How I Got My Life Back on Track After Deleting Facebook

(And how you can too)

Ted Rivers
Jan 22 · 10 min read
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I’d had a strained relationship with Facebook for years. During the ten years I had an account with the social media giant, I’d deleted it 5 times. I always ended up crawling on my knees, begging for Zuckerberg to take me back.

And he always did.

Facebook doesn’t know when it’s causing its users distress. The company doesn’t care about people any more than the governments of the world forces it to. After all, this is the company that was founded to rate female college student’s faces.

Integrity from the very start.

What’s Wrong With Facebook

Facebook fuels the worst parts of me. It breeds disappointment and contempt on an industrial scale. Every day I found myself needlessly scrolling through my feed. I couldn’t help but compare my station in life to my peers. When people would share exciting news about babies, love, or work I’d grow bitter.

I’d start to judge my own life and why I’m not ‘there’ yet. I’d start to be resentful towards those who were sharing what seemed like a perfect life. Something I wanted but had been denying myself and Facebook fueled that fire.

I didn’t share very much on Facebook, I just lurked. Silently judging everyone happy to share parts of their lives online. I was scared of putting anything online in case people didn’t react to me. I have major depressive disorder and Facebook wasn’t helping but it took a long time to realize that.

People are selective about what they share online. Users on Facebook will project a happier life than the one they’re really living. Even though I knew that it continued to stress me out.

Why aren’t I as happy as they are?

My demons and Facebook were in cahoots, making me feel worse every day. Likes on Facebook are addictive, they can release dopamine to make us feel good. When I‘d post something and no one interacted with it I’d feel deflated. If someone posted something joyous, I’d feel jealous. When I saw my friends post about gatherings I wasn’t at, I’d feel mad.

Then when it all got too much I’d go to the account settings and I’d hover over the deactivate my account button.

Jamie, Kyle, Sammy, and Lisa will miss you if you leave.

Facebook would try to guilt me into staying and sometimes it work. Other time’s I’d make it past Facebook’s attempts to manipulate me to stay. I’d deactivate the account and I’d delete the apps off my phone.

And I would be free.

What’s It Like Without Facebook

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Life without Facebook is different. The desire to look at your phone decreases which can free up a lot of your time. I used to scroll my feed religiously throughout the day.

  • I’d look when I woke up.
  • I’d look while I ate breakfast.
  • I’d look on my commute to work or university.
  • I’d look during work/class.
  • I’d look after work/class.
  • I’d look at lunch.
  • I’d look at dinner.
  • I’d look during any downtime.
  • I’d look at home in the evening.
  • I’d look before bed.
  • I’d look.
  • I’d look.
  • I’d look.

That seems like quite a lot, but I’d wager your time on Facebook is something similar. In fact, people spend about an hour every day on the platform. If you delete your account you’re getting a lot of time back. This time could be used to read, learn something new, cook, or get more exercise in.

What I found when I don’t have Facebook is that I am a lot more present in my life. I used to find myself having the urge to check the app during conversations. Now I’m fully engaged with the person I am talking to.

I get distracted less. Before if I went to do something I would check Facebook first. Then I’d end up on the app for a while and don’t end up doing what I had planned.

I’m happier without it. I’m very capable of beating myself up over every decision I’ve ever made. I never needed Facebook’s help with that. Without checking Facebook every day there are fewer things to upset myself with. I still have my demons but they are not as hyper without Facebook’s sugar rush.

I never missed it. This is something I was surprised by. I was reliant on Facebook, it was something I did every day. Yet, when I deleted the app off my phone I never had an urge to redownload it.

My relationships were never affected by not having Facebook. Over the years I had squirreled down my friend list to a mere 70 people. Where before it had been in the several hundreds. To combat how Facebook made me feel I started to reduce who had access to my feed. Even with a small list of friends, I was relentlessly scrolling, with markedly less content to digest.

The friends who were an active part of my life continued to be so. This was probably the scariest thing about getting rid of Facebook. What would happen to my social life? As it turns out — nothing. No change, or at least not in a way I have noticed.

Why