Recently I quit Facebook cold turkey. Psychologists suggest that looking at the carefully curated lives of friends and acquaintances every day can be bad for our mental health and the security of our democracy. So I decided to take the challenge. Would deactivating my account make me a happier person?
You bet your bots it did. Right out of the gate, I had more time on my hands. Free from all that scrolling, my thumbs felt springy and light. I immediately practiced opposing them on a variety of natural surfaces. I took up embroidery and, to my surprise, crushed it. I discovered that I am a natural freestyle dancer. I watched YouTube videos to learn how to do the Michael Jackson “lean,” and it’s really catching the eye of everyone at Trader Joe’s.
I started to listen more closely to my young children, without mining their banter for Facebook post material. Now when my kids talk, it goes in one ear and out the other, which was good enough for me when I was growing up. I don’t take their pictures anymore. I stare at them really hard and then later, crop and filter my memories.
Without social media, I stay present and on-task. Even my visits to the bathroom are more efficient.
Also, it feels so good to no longer be the victim of targeted advertising. I stopped drinking Stoli and compulsively stocking jars of borsht. I don’t even know why I thought I needed that stuff. Russia can’t touch me now.
Quitting Facebook didn’t solve all my problems. They say that social media made our country more divisive, but being offline doesn’t make me feel connected to my fellow citizens. I’m just as appalled and depressed about our political leaders as I ever was, but nobody knows it unless we get together for lunch. Then they don’t want to have lunch with me anymore.
I know I’m out of the loop, but I assume my close friends will text me if the president does something less shitty.
They say that real-life connections are more meaningful than online ones. But after chain-scrolling for 10 years, I’m out of practice making eye contact. Also, nobody looks back.
Even conversations are awkward. The other day, a friend was complaining about a guy at her office. He thinks he’s super smart, she said, but he’s really just tall and enunciates the ends of words. I was so excited to show my friend that I could totally picture this poser, and that I, too, hoped he would get fired. But I wasn’t able to shape my face into the appropriate emoji. It just feels unnatural to stick out my tongue to the side while raising a sarcastic eyebrow. I had to give up and show her on my phone.
Sometimes I feel adrift. I missed my cousin’s #dateaversary with her husband. I’m not even sure if they still love each other after all of these years. I worry that people think I’m blowing them off because I don’t respond to their posts. If your dog dies, and I don’t send you my thoughts and prayer hands, it’s because to me, your dog isn’t dead.
I can’t say I’ll be off Facebook forever. For now, I’m just enjoying each day, listening to actual birds live tweeting every morning. I feel relaxed. If I could post a selfie, you would see how happy I am, how thin and well-lit.