Why 2014 is the year I finally quit Facebook

A new years resolution to put more of myself out there

As I was going through some old e-mails, task lists, and files, I stumbled upon some resolutions I had made back in 2012. Chief among them was the resolution to quit investing so much time in Facebook, and to a lesser extent, Twitter. But before I get into the reasons why, a little background is in order.

About eight years ago, I quit my full-time job to become a stay-at-home parent. It was a decision I’ll never regret, and the memories of watching my kids grow and become little persons of their own is something I’ll cherish forever. But now the little tykes are in school full-time now, and I’ve got the itch to jump-start my career and get back into the world of paid gigs. I’ve been feeling this way since last year, which is why that particular resolution made it onto my list. I didn’t follow it very religiously, since over the past year the two most popular sites I’ve visited, according to my browser history, has been Facebook and Twitter. ESPN comes in a close third. It is what it is — I can tell you from being on social media sites that lots of stay-at-home moms and dads use these sites as a lifeline to combat the drudgery and isolation of being the primary caregiver in a household. Sure, we all envision being way more productive — running the school PTA while renovating the house and blogging full-time while the consulting gigs roll in. More realistically we are exhausted from chasing around toddlers, preparing six or more “meals” a day; caravaning from school to soccer practice, playdates, and birthday parties; and trying to grasp the “new math” that is coming home in our kids’ backpacks each night. When we get a moment or two break, a quick scroll down our social media timelines is often the most adult contact we get each day.

Fast forward to today (December 2013). I did manage to get my resume updated, have gone on some informational interviews, got back in touch with old work colleagues, and have figured out what industries I’d like to target. Obviously, it’s still a tough job market out there. As I write this, the news is all about how the federal government has let the long-term unemployment benefit expire. 1.3 million people off the rolls. I’m competing against those 1.3 million, plus all the young millenials too. I need to get serious.

Part of what I want to do with my limited time is build my brand online. I want to show people my talents and new ideas. And thus we come to the reason why I need to spend less time on Facebook. Facebook is where these new ideas and nuggets of creative content go to die.

I have 377 friends on Facebook, which I’m pretty sure is more than the average user. For the most part, they are all fine folks. I enjoy seeing their life updates: new babies, new houses, travels to exotic locales, the delicious meals they are eating at trendy restaurants, etc. Facebook has become the never-ending cocktail party and/or watercooler where we share these personal updates about ourselves and our families. But it is not the place for more serious discussions about politics, contemporary society, or thorny issues of our time like global warming, cyclical poverty, social justice, or gay rights, to share a few examples. Part of this is because of the nature of Facebook’s social graph. Chances are you probably don’t share the same worldview as the people you went to high school with, the people you used to work with, or your relatives. Facebook is unparallelled at connecting you with all these groups of people from your past. You’ve probably witnessed or heard about virtual catfights that have broken out on social media sites over some of those thorny issues I just mentioned. Or perhaps over that guy from Duck Dynasty. Even the folks you DO want to hear from often don’t have the time/attention span to comment in more than a superficial way. I know I’ve avoided a lot of those types of posts from friends simply because I don’t want to be deluged with the 64 comments from that person’s friend network going off-topic about whatever the original post was about.

So when I do want to post something original and introspective, I’m competing with photos of cute pets, viral content from all over the internet, birthday greetings, and most of all, Facebook’s inscrutable algorithm for showing content from one’s friends. And God help you if you post during the Oscars, Superbowl, breaking news, or other major national event. Your content will be virtually ignored. And that’s my main issue: I want an audience.

Finally, there’s the issue of mindshare and distraction. There is only so much time. If I even login to Facebook, I’m very likely to go into the rabbit hole that ends up at a 10,000 word essay on the New Yorker website, or a link to a new free iPad app that I have to download today, or a reminder that I need to sign up my kid for park district classes before midnight. I was OK with that in 2013. I’ve got to do better than that in 2014.

Happy New Year!