Tranquility is Yours: 5 Scientifically-Proven Reasons to Ditch Facebook.

Via on Aug 21, 2013

Kids and Blackbirds.
Relephant!

7 Reasons to Unfriend someone on Facebook.

Last year, I deactivated my Facebook account for a few months.

I lived to tell about it. The first week was rough, especially because I live in a rural area and work from home. I am blessed by beautiful, bountiful nature, but not so blessed with the possibility of social interaction.

During this time of gradual weaning, I became more mindful about my social media consumption. I was forced to become better friends with myself. I embraced loneliness as a spiritual practice.

Well, kind of. I tried.

I did explore the concept of Facebook as a salve for what ailed me. What triggered my visits to the site? Was I feeling bored? Lonely? Did I have an ego-driven desire to get on my soapbox? Was I expecting others to entertain me? Was I trying to resurrect friendships from the past, rather than living, honestly and lovingly, in the present? Did I want to see how many people ‘liked’ the pasta dish I made for dinner?

The panic? It came and went in waves.

Oh no, I was cut off from the status updates of the day!

Who was advancing to the next level in Candy Crush Saga? Who just dropped off the boys at baseball practice? Who was having a leg day at the gym? What was everybody having for dinner? After a few weeks, these feelings diminished. I felt my brain becoming larger, more expansive—if such a thing were possible. The foliage seemed greener. My dreams seemed more vivid. I was slowing down, enjoying social interactions of the IRL variety.

So, why did I return to the surly bonds of earth?

First, I started to miss my Facebook ‘friends’ during my absence.

Eventually, I would start to wonder. Were my ‘friends’ really my friends if making a few electronic clicks could remove us from one another’s lives forever? Was I their friend?

Friend. This mysterious and metaphysical appellation, which once took years to earn, could now be conferred and revoked on a whim. Friend. What was it? Friend. What was a friend? What did it mean? Does Facebook urge us to define ‘friend’ too cheaply anyways? Had my hiatus exposed cracks in the foundation?

Second, as freelance writer, I rely on social media to disseminate my work. It has been estimated that print media will be dead in five years. (Many major newspapers obtain much of their material from content farms.) I wish I could stay true to what I preach. I fantasized about sending copies out via snail mail or maybe carrier pigeon, but I realize many Americans would be way too busy with our iPhones and Xboxes to amble down to the mailbox and pick them up. It would be a waste of postage (and pigeons). Maybe I could plaster this article, like an edict, to various doors around town, like Martin Luther’s Wittenberg Theses. Maybe I could beam it into people’s minds from some remote control device far in the distance.

(And, I fully realize the irony of publicizing, via Facebook, an article about the evils of Facebook. Thanks for pointing that out. This is life in the crazy, 21st century.)

In addition to pondering the definition of ‘friend’, I decided to look at the issue from a ‘scientific’/ anthropological perspective. Here goes:

1.) We Are Only Meant To Have 150 People In Our ‘Social Circle’:

A recent article in Forbes introduces something called the ‘Dunbar number.’ According to Oxford anthropologist Robin Dunbar, most human beings are capable of having around 150 active people in our ‘social’ circle.’

This means we are able to be fully present to about 150 people.

2.) You Don’t Have As Many ‘Friends’ As You Think You Do:

I know you think you don’t qualify, right? You have thousands of people in your network because you’re a loving, social, friendly person?

Well, um, yes. Maybe you are.

Your BFFs and close family constitute a small percentage of your followers.

But, how many of those other 1,731 ‘friends’ are friends at all?

Facebook now permits a level of intimacy between complete strangers which would have been available only to close confidantes as little as five years ago: vacation pictures and home renovation pictures and kids playing in the yard pictures are all fair game.

We all accumulate a lot of acquaintances: the guy or girl with whom you endured a painfully awkward date; the guy who used to sit behind you in biology class who was always trying to steal your notes; a man you spoke to once at a professional conference.

