The crazy ways my life improved after deleting Facebook from my phone
I was angry. I was depressed. Then I deleted Facebook from my phone.
by: E.B. Johnson
When I was first introduced to Facebook back in the fall of 2007, it was actually kind of cool. Back in the early days of the platform it was all about the social experience. With just a few clicks of your mouse you could connect with all your friends and family from around the world. It was an actual network and when you used it you felt connected with the world around you.
Fast forward to 2019.
The Facebook we know now looks nothing like that minimalist connectivity platform we fell in love with more than a decade ago. It’s filled with ads, ads and more ads, and if you happen to find a spot that’s not filled with sponsored ads, chances are it’s covered with some kind of half-correct political meme.
Facebook isn’t a social network anymore. It’s a corporate and political vomit machine, saturated with more advertising for brands, retailers and party candidates than a road side billboard.
Facebook sucks. And more than that? It’s dangerous. Helping to generate and instill some really toxic beliefs and behaviors in a society that’s already on the edge.
The bad, the badder and the ugly.
Facebook isn’t good for us and that’s something that even the platform’s developers acknowledge.
While I had known for a long time that Facebook was helping to elicit some really negative emotions in me, it wasn’t until I started to really dig into some of the recent research that I realized just how dangerous it could be — especially for someone like me who struggled with depression and anxiety.
Facebook is addictive and helps to reinforce negative feedback loops that keep us feeling lonely and depressed. When we use social media platforms like Zuckerberg’s, we develop feelings of envy and jealousy and start to develop a sense of false consensus. We keep in touch with people we should be working hard to forget, and we get trapped in our pasts by being confronted constantly with people who are trying to impress others around them or appear superior or confrontational.
While Facebook can go a long way in helping us stay connective, we use it more as a weapon than a tool and that has a negative impact on our overall well-being. We use it at the expense of our other meaningful relationships and we let it isolate us in a way that is toxic and mood-destroying.
Using just 10 minutes of Facebook a day has been shown to worsen feelings of depression or loneliness and lead to feelings of negative social comparison.
When I knew it was time to kick the habit.
I knew it was time to kick the Facebook habit when I ended up in a no-holes-barred, knock-down-drag-out political battle with my own father in the comment section of a satire post.
Being the sucker that I am for a politically charged climate, I made a post insinuating that that current sitting US president (I shan’t mention his name here) was involved (comically) in a romantic relationship with Russian “President” Vladimir Putin.
It didn’t help that I did this when I was living in a state of what seemed like perpetual anger. It didn’t help that I did it with the snide contempt of someone who knew they were right.
As soon as I made the post, I saw a red bubble appear. I had done it. Battle was about to commence.
To my ultimate disappointment, I saw that the notification was from none other than my own father. I sat on the train, dressed in my “Hi. Yes. I am a Professional. Give me a job, please,” clothes and stared down at my phone screen. He was as fair game as any, right? I decided to go for it.
My thumbs thundering away, I informed my father — quite succinctly — that he was wrong in his response in a number of ways. My fingers shook. My stomach trembled. I was consumed by rage at his presumption.
And then I realized…this was my father. I was screaming at my father in the comment section of a Facebook post.
Who was I? It was an epiphany.
I deleted my next response (which was a powerful 580 words) and turned my phone off. I didn’t need this in my life, let alone on my cell phone.
It was time to delete the app from my phone.
What happened next…
I started noticing the benefits of taking the Facebook app off my phone right away. Within hours I realized I felt less stressed, and without the temptation of checking my phone I felt more engaged and conscious of what was going on around me.
My FOMO disappeared.
While I kept my profile alive (and somewhat active in the desktop realm) I noticed an immediate curbing of my FOMO.
When I was linked up to a huge social network of active, vibrant friends, it made me feel like my life wasn’t good enough and it made my feel like I was constantly missing out on something better.
These feelings of missing out drove my anxiety through the roof and it also made me want to compulsively check my phone. All of those things drove my addiction to the network and increased the overall negative way I saw the world and my place in it.
I started exercising again.
Now, I can’t entirely blame Facebook for my unwillingness to hit the gym, but I can say with absolute confidence — it contributed.
