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For when I need more than 140 characters to finish a thought on marketing, media or message.

How Lady Gaga helped me get off Facebook

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ED’S NOTE: Amended Sept. 13, 2011, for clarity.

I have done the unthinkable: I have deactivated my Facebook account. That was three days ago, three years to the day that I joined Facebook.

I had joined Facebook in 2008 as my personal 9/11 Project. Each year I do something to change my life for the better. Sometimes it’s big; sometimes it’s small. It’s my way of reclaiming my autumns. I started this several years ago when I realized that if I didn’t do something – anything – that perfect September days would forever be tarnished by the terrorist attacks of 2001. It isn’t that I want to forget that day; I just want to go forward – with hope. In 2008, I wanted to reconnect with people I had lost touch with. And I did. I made it a project, and Facebook helped. These people mattered to me; I wanted, I needed, to know them again. Now I do, thanks to Facebook.

But with the good came the bad, the ugly and the mundane. Several times, I found myself overdosing on information that I didn’t need, and so I’d uninstall the app from my BlackBerry and later, my iPhone. Then I would re-install it less than 8 12 hours later.

My friends need to know about my vacation, commute, dinner, dammit!

A recent Monday night, I found myself logged on well after 1 a.m., clicking through photos of a Lady Gaga concert posted by a sister-of-a-friend-of-a-friend.

We were at that concert! She lives three states away! She was at the same concert! Miracle!

No, not miracle. Insanity. I didn’t know this woman. I will never meet this woman. I can’t tell you how I found her album or why I felt compelled to click through it. I can only tell you that I lost 20 minutes of my life trying to determine whether she and I were at the same show in 2010.

She had better seats than we did, didn’t she?

Who gives a shit?

Evidently, I do.

The next day, I spent more than an hour trying to deactivate my Catbook and Dogbook apps, along with deleting photos I had posted to Facebook. It became very frustrating to see photos that I had just deleted re-appear again. Later that day, I would log on to read a newsfeed that told me everything I never wanted to know about products and services I had “liked” over the years. I didn’t know what was going on with my friends, but dammit, Zappos wanted to know who’s ready for fall!

Later still that Tuesday, I logged on and read post after post about from this marketing research firm and that user-review site — nothing that interested me but sucked me in regardless. I logged off hating myself. One friend had announced she was logging off because she needed to focus on some deadlines. If she could do it, why couldn’t I?

Because she’s a Ph.D.!

And I’m a woman with too little time to pursue the goals and interests she has because she’s logged onto Facebook reading about – what?

Two cups of coffee later, I realized I had become the definition of social media insanity: I was logging onto Facebook over and over and over, expecting different results each time.

New news? New photos?

Not likely.

Facebook’s newsfeeds are perfect for marketers: Facebook users who have “liked” a page can’t help but see whatever announcement the marketer has posted. I keep up with several marketing research firms and a handful of products that I think are marketed well in social media. Over the past several months, my newsfeed was mostly filled with news from Zappos, Yelp, eMarketer and Pew Research Center. I later discovered that I had missed photos of friends’ trips and celebrations. Yes, I could click the “status” tab or the “photos” tab, but I want this in my newsfeed as soon as I log on; I don’t want to spend a lot of time searching for posts I’m interested in. Facebook should deliver that information to me immediately, right?

Not necessarily. And sure, I could probably change a bunch of settings to see what I want, but that takes more time — and patience — than I have these days.

Deactivating my account wasn’t going to be easy, though. In some circles, I’m considered a social media veteran, and as a marketing student, I enjoy seeing how companies use social media for promotion. Even so, I knew I needed to eliminate some distractions, and Facebook would be a good start.

I uninstalled the iPhone app on Wednesday, and then I posted that I would be deactivating my account. Within minutes, I had very sweet pleas from friends who begging me not to, and private messages inquiring as to why. Within hours, I was furiously typing emails, defending my decision. The next day, when I finished writing what would be the last email, I logged on and hit “deactivate” – a day early.

I had thought that deactivating my account was perhaps this year’s 9/11 Project, but that doesn’t seem quite right; I’m cutting off contact with people — not reaching out to them. Even so, I think my Facebook diet will be good for me; I’ll be able to reconnect with people in my immediate here and now — and not through a newsfeed. This weekend, the 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, I spent my first Facebook-free weekend with my family. I was unable to broadcast my mother’s fascination with “Navy CSI” (that’s what she calls NCIS) or my ever-growing frustration with the corner of Hell-on-Earth that is Tyson’s Corner, Va. No, I wasn’t able to share all that, and I’m probably a better person for it, and my Facebook friends would probably be grateful, if they’ve even noticed I’m gone at all.

Will I stay gone from Facebook forever? I’m not sure. I told my friends I would be gone just for a little while, and then I looked at the calendar: I’ll shoot for Nov. 1. If I log on before then, it’s no big deal. This is an experiment. If I log on long after that, it’ll mean I’ve found a good thing – more time, a painted basement, HTML5. Today, this month, I’m trying to keep focused on my here and now – and that’s not the worst project I’ve ever undertaken. And neither was joining Facebook.

 

NEW: How to leave Facebook: A beginner’s guide

 

Author: Jacqui Barrineau

Jacqui Barrineau is a writer and editor who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., with husband Trey, a Shetland Sheepdog, and two unhelpful-but-funny cats. Her work has appeared in "So to Speak" and "Calliope," and she's a regular contributor to the flash-fiction sites Paragraph Planet and Doorknobs & Bodypaint. Once upon a time, she was the audience engagement editor at USA Today. Now she does other fun things that involve advertising, marketing and social media. The views expressed here and in other outlets are hers, not her employers'. Outside of work, she's proud to serve on the Northern Virginia Community College Marketing Advisory Committee. As a committee member, she joins industry leaders in lending their knowledge and expertise to ensure the college's Marketing curriculum is relevant and responsive to the needs of the students and the surrounding business communities.

14 thoughts on “How Lady Gaga helped me get off Facebook

  1. Applause. Whatever you need to do. Here’s to more FaceTime (aka HappyHours). <2

  2. Indeed! More FaceTime! I supposed I need to add a clarification that explains, as I did in an email to a friend, that my disinterest has more to do with how the newsfeed sends me more information about my “likes” than it does my real friends. I’ve missed a lot of cool news from friends because pages such as Zappos (which I love!) and Pew Research Center were posting a lot.

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  10. I would lIke to hit the “share” button just to be ironic, but yes lady you are spot on, if you think someone gives a shit what you had for lunch go ahead and post, but just know you are like the person who talks to hear themselves talk, guess what? nobody cares.

    • Thanks for commenting. Yeah, although I did eventually go back to Facebook, I try to connect with people who really matter to me and if I post, I hope it’s interesting — I try very hard to make it so. What bothers me right now about Facebook is the endless slew of opinions about the Chik-fil-A flap. I’m of the silly belief ALL politics should be kept out of my newsfeed.

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