More disturbingly, we all have friends or colleagues with whom we once had much in common, but no longer do. We may hold closely to the ghosts of these relationships, and vice versa. Facebook sometimes drags out these friendships well past their expiration date, allowing tantalizing glimpses, but nothing substantial, into our ex-friends’ lives.

According to the Forbes article, Wired writer Rick Lax contacted his 1,000 Facebook friends and came up with an illuminating and heart-wrenching conclusion: “many of his supposed friends either said they had no idea who he was, or had undergone such major changes in their lives that he was left with the realization that he didn’t really know them well at all.”

Ouch. It can be hard to let go, but what a way to keep the ego in check.

3.) Facebook Rots Your Brain:

All that clicking around can disrupt the parts of the brain responsible for cognitive reasoning. It’s like our grandmothers used to tell us: ‘TV rots your brain’. (If only we could wrestle the clicker from grandpa.) It is the opposite of Tratak, the millennia-old yoga practice of directing one’s gaze into a candle flame to steady one’s mind. In terms of social interaction, Face-booking is like eating M&Ms when we need a hearty bowl of lentil soup and a fresh tomato and basil salad.

Scientific studies have proven that, after spending several minutes on Facebook, participants have experienced a measurable decline in cognitive functioning and reasoning. Enough said.

4.) Facebook Makes Us Smug and Self-Satisfied. This Is Dangerous For Our World:

Facebook encourages us to present a carefully-constructed, saccharine-sweet version of ourselves to the world. Unflattering photos are edited out. Inspirational quotations are heaped on. Everybody ‘has the best friends and family ever!’ Everybody goes to vacation in Florida with a hot dude or dudette. (Nobody stays home by him or herself because he or she doesn’t have the time or the funds or a travel companion and cleans the closets and refinishes the deck.)

While there’s nothing wrong with putting one’s best foot forward, there is something wrong with avoiding the real world because one believes one has reached the apex of virtual world.

This is especially true among the mindful community. Seriously, I do have a soft spot for Rumi, but we’re all not enlightened everyday. We’re not all posing in Dancer, in a bikini, on a windswept beach somewhere. We don’t all have a soulmate or a job we adore. But we’re trying. Bit by bit, we’re trying. Some days are hard, and we grow more from the hard stuff than from the easy stuff. I do love the honest FB posters. “Well, today seriously sucked, but maybe tomorrow will be better!”

5.) Facebook Is Making Us More Depressed:

It is believed that those who spend a lot of time online (for whatever reason—live in a remote area, have a boring desk job, just really love FB) tend to perceive others’ lives as being more fulfilling than their own lives, which leads to depression. (Maybe, also, because—pardon my French—there is a lot of bragging on FB.)

This is especially pertinent in the area of friendships, romantic relationships, family and work/career. Has your boyfriend disappeared to Brazil, while all your friends keep getting flowers from their fiancees/husbands and posting incessantly? Were you just laid off and have friends who boast about their high-power careers? Is your teen driving you bat-shit crazy and everybody else’s son/daughter has been shortlisted for the Nobel Prize? It makes sense.

These are but a few scientific perspectives on Facebook. It can be a good tool, but I would advocate using caution. Any other interesting observations about getting off Facebook? I’d love to hear them!

 

Sources:
1. Dunbar Number.
2. University of Michigan study.
3. University of Michigan study.
4. Stanford study.

Like The Mindful Life on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick

(Flickr: The Field Museum Library)

About Marthe Weyandt

Marthe Weyandt is a Pittsburgh-based yoga instructor and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling and spending time in the great outdoors. She is currently learning to play guitar, albeit badly and at frequencies only dogs can hear. She believes in the power of the word, creatively and lovingly rendered, to create positive change in the world. She has a Bachelor’s in English and Religion from Dickinson College and a Master’s in International Affairs from Columbia University. She spent two years as an English instructor with the United States Peace Corps in Madagascar. Check out some of her other work here.

