“I’ve hidden all of my friends on FB. Even my sister.”
My girl friend and I were at a coffee shop writing. She looked up and said, “Even me.”
“Yes, I hid my sister.”
I had toyed with the idea for a long time: quitting Facebook. For awhile I had checked the world Earthquake map but it turns out that made me a bit too anxious. Shocking.
I knew FB took up too much of my time but there were benefits. I liked my internet friends. I liked the groups I was in. I had even started one large FB group. But friends had deleted their accounts in the past, and the sky did not fall. I didn’t keep up with these friends as much, but they seemed fine with their choice.
I just could not pull the trigger. So I kept using FB the way everyone else did, flitting over there whenever my attention flagged or I was bored. I could see what everyone else in the world was or wasn’t doing. People complained of the same thing. Frequently people posted they hated FB.
And then I received an email from my favorite internet friend. She was deleting her FB account and she asked that I email her my contact information so we could remain in contact. This lady posted all of the time. Her posts were the ones I read immediately, even if I didn’t think I would be interested: insightful, creative, funny. And if she was cutting the strings, I thought I should strongly consider it.
I posted that day that I was un-friending everyone. If you wanted to stay in contact, I requested that people please email me.
And then I became ruthless. If you popped up in my feed I hid you. I did it for days.
And finally, FB started reacting. “Nothing more to show.”
My constant urge to look at FB started to move into the recesses of my attention. If I thought of a friend and wanted to know what they were up to, I searched for their name and scrolled through their feed. I had begun using FB the way I wanted to use it, on my terms.
Most recently, FB welcomed me to FB and told me to search for friends to friend. The algorithm doesn’t really know what to do with me. It shows that I have posts to read in my feed but when I click there nothing comes up. They even stopped showing me ads in the feed because I kept clicking “I don’t want to see this.”
After three weeks of my experiment I won’t be going back to FB. I feel calmer, less frenetic. I am paying attention again to what I am actually interested in. I am reading the paper again. I am reading books again. I am happier.
I will still use FB to advertise my book and to occasionally look up friends and reconnect. But other than that, I am done. Alas, I haven’t heard from my Internet friend. I hope she is outside doing something fun away from her computer or sitting on her couch reading a good book.
Nicole Harkin is a writer and photographer in Washington, DC. She recently published her first book, Tilting, A Memoir.