Getting out from behind my phone screen actually inspired me to get off the couch and do something in those rare moments I had free time.
Instead of brooding in front of my best friend’s latest travel pictures, I spent that 10 or 20 minutes doing push ups, sit ups and scissor kicks. My anxiety was decreasing by the day and when that started to go I wanted to get outside and do more things.
Exercise is great for making us feel good and I had always known that, but I was wired into the couch by the app that was making me sad. Once the anchor of Facebook was cut free, I was cut free and my health and my well being seemed to be improving with it.
Finally! Some better sleep.
This might be hard for you to believe, but deleting Facebook off of my phone and pulling back from it actually helped to improve the quality of my sleep.
Within days of saying sayonara to the Facebook app, I realized I was getting to sleep faster and actually staying asleep longer than usual.
It turns out this was happening because I was reducing the amount of blue light I was exposing myself to before catching some z’s.
Every night before I went to bed, I would cast myself into that Facebook void, spending a good 20–30 minutes just scrolling through the endless dross until I found something that interested me. It turns out, though, that all that blue light I was exposing myself to was actually toxic to my sleep, disrupting my body’s ability to produce melatonin (the hormone that helps you sleep.)
When I separated myself from this bedtime Facebook habit, I actually noticed the quality of my sleep improve dramatically. Instead of relying on the social media giant to lull me to sleep, I used the books I had always loved instead and I found myself waking up more restful and happy than I ever had before.
Re-prioritizing what really mattered.
Although we think that Facebook keeps us plugged in and linked up to the people and things that really matter, it actually increases our feelings of isolation, depression and loneliness.
A few years ago, I moved abroad on my own and really came to rely on Facebook to keep in touch with my friends and family. As it goes, I became isolated and depressed in my new setting and when things got really bad, I used the social platform to reach out for help and connections that I believed could keep me afloat.
It didn’t take me long to realize that what I was getting from these interactions was far from anything positive.
Rather than feeling comforted and included by my interactions on Facebook, I felt even more isolated and misunderstood than I had before. It had a negative impact on not only my own well-being but my personal relationships, and it really helped me get lost when it came to paying attention to the things that actually mattered.
When I deleted Facebook, I was able to take a step back and re-prioritize the things that really mattered to me.
Without the constant distractions and comparisons, I was able to focus on rebuilding my actual physical, face-to-face relationships and finding a rhythm in my waking life again. I was able to focus on my career again, reassess my goals and even figure out a new direction to take my life, which was spinning in a way I had never intended to go.
In just a matter of weeks I was reminded that there was so much more to life than just doing better than the person next to you.
I found my jush again.
When I stopped dedicating the majority of my free time to Facebook, I freed up time for the other things in life I loved to do. Without that needless distraction, I found my jush again and reconnected with the passions in life I had once enjoyed.
Not only was I exercising again, I was writing more than ever and playing music again. When I didn’t have Facebook to make me feel bad or keep me zombified, I rediscovered my love for cooking and even found the time to organize my home.
Getting rid of the most distracting social media allows you to free up time to paint, cook, garden, volunteer and so many other things that can put a spark back in your life. These sparks are the things that inspire us and they are the things that make us motivated to live our lives to the fullest.
When we find our jush, we find the color and spirit in our life and from that comes our true value.
My anxiety evaporated.
There’s something about living your life around Facebook that makes you feel like you’re living under a magnifying glass. For me, this resulted in some pretty nasty side effects — the worst of which was anxiety.
When I made the Facebook disconnect my anxiety evaporated and it’s no wonder why. According to extensive research, excessive use of social media platforms like Facebook go a long way in exacerbating conditions like anxiety and depression.
Taking a break from Facebook during the day allowed me to mitigate my anxiety and instantly feel better. The constant communication and social obligations that the social media platform allows left me feeling trapped and suffocated, unable to take any time for myself to recharge and recenter.
Responding nonstop to messages, posts, comments and replies was stressful for me and taking even the smallest step away from that offered instant relief. As the days and weeks went on, that relief grew and before I knew it that relief outweighed any perceived benefits I had held before.
How you can kick the habit too.
At the peak of my Facebook addiction, I was feeling lost, hopeless and angry at the world and myself. If that sounds anything like how you’re feeling, it might be a sign that it’s time for you to kick the old Zuckster to the curb too.