22,399 views

Like this article? Leave a tip!

(We use PayPal but you don't need an account with PayPal.)

Elephriends - Mindful Affiliates

28 Responses to “Tranquility is Yours: 5 Scientifically-Proven Reasons to Ditch Facebook.”

  1. Krista says:

    Love it, and totally agree. For those of us who travel a lot it can be a life saver and a way to stay in touch with people who are far away that you really like. If I was the kind of life where I stayed in one place for a long time though with a real circle I would have ditched FB a long time ago.

    • Anne Oliver says:

      You seem very bitter.

      Maybe you’re anxious about people not reading your writing.

      Most people find fb a terrific source of new information and individual opinions, usually expressed in

      an Extremely individual way.

      The universe is so wide and deep

      and there are fascinating aspects of it

      which you can discover if you can step away from your friends’status

      comments.

      to be found, if you make just the slightest effort to try new links.

      It’s something you ought to try.

      Sounds like you’ve been hanging out in your friends’ status st

      • Marthe Weyandt says:

        Thank you for your suggestions. I am a little bitter, I guess, because I think FB makes it too easy to ignore important people in our lives. Random status updates are not the same as real connection — visits, phone calls and that sort of thing.Yes, there are some good aspects of the site. I have encountered useful articles, organization pages and cultural events pages, among other things. One must, though, be mindful of the chatter.

      • Manashi says:

        Hi Anne,

        Just 2 cents – I somewhat agree with Marthe's idea and have been toying with it for weeks – but have been procrastinating about pulling off the cord.
        My decision to switch off is not because I have irrelevant friends or people's status updates I get entwined with, in fact, my page is filled with pages and information from world over that I enjoy. Selected friends are added onto separate lists that I can choose to see at my will. In fact my Home tab looks more like Pinterest.
        We will all agree perhaps the key is moderation.
        Keeping in touch with long lost friends on FB is all good, but we should really pick our phones and call or perhaps write a real letter to our mom or dad. Much personal.
        My main learning was to schedule only a finite time each day to such browsing activities.

        Hope we all have a good life that we can say we lived & loved through rather not Clicked &"Like"ed,

        Warm Regards,
        Manashi

    • Marthe Weyandt says:

      Thanks for reading, Krista! I certainly agree. We're all on the move so much anymore! In my experience, one of the best benefits of FB is connecting with folks whose geographic distance make regular visits difficult…

  2. mina says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I deactivated facebook a few months ago and feel sooo much better for it!

  3. Leslie says:

    I have been pondering going off the FB grid for awhile, but it keeps sucking me back. I really enjoy seeing what my old high school friends are up to and I like being able to share pictures with the grandparents across the country. However, I intensely dislike getting sucked into reading stupid inflammatory comments on political posts or feeling exasperated at the uber-religious sentiment intended to save me from my, obviously, hell bound path. I am warming up to the idea of tapering off to checking in only two or three times a week, instead of two or three times a day. I feel the need to connect with my own brain again, and a little less of everyone else's.

    • Marthe Weyandt says:

      Hi Leslie. It can be difficult, sometimes, to fortify one's mind against the chatter. I, too, count among my friend list religious and political zealots! Checking in once every few days seems like a great middle path…

  4. lucscarolinajoy says:

    quit facebook over 2 yrs ago, nothing to miss at all.

  5. Belinda says:

    I gave up Facebook for almost two years and recently signed back up. It was a Time Suck with all the high school people and coworkers etc. Now I only "Friend" family members and 3 of my closest best friends that I actually DO keep in touch with outside of the Internet. Honestly, family and the closest of friends are truly the only ones that really care if I'm checking in at the gym, or if I'm posting yet another pic of my kids in everyday activities. However, I still find myself logged in too much — and I did have to trash my Candy Crush app. Baby steps.

    • Marthe Weyandt says:

      Yes, I find myself thinking more and more about real, authentic, reciprocal friendships. Good ones can enrich us. Bad ones can cause us to stagnate. Kudos with paring down your list to include those who you enjoy and respect!

