough technology available outside of a phone call to stay in touch without always feeling like you had to know what was going on. Or even care to know what was going on with your friends day to day lives.

You (at least me) were never on your cell phone outside of calling and I think texting occasionally. Internet was making its way to cell phones with the BlackBerry and iPhone but they pretty much sucked. So you did your browsing on a laptop or desktop.

In some ways it was nice.

And thats not all. “The Six Phases Of Facebook Separation” were reminders on how much Facebook was apart of my day to day life and the impact it made on society as a whole. Which lead into…

FOMO

I think we can all agree the “Fear Of Missing Out” is real. Facebook reminds you of that everyday. I remember one day five years ago seeing three people I knew posting from a ski trip, a tropical vacation, and a European vacation while I sat in my home office in Huntington Woods, MI.

I wanted to be on those trips.

But as time passed from me not logging onto Facebook, I never felt I was missing out on anything. It was refreshing.

For the first time in years I was able to be in the moment. To not only be where I was at physically but to be there mentally too.

Mindfulness

With no reason to check my phone 20 times a day it kept the distractions at bay.

In Public – I cannot tell you how many times I would be the only one out in public with my head not down in my phone checking Facebook or some other social media site. This meant my head was always up. So when somebody looked up from their phone I’d be the one they’d make eye contact with.

And they would give me the “why are you staring at me creepy guy” look. Even from dudes. No. You’re the creepy one. I’m the one being the human being.

With Kids – I cannot tell you how many times I caught my son (now 3.5) and daughter (now 2.5) from falling or about to fall off something at the park and at home. What if I would have been on my phone scrolling through the Facebook app? Who knows how many concussions I saved them from.

What pisses me off the most is when something that could have been stopped happens when I’m on my phone. I’m not perfect here either. I’ve definitely checked my email and fantasy football teams at the park and at home but those are one and done sort of things. Nothing to scroll.

As an adult, I know better. And thats the worst part. It causes an overreaction and anger which in turn I’m basically admitting to myself that its my fault.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

Would I get a little jealous seeing pictures of somebody’s new house, new car, and just about every other toy I saw posted on Facebook? Occasionally.

I probably bought or wanted to buy something because of the daily barrage of pictures I’d see of things posted on Facebook. And I’ve never been like that. But Facebook was different.

After not seeing any of that for four years I can say I’m back to no longer comparing myself to the Joneses. I never want anything anymore. I’m back baby!

Image

I don’t feel I really got into trying to portray an image of myself on Facebook. Maybe a little bit. But every time I did so it felt forced. It wasn’t real. Think about how powerful that is. Facebook was trying to get me to portray an image of myself that I was not.

And to think how much effort was put into trying to portray myself in a particular way to my friends and family. If they are my friends and family I shouldn’t have to do that.

Time

You would not believe how much time I freed up by not logging into Facebook. It is insane how much time I was spending on Facebook doing nothing on Facebook. All of that time was sucked up by my kids of course but I now had it to give.

There is no need to link to any sort of study showing how much time we spend every day on Facebook because it comes back to one simple question.

Do you enjoy Facebook?

If yes, then it doesn’t matter how much time you spend on Facebook. Its something you like to do. For me, I was not enjoying Facebook. I was wasting vast amounts of time.

Attention Span

There are so many things that can be going through your mind in a minutes worth of Facebook posts. Anyone of which can suck you in for hours distracting you from whats in front of you.

I noticed being a lot more attentive to the things which were right in front of me. Again, the kids took up a lot of my attention but I could now offer my full and undivided attention.

Emotions

Isn’t it amazing how Facebook can mess with your emotions? You could be having a great day and then see a story about animal cruelty, human cruelty, wars, a political post, or a rant. Hello bad day!

I did not like how Facebook could tap into my emotions. The unpredictability of it all is so powerful.

What I noticed from not being logged on is I have better control of my emotions. All I can get emotional about is whats going on in my house and the things I seek out.

Politics

I will admit to posting a lot about Politics during my Ron Paul phase from 2008 to 2012. I thought what I was posting was helpful and people need to know what this guy was running on. Bring home the troops. Close the IRS. And others. Who wouldn’t vote for this guy?

Turns out that nobody voted for Ron Paul.

I thought I was providing great information for friends and family. Turns out I was wasting my time. No one cared. And they still don’t care.

I missed the entire 2016 Presidential Election cycle on Facebook. That might have been a good thing.

When I heard people were losing jobs and students had to get counseling because of what was being posted on Facebook I thought how lucky I was missing all of it. I could come up with zero reasons to publicly support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Zero.

Oh, I heard friends were getting into intense debates on Facebook. A few times I was read what was said and all I kept thinking was man am I glad I missed that.

