How I Gave Up Facebook & Got A Life.

Via Marthe Weyandt
on Jan 4, 2014
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When I was in kindergarten, I believed my teachers lived in the school building.

The idea that they would venture beyond the hallowed halls of learning after school hours seemed unfathomable to my five-year old mind.

I still remember the shock I felt one Saturday morning, when I encountered one of my teachers at the local supermarket wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.

“Say hi to your teacher!” my mother proclaimed excitedly, but I just stood there next to a bin of cantaloupes, jaw dropped, eyes wide in disbelief. What was my teacher doing out in the real world, buying milk, bread and eggs? Didn’t teachers sleep in the supply closet? Didn’t they dine on hot dogs and fries in the school cafeteria?

I can draw many parallels between my experience as a former Facebook user and kindergarten days (and I’m not even talking about infantile behavior—that’s a whole new post).

For several years, I used Facebook religiously. I felt I had to—to make plans with people or to keep in touch.

Recently, I had begun to feel like that kindergartener in the Kroger—only this time it was friends who had become trapped in the computer with no possible hope of extrication.

It was like some sort of space-aged, existentially based horror story.

Requests to get together in real life, short, polite messages and other communications went unheeded for weeks, then months, then years.

Where did everyone go? Did people talk anymore? Had I done something terrible to warrant the silent treatment? Was it my ego lashing out and what was this telling me? Worst of all, I began to question my value as a friend.

Three months ago, I decided to take a permanent FaceBreak. While I had deactivated my account in the past, this time I plan to stay away for the foreseeable future.

There is life outside Verona walls. It is rewarding, but difficult.

I feel a bit lonely, out of the loop, but closer to my own unique truth. I feel more clear about my personal relationships, more open to new possibilities.

This is what I’ve learned from Facebook exile.

1.) Your real friends will still make time for you in the analog world:

We are all busy with careers, school, families, finances, chores and the messy, beautiful business of life. We’re trying to make our big dreams into realities, but that time honored wisdom still stands true. Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten—we make time for the people and pursuits that mean the most.

Your real friends will still want to connect with you post-Facebook—and not just to scroll through your party pictures or see who you’re dating or Facebook invite you to every gift-giving occasion held in their honor. And, if they don’t respond or won’t respond (or can’t respond due to a Candy Crush addiction) for a long length of time, they’re not really good friends.

2.) You will begin to release the past:

In theory, Facebook should make friendship easier. No longer are we subject to time-space communication constraints. We are allowed unfettered, real-time glimpses into each others’ lives without telephones, telegraphs, carrier pigeons or long-distance runners.

Absence does not make the heart grow fonder because we’re all thrown together all the time, taking pictures of our breakfasts or talking about our child’s toilet-training or bragging about our workout routines like there’s no tomorrow. Facebook is making our ‘social networks’ into huge dysfunctional families.

Anthropologically speaking, human beings are not wired to carry around thousands of ‘friends’ for the rest of our lives.

We change so much during the course of our lives, as we accumulate rich, new experiences. The tragedy and the opportunity? Everything changes. People with whom you may once have shared a close bond may no longer be feeling the love and vice-versa. This is especially true of long-distance connections or social bonds formed during intense periods in our lives.

The denouement? Nothing stands still. Not water. Not air. Not time. Not people. We wish them well. We let them go. We try to be thankful for the good times. Life is a cycle and we must live in the present.

3.) You will feel a greater sense of calm:

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it actually fall? If something happens and you don’t status-update it, does it actually happen?

Before I deactivated, Facebook was beginning to remind me of talking heads screaming at one another during cable news shows. Whoever speaks the loudest seemed to win. What they win, I can’t say. Approval? Ratings? Adulation?

Listening had become a lost art, to say nothing of the virtues of patience, contentment and humility.

Does the increasingly atomized, competitive nature of Western society make us feel as if we must constantly outdo each other — to have the best job, the best relationship, the cutest kids or the best body? When does self-confidence cross the line into pride? And how do we stop the green monster of envy from rearing its ugly head?

Commit to social oblivion. Give up any desire to win the self-promotion rat race. We all have unique strengths and weaknesses. As my kindergarten teacher used to say, “Keep your eyes on your own paper.”

4.) You will embrace loneliness:

Spend that hour a day you used to spend on Facebook engaging with the real world. Read a book. Play with a pet. Practice yoga. Organize your sock drawer. Volunteer for a cause you find important. Visit somebody who is homebound and would really love to have a real, in-person conversation. Join a Meetup group and make some new friends.

Do you think your Facebook friends will miss you?

(They won’t.)

How do we stay in touch post-Facebook? Does anybody have any other tales from Facebook exile? I’d love to hear them!!

Relephant to this:

The Facebook Psychosis: How Social Media Turned Me into a Crazy Person.

Ready to Cut the Cord with Facebook?

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

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives


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.


21 Responses to “How I Gave Up Facebook & Got A Life.”

  1. Trey says:

    It's just a medium, neutral like any other medium, like say, air.

