I Ended my Emotionally Abusive Relationship with Facebook.
When I was 23, I was in a highly volatile relationship. Things never got physically violent, but our fights were intense. We wielded our words recklessly, like Game of Thrones weapons.
Eventually, 23-year-old Elyse realized this was NOT healthy. My ex was controlling, mean and always left me feeling worse about myself. I knew I deserved better.
Well last month, 33-year-old Elyse recognized a similar feeling. It was the same stinging, bitter mixture of shame and insecurity that manifested itself whenever my ex snuck in a particularly biting verbal jab.
But instead of a person making me feel this way, it was a website.
The culprit? Facebook.
My confidante and companion since 2005 had turned on me. I’m not sure if Facebook always left me feeling sad and crappy and it just took me 11 years to realize it? Or maybe one particular post triggered me? Either way, I was shocked when I recognized the correlation.
How could freakin’ Facebook leave me feeling just as worthless and uncool as my ex-boyfriend did? It sounds stupid, but no matter how many ‘likes’ one of my photos received or how many silly cat videos I watched, I still felt unworthy and hollow. Just as ashamed of my own life as I was of my reactions to other people’s. So I made a bold decision.
I decided to quit Facebook.
I had a lot of fears that came along with quitting. They mostly involved being left out of social invitations from friends and not seeing interesting articles from my overly creative and plugged-in pals…but Facebook was also my curiosity portal into the personal lives of people I “knew.” It was a form of delicious voyeurism, disguised as entertainment; a measuring stick by which I evaluated myself, “How is my life looking in comparison to everyone else’s?”
SUPER HEALTHY, YOU GUYS.
So you see, even though I loved Facebook, I knew it didn’t love me back.
First of all, it’s a stupid website. So it doesn’t feel anything. But more importantly, all Facebook ever gave me were negative, sad feelings. FOMO feelings. “Not enough” feelings. Brene Brown-esque shame feelings.
Well, I’ve been Facebook-free for one month now and I feel fantastic! That said, quitting certainly wasn’t easy; I’m talking emotionally AND physically (they hide that damn deactivate button like it’s buried treasure). But overall? It’s been a great experience.
Here are the best parts of being Facebook-free…
1. I have more time.
Checking Facebook was my default state. Oh, I have five minutes between meetings? I better check Facebook. My alarm clock just rang? Good morning, Facebook! Gimme dat news! I need all the updates! Opening Facebook and mindlessly scrolling through the blue glow became an involuntary reflex. And all these micro-moments added up to HOURS of time. Valuable work time and precious personal time…what was I doing with these down-time minutes? Not relaxing or learning something new or writing. Not practicing calligraphy or calling my sister or even starting a new podcast. No, I was internally trolling people I vaguely know on this stupid website. Not a great use of time or emotional energy, which leads me to…
2. I have more emotional energy. Times a million.
Perhaps even more important than physical time, I have so much more emotional peace. I never realized just how exhausted Facebook left me. I found myself involuntarily comparing and contrasting my weekend with my friends’ weekends. And not even just my friends…but old high school teachers and camp pals and work colleagues. Why was I feeling competitive with people 15 years older than me (and 15 years younger than me)? Why was I feeling competitive at all? I rationally know life is not a contest, and yet…Facebook always left me feeling like I was losing…it didn’t matter what I had…it never felt like enough.
3. I have privacy.
Who knew I actually enjoyed my privacy? I sound like my mom right now (who still beams with pride when we Google her name and get ZERO results…I’m not even sure how that’s algorithmically possible) But it’s true. I like that people can’t see which concerts in town I’m attending. That I’m no longer getting tagged in unflattering photos (or maybe I am, but either way, I have no idea). It’s truly freeing…it even inspired me to make my Instagram feed private.
4. I‘m weeding out my fringe “friends.”
The way “friends” is used on Facebook is completely misleading. My “friends” on Facebook ranged from my father, to people I met once at a conference, to old clients, to middle school classmates I didn’t even like. And ALL of them were seeing my posts. Sure, there are privacy settings you can use to determine who sees what…but really, why do any of these people need to see any of this?
Instead of having 800 non-friends commenting and liking my passing thoughts and posts, now I focus on my dozen-something friends who I can truly connect with…and it’s so much more meaningful, which leads me to…
5. It’s forcing me to authentically connect with my real friends.
At GoKart Labs (where I work), we have an expression we use quite a lot. We say, “let’s talk with our faces.” It’s said jokingly, of course. But as a digital innovation lab that’s obsessed with Slack, it’s easy to just shoot messages out into the ether. But what works better 100% of the time? Using your face to talk to someone else’s face. WHAT A CONCEPT. This simple act of connecting and looking at each other is good for the soul.
Now that I don’t use Facebook, I have to actually reach out to my friends. I text them. Call them. Email them. And hang out with them. It’s work. But it’s so worth it. We get to really catch up. I’m no longer relying on a third party platform to tell me about my friends’ vacations and promotions; I get to ask them how they are using my face. And I get to hear all about their lives right from theirs. It’s beautiful.
6. I’m so much happier.
Like many abusive relationships, I don’t think I truly understood how toxic Facebook was for me until I quit. All of a sudden, I wasn’t having involuntary emotional reactions to random posts and pictures…I wasn’t feeling as jealous or intimidated or inadequate.
Who knew that doing something so passively, like simply scrolling through a website could give someone such strong, visceral reactions? I’d be in a perfectly good mood one second, then check Facebook and BAM. I was irritated. Or jealous. Or outraged. I realized that I never once left a Facebook experience feeling MORE connected.
Facebook is where we show our “Greatest Hits” reel…it’s not where we share our vulnerabilities or our authentic selves. And all that polished perfection I was seeing every 45 minutes for over 11 years? It caught up to me. It was too much.
So now I’m focusing on my real friendships and relationships. I’m not worrying about projecting some perfect, ideal image of myself. I’m not obsessively tallying likes like a kid counting candy after trick-or-treating. I’m focusing on me and my own emotional health.
I’m talking with my face.