A close friend asked me what I thought about all of the Political stuff going on Facebook four months before the election. After reminding him I had not logged in and him telling me that’s so annoying he went on to tell me he spent an hour going back and forth commenting on a Facebook post and had to stop because it was getting late. The next morning while brushing his teeth all he could think about was if the other person replied.

I did not miss any of that stuff. Think about how much time and effort was wasted.

I concluded after the 2012 Presidential election that if I could not impress upon my friends who are mostly college educated working professionals that they should vote for a guy who wants to stop wars and reduce their income taxes to 0% that I am wasting my mother fucking time.

What I Missed About Facebook?

  1. Groups – My fraternity, softball teams, and Beachbody Coaches had private groups which I’ve missed out on. Most of it was bantering but was on topic.
  2. Invites – I’m sure I was invited to a few things on Facebook that I never knew happened.

I almost put “Networking” up there but I feel that falls into the Groups function.

Housecleaning Items

Facebook is the only social media site I’ve used in a heavy way. I have a Twitter account I haven’t posted to in five years that I occasionally log into to read articles from a few websites I used to follow. I haven’t followed a new site or person in over five years. And I have a YouTube account that I occasionally post a video to but I don’t consider YouTube social media. It takes too much time to post something there. Basically, I’ve been social media free for 4 years.

It was never my intention to stay logged off this long. Throw in what I said in the beginning with the thoughts of becoming a dad and something had to give. Facebook was what had to go.

Right around when my son was five months old and I felt like logging back in due to getting a grasp of this parenting thing I heard some life changing news.

My dad told me he had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. A incurable lung disease that was going to take his life in 3-5 years. He made it 18 months.

A week later we found out we were pregnant again.

My life was so full of emotions now that the thought of logging back into Facebook only happened when somebody asked me. I had no space for Facebook and for a whole lot of other things.

Its only now, almost two years after my dad passed and my youngest being 2.5 and oldest being 3.5 that I feel I have space in my life for the things I used to do before. Like keeping in touch with friends and possibly seeing whats happening on Facebook. If those events didn’t happen so close together I probably would have logged in by now.

The good news is I somehow managed to exist without logging into Facebook. 🙂 I should write a survival guide or something.

It should be noted I did log in once and that was only to put a link to the speech I gave at my dads funeral luncheon after many people asked me for a copy of it. I typed it up on my site, logged in, posted, and logged off. I didn’t even log back in to see what people had to say. It was all too much at the time.

Concerns

There is really only one thing that concerns me about not logging into Facebook. And thats if I burnt bridges. If there are important messages waiting there for me from somebody who doesn’t have my phone number. Something like that.

I remember seeing people post “I’m taking a break from Facebook” before which I thought was silly. Maybe its something I should have done.

Facebook has been emailing me with the subject line “a lot has happened since you logged in” for awhile now. Up until six months ago did I actually open the emails. Typically I’d delete them. This is the most recent one.

Facebook Missed Notifications Email
273 friend requests? I have barely left the house the last 4 years.

There’s a number of things in that picture that tell me I have to log onto Facebook at some point. There are real friends in there. Not just acquaintances.

And while I’ve somewhat enjoyed being disconnected during these emotional past couple of years I do miss some of it.

My guess is so much has changed on Facebook that its going to look so much different than what I remember of it. If anything, maybe I’ll be better equipped to let the aspects of Facebook I like back into my life.

Because if not, we know I have the power to put Facebook in timeout for another 4 years.

An Un-intended Experiment

Thats the best way I can summarize this. I was never quitting. I wasn’t even taking a break.

Its more along the lines of I was at a party and left to go on a beer run. During my walk to the party store I stopped for a slice of pizza. While eating the pizza I got into a conversation with some stranger that lasted for an hour. On my way back to the party I noticed an old lady with a flat tire so I stopped and put the spare on for her which took an hour.

After fixing the flat I realized I drank my beers while eating that slice of pizza and while changing the flat tire. So I headed back to the store to pick up more. On my way there was another party going on where somebody said “Hey, you, – we need one more to play bags” as they noticed me walking by. I said no but was offered beers to play and winnings from a tournament I did not have to buy into. Sure as shit me and my teammate win ten games in a row never giving up the board.

Being so intuned with what I was doing I forgot about the party and have to head back. But I’m out of beer again. I probably don’t need anymore but I have to bring a few back. So I head back to the store.

On my way back to the party with new beers in hand I start thinking about what people are going to say when I open the door. Three things come to mind. They’re either going to say:

“You’ve been gone for six fucking hours. Where the hell have you been?”

or

(Insert crickets)

or

“Brrrraaaaaaddddddd!!!!!!!”.

About the Author: Brad Gibala

Shreds Gnar. Hall & Oates Fan. Practicing Libertarian. Beachbody Coach. Detroit-ish. Contact - Start Here - About - Recommends

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