  6. sugarfreewoman says:

    Is there scientific evidence that FB itself causes depression? I'd love to see this research, because I've hypothesized this for years. I'm not on FB, never have been even though I worked for almost 20 years in technology, and would love to know more about its negative effects so that I could spread this message. Yes, I know there are pros, but is it possible that over a billion people cannot see that there are negative consequences, too? Yikes.

  7. Myrna McCoy says:

    Marthe, Love your name! I used to be a Pittsburgh based yoga instructor! I grew up in Pittsburgh, took my first yoga class there in a karate studio on Liberty Avenue in 1972! I went to Sivananda Ashram in Quebec in 1976 to receive my teacher training. I taught yoga in Pittsburgh until I moved to Florida in 1984. I now live and still teach yoga in Athens, GA. Anyway, I enjoyed your article. I am a bit addicted to Facebook myself. I find it interesting, lots of my "friends" are yoga people also.

  8. brantredux says:

    Could you point out your sources? Rather than just saying "scientific studies" ? It would be nice as a reader to be able to read what you did for the article.

  9. Ryan says:

    I liked the article. Also a FB (and all around internet) struggler. I have many moments, especially after going into the zone and not coming out for extended periods, where I just want to get off the internet altogether for good. Not totally practical, but I feel it does zap my deeper energy and brain functions. It just doesn't feel all that healthy much of the time. It's obviously up to each of us to find balance, but I find it quite difficult to do with the internet. I do spend copious amounts of time learning new things and sharing what many of us would consider important information, but I can't help feeling that maybe I could do more, and probably better things for, and with, my life by spending much less time on the internet and not getting sucked into the exploding information highway. Information overload may just end up being worse that good.

    My last point is that the idea that we should stay on FB because we want to stay in touch with people is really, um, well, let's just say wrong. People have been staying in touch across the globe for a long time. Snail mail still works, and can be quite fun, but really, we have telephones and cell phones, and of course we have EMAIL. Remember that? You can send personalized letters to all your real friends, and you can even send all your new photos that you want to show them. So, wanting to stay in touch with people is not a good excuse to stay on FB. You could even send a FB message to all the people you feel you really would want to stay in touch with, make sure you have their email addresses (and tell them you're leaving FB) and then voila – you're good to go. You can easily stay in touch with everyone no matter where they are, and you don't have to fall into the vortex of distraction that is Facebook. Just sayin'.

  10. I agree so much, and was currently sketching my thoughts about it this week. Thank you for your honesty xox <3

  11. Everything that appears is a phenomenon of your own mind.

  12. Gemma says:

    When I was going through bootcamp I thought that ditching my phone and my facebook would be the hardest thing–turns out it was one of the easiest. By the time I made it back home(2 months later) I had all of my friends asking me why I didn't care to carry around or check my phone or why I was never online–it's because I didn't need them. I was already hanging out with my friends and the people I cared about–I think it was because I neglected my phone and the internet that actually led me to meeting my now fiance. I was looking around and looking up long enough to notice him and he noticed me and I wouldn't have if I'd had my nose in a phone. These days I'm back on the facebook and I kind of hate it–it helps me keep in contact with my family now that I'm out of the house but otherwise it's a constant distraction.

  13. Rachel says:

    I read an article in The Economist several years ago saying that cell phones are strengthening our strong ties (with people we already know well) at the expense of weak ties- no chatting with strangers at the bus stop. While this may be true, and even more so with Facebook on our phones, I think there is something to be said for the weak ties that Facebook allows us to maintain. I think of it as the ‘village green’ of the virtual world, and I love it. No, it’s not important what my high school friend had for dinner. But there is something friendly about keeping in touch. I chat in this way with my local greengrocer, too, but greengrocers are increasingly rare. In an age of supermarkets, Facebook fills a void.

