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?
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.