You don’t need to delete Facebook completely to start seeing some results in your life. You just have to learn to walk away a little bit.
1. Get your fix from other platforms.
If you’re really hooked on the Zuck, then try easing off of Facebook by getting your fix from other platforms.
While this isn’t really ideal if you’re making the move for anxiety reasons, using other social media as a substitute for Facebook can be a great way to get yourself unhooked. Twitter, Reddit and Instagram can be great substitutes, and platforms like TikTok offer lots of entertainment as well.
Just make sure you ease yourself into whatever app you decide to substitute Facebook for. Exchanging one addiction in exchange for another isn’t really healing. It’s a short term solution for a long-term problem.
2. Download your data and get analog with it.
One of the factors that kept me beholden to Facebook the longest with the date they kept on all my friend’s birthdays and contact info. Chances are you too have come to depend on Facebook to remind you when that big day is or what that cell phone number is.
Download your Facebook data before you delete your app and use it to get all of the good stuff like the birthdays of your friends and family as well as their contact information. Store that info in a safe analog space like a planner and train yourself to use it regularly.
Having this kind of info to hand — without the digital interference of social media — makes us pick up the phone and reconnect those dormant ties, rather than just shooting off an empty Facebook greeting about it. When we learn to get personal again, we learn to be happier again.
3. Learn about the loopholes.
“But, E.B.!” you might be screaming at your screen by this point. “What about all my other apps that depend on Facebook to login! I need those apps!”
You can hardly log on to a site these days without being asked to provide your Facebook profile as proof that you’re not some type of bot or scammer. Apps like Spotify, Tinder and even BarkBuddy require you to use your personal Facebook profile as proof that you aren’t some kind of internet creep, and without it, it can become tricky or impossible to use the service.
Look for loopholes on sites like this and use an email to log in instead (if the option is offered). Most sites will allow you to verify your identity in a number of other ways, but these aren’t always readily visible. Take some time learning about your most-used apps and figure out if there’s a loophole you can use to avoid the dreaded Facebook login.
4. Prioritize your relationships.
When you take a step back from Facebook you get the chance to really reprioritize what matters in your life, and it is (oddly enough) this reprioritization that can keep you from falling back into Facebook addiction.
Social media is a competitive public forum and it can actually degrade the quality of our relationships with the people around us. Instead of improving your life, it can actually make you forget that you exist when you aren’t rooting around on its platform. You forget that there’s real people actually living and breathing around you, with thoughts, beliefs and experiences of their own.
Stop curating your life and start living it instead. Reach out and keep in touch with people by hand, rather than relying on the empty, cold recommendations of a computer that can’t even feel.
When you build your social life and social circles, your life changes. You start to realize that there are people out there that really care and you begin to realize the actual people you want to exist in your real, here-and-now life.
5. Delete the app.
The final step in taking a step back from Facebook is deleting the app. Take a deep breath and hold your thumb down on that shiny blue icon. See that x? Tap it.
You can’t get away from Facebook until you get away from Facebook so delete the app and put your phone down. Remember: you’re not deleting your entire account. Your Facebook avatar will still exist in the realm of madness, you’ll just no longer be connected it to it by a digital life support apparatus.
Putting it all together…
In its most innocent state, Facebook is a database of birthdays and a way for us to connect instantly with people from all around the world. Without picking up the phone (or a pen) you can reach out to anyone anywhere, and share with them a special moment in time that connects you to life in a way that doesn’t seem possible otherwise.
In its most malicious state, Facebook is a breeding ground for insecurity, isolation and depression, as sad and desperate people scream out into the void desperately, looking for some kind of justification or meaning for being.
Ultimately, social media is what we make it, but it’s easy to fall into the toxic trap of addiction when it comes to the social media giant.
When we use Facebook, we compare our lives constantly to others. We develop feelings of loneliness, desperation, isolation and inferiority. Our relationships degrade and our own self-confidence degrades, pushing us further down into a spiral of negative behaviors and beliefs.
Perhaps, instead of connecting to Facebook we should try to reconnect with the world instead. Give something different a shot. Who knows? You might just find yourself along the way.