    • Patti says:

      So agree! I have seen the FB "family" come together to provide emotional support for someone who had a recurrence of breast cancer, fir example. It meant a lot to her. And I've learned a lot of updates about people via FB that maybe I would not have learned fir days or weeks. Also, I personally do not stay glued to my devices when I am out – I like interacting with people IRL! In fact, I find it very rude to be with someone who keeps checking their phone.

  14. Patti says:

    There are some studies suggesting that people on FB are happier, so I think the jury is still out on that. Think off the Godsend it is for older folks and people with disabilities who are home bound, etc. I think – like all technology – it is not inherently good or bad, it is what we make of it. Agree that it can be addictive. As for the negative posts, etc. I simply hide them from my timeline or eventually unfriend the person if it's too weird (my own brother posts political rants and raves).

  15. velovert says:

    ha – I've been off of fb for nearly a year after I learned of my BF's upcoming travel plans via fb instead of via his own words. LOVE saying that I'm no longer on it – and really do not miss it at all!!

  16. Maggie says:

    Hi Marthe – I wholeheartedly agree with your article, and I have been tossing these ideas around for months. Recently, there have been many articles and videos about why we use social media (including our phones) — are we escaping from sadness and loneliness? are we bored? Being honest with myself about the motivation has been key.

    I took Facebook off of my phone, and I'm now using this application called StayFocusd, which allows me to perfect balance of being able to stay connected for my yoga business and grad school obligations, but mindful (while the clock literally ticks) of how much time I'm spending. I ask myself, is it really necessary to look at ALL of X's profile pictures? And I am still able to get links to great articles, like this one.

    Main point: this disconnection has allowed me the space to reconnect with myself, my partner, my loved ones, food etc etc etc. and ask how and why I use social media. Thanks for writing and best wishes with your work.

  17. mgm says:

    I am not someone easily tethered to technology. I could easily give up my phone and never use the computer until after my kids are in bed. I have found though, that for me Facebook has many benefits.
    -I am keeping touch with people that I have enjoyed knowing over the years. Some of these friends I already kept in touch with, but Facebook makes it much easier. I can just send a brief thought or inside joke to them to let them know I am thinking of them, instead of creating a long letter (which I never really seemed to do).
    -I can keep in touch with family that I no longer live nearby. I see pictures of new relatives born into the world (almost immediately) and can retain a sense of knowing my relatives even though we now live states away and may only see each other once or twice a year.
    -I can send many more messages to my brothers overseas in the military and can see pictures of places they are experiencing.
    There are so many people that have been important parts of my life that it would be easy to no longer keep in touch with. Facebook makes it easy. Yes I "intimately" (see face to face, visit, go to dinner with, etc) a very small circle of people, but that is not to say that I would not like to say hello to friends from hs, my old job of 12 years, my relatives, my friends from overseas, etc. I think it is easy to be self righteous about FB, but there is a lot of good. If it was all bad, so many people would not be on it/ stay on it.

  18. Writer in Montana says:

    Great article! I recently deleted my Facebook page, for a variety of reasons. I felt like I was spending too much time on it, thanks to my smart phone and unlimited data — I couldn't stop scrolling my newsfeed. My brain was constantly filled with what my other 500 friends and all of the businesses I follow were doing that day! I recently had a child, and I felt like it was taking time away from her. I couldn't pinpoint why I wanted to look at it, as I really didn't care what other people had to post. In fact, I was quite sick of other people's bragging about their life.

    I agree there are some great things that I miss about it — it kept me connected with friends around the world who I just don't have the time to email, or send photos to, but I can still feel connected enough to to go visit them someday. It was also nice to share photos for family members instead of having to be sending emails all of the time.

    The crazy thing is what has happened since I disconnected from FB. Most of my "friends" have disappeared off of the planet. My own family members have asked me repeatedly to reconnect to FB. It is an interesting social experiment to say the least. How did we ever survive before Facebook? ;)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

  19. This is a great tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise info… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!

Leave a Reply