  2. So the fact that I saw this post because I follow Elephant Journal on Facebook means…. I know, I know–it's a marketing medium, not a human connection.

    You make a number of good points. On the flip side, I've had the chance to get to know new family members, such as my nephew's new wife, better thanks to Facebook than I ever could if knowing her relied solely on family reunions held once a year or so. I get to see far-flung family members doing things they share. These are elements of Facebook that enrich my life. Getting sucked into hours of scanning in hopes of finding something interesting? Not so enriching.

    Like anything else, it's moderation. I'm using the word "purpose" to focus some of my thoughts and actions for 2014 and feel a difference between sitting down with my computer "just to see what's going on" and sitting down with the goal of checking in on a few close friends and family members and telling a couple of people I've been thinking about them and want to share a link to an article they'll appreciate. Could even be this one.

  3. Anna says:

    Thank you so much for this article…
    I also took a break from the blue page, and people seemingly 'missed me' there… and I came back on, feeling a need to connect with the people close to me again.
    But it iS not connection. I suddenly find myself having artificial cyberfriends – or to have cyberbased friendships with people I also see in real life – and I feel it depletes me. I feel it drains me.
    Suddenly I have to deal with things that seem very important – life events, social events, feelings – that these people (friends) wouldn't pick up the phone to tell me about.
    And it is actually disturbing. It is not a matter of not spending so much time on it, because if I am on facebook, then I would want to share and care… I don't want to be one of the silent shadows.. I can't 'not react', if people share a difficult feeling, they've had.
    So it is disturbing and it sucks time and energy – all in vain, since these people are people I would either see in real life, with body, heart and eye contact, or wouldn't see in real life, and then nothing is lost.
    I've had many good laughs at facebook, and sometimes I am being made aware of a corner of the world I didn't know existed. But.. I don't have to be on facebook in order to be found by what is important.

    Thanks for this article, it made my heart warm and made it easier for me to follow my soul's calling.

    Love and kindest of wishes – can't wait to share the article on facebook 😉

  4. Sam says:

    I walked away from Facebook right around Christmas for many of the same reasons (not sure yet if it's permanent – life a day at a time). And now I'm reading more (offline), am feeling more peaceful, and most importantly, feeling more focused. The internet is still a distraction from what I want and need to accomplish, but Facebook is an especially strong pull.

    If Facebook was simply just a medium, we wouldn't be having these conversations (I've run across many lately), and we wouldn't be grappling with do I stay or do I go and what will I miss out on when I go? I don't have an addictive personality, but Facebook got me, and I've had to get through some withdrawal.

    It's easy and fun to post a FB status – and let the response or lack of response play with your ego. Much harder for the likes of me (introverted with a tendency to be a hermit) to reach out and ask friends for time together. But the result is almost always much more rewarding. You see your friend's face or hear her voice and through conversation, figure out getting together — or not. Much better than the silence of Facebook.

  5. Fab Sim says:

    I am so thankful for the networks of parents with kids with autism I am a part of. I know they ate not my friends but we are a community that wouldn’t be possible because of our circumstances without Facebook or some other forum. I particularly like being able to help others who are embarking on a similar journey. I don’t use Facebook in the way you’ve described. It brings me together with my geographically scattered family and gives me a mechanism to spread joy and share wisdom. It’s not possible for me to have the personal relationships I’d like mostly because of distance so I’m happy for Facebook to stay a part of my life.

  6. From Inner Sleeping to Inner Awakening says:

    This is great. I think a lot us are feeling the same way. I put myself on "Facebook Fast" about 6 months. Now i only update my blog posts remotely and never go online to check the "Like's". I won't allow myself to get sucked into the vortex anymore. Now with that extra time that I have I channel into things like writing and spiritual practices. I feel so much more productive and lighter.
    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Pascale says:

    So interesting I happened to find this article…
    "to take a Facebreak" is my new year resolution !!! : )
    I so totaly agree with your article…
    Thank you for highligting my intentions !!
    Feels right !

  8. Jake Eagle says:

    Marthe, thanks so much for the depth of your perspective, which I read as being about much more than Facebook. I think you are touching an existential nerve having to do with accepting aloneness and also the limited number of deep connections that we are truly capable of holding in our hearts and minds.

  9. larry sutherland says:

    Right internet……

  10. ValGal says:

    I had 400 "friends" I not only deactivated my account but I deleted every friend and wrote down emails & phone numbers of those I needed to stay in contact with. I called it that "I committed Facebook Suicide"
    That was in May of 2010 and have never looked back

  11. Peter kg says:

    I have closed my Facebook simply because I think it's a sheer waste of time when friends post totally useless info such as what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner with photos of their food, and where they have been on four square. It annoys the hell out of me …..who cares what they do on a daily basis? Surely Facebook should be used to get in touch on more important issues on a personal level instead of posting for all to see. Tagging of photos is also a dangerous thing to do and an invasion of one's privacy. All these could be done on emails person to person without them being posted for all to see. Do you really want others to know what party or occasion you have been and photographed to prove that? It's sickening to see post by friends who would tell you every little things they do during the day….they don't seem to realize that they are open to some dangers of prowlers and s talkers when all these info are readily available. Sheer stupidity. So much ego is involved here. Friends will always keep in touch anyway in more ways that one without Facebook.

  12. Sam says:

    I also deal with autism (Asperger's) with a child and have found support on the internet, but it is possible without Facebook – and much easier to focus on just that topic through other forums.

    Having said that, social media is a powerful tool for outreach and has proven to be an agent of change. I think in this digital age, we all have to sort through what works well for us and celebrate that. Facebook hasn't been the best channel of communication for me, but if it is working for you, then I fully support your use of it.

  13. Jeff B. says:

    I'm pretty stringent about whom I "friend" on Facebook; I've never understood why people have friend lists numbering in the hundreds or thousands, aside from the incessant game requests – and I have blocked all games, which greatly alters the signal-to-noise ratio for the better.

    I've made a number of real-world connections via Facebook, either by reconnecting with long-lost friends, or by way of friends of friends. Sure, I keep in touch via other methods, but Facebook is a good way to make that initial (re)connection in many cases, so just up and shutting down my profile would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I'm not sure why the various exhortations I see like this always take the all-or-nothing approach. How about just limiting your time on it if you're not finding it satisfying right now? It saves having to eat crow when one returns.

    And as for this: "Do you think your Facebook friends will miss you?

    (They won’t.)"

    Well, maybe that was your experience, but it sure wasn't mine. I've had friends get in touch with me when I've been away from Facebook for a while to see where I've been. So, again, maybe choose better friends to "friend" on Facebook, and they WILL miss you. Not all, I'll concede that, but enough to make Facebook worthwhile.

  14. annabellplush says:

    AH! I LOVE this article!! I deleted my Facebook several years ago after I began to get seriously depressed over the "lack of excitement" in my life because I was comparing it so much to everyone's page. The truth is, my life is very exciting and full of adventure. Once I deleted Facebook, I found out that I still had a very full social life; it was actually more enjoyable because I was able to enjoy it for what it was, and not be comparing my coffee dates to my friend's photos of wine nights wishing my life was somehow better. To be honest, I don't even remember Facebook exists anymore!!!

  15. I love facebook. Can't imagine living without it.

  16. christina says:

    To each their own. Ive taken breaks when I feel like it but always come back. I think fb is amazing. It has let me stay in touch with ppl I would otherwise never have contact with and meet ppl all over the world. It has made my world so much bigger. It has also encouraged me to embrace my unique self more and share it passionately. I truly cant say enough good things about it.

  17. Julie says:

    I too wanted to take a break from Facebook, but instead of deleting my account, I am exercising some much needed self control. It has proven to be effective so far. Every time I feel the need to check in, I pause and evaluate exactly WHY (boredom mostly) I'm craving a FB fix and then I either choose to do something "real" like reading a book, writing in my journal or cleaning the bathroom or I check in quickly to see whats going on and then MOVE ON! I make it a rule not to scroll and comment on too many things, just quickies! I think we all need to practice more mindfulness and self control. Using FB in moderation and with mindfulness can and does work!

  18. Laura says:

    WORD, sister! I feel you because I ditched facebook too. Now the trick is for me not to turn my nose up at all my friends who have their phone attached to their hands. Of course, I traded facebook for instagram and then added in candy crush. I had to stop that too. Now, I definitely feel more calm and I have more time to read elephant journal and meditate 😉 And I don't really turn my nose up at my friends, but it is terribly annoying (like I"m sure I was to many others). I like that you wrote this article though, because it sheds light that there is a social life outside of it. It is not necessary for a social life. And as for your comment about friends not missing you, you are right in that the facebook world will go on without you 🙂 Thanks for the read!

  19. Tera says:

    Deactivating my FB account was my only New Year's "resolution". I feel so much more peaceful, and have so much more time on my hands. Happy, happy, happy!

  20. Marie Coria says:

    I loved reading this article, and I too have no completely deactivated, but just gone missing. I am no longer trying to log in at all, and I will lot look at it while at work. This has been extra hard – but I have told myself that is "blocked" haha.
    I find it interesting that I am doing more creative tasks like reading articles, my personal e-mail, and Pinterest, of course.
    At least Pinterest – is creative for your mind.
    Great read.

  21. l0ve0utl0ud says:

    Loved your article. And loved knowing that there are now more and more people who leave Facebook. I haven't had Facebook for almost four years now (despite being in my mid-twenties). What a relief! I feel like I have space to think, breathe and live! I moved to another country shortly after deleting my FB account and, like you said, was able to let go of the past and fully embrace my new and lifestyle, without always checking up on what people were doing 'back home'. I had 500 friends on FB, now, I regularly keep in touch with about a dozen. And at least I am sure that THESE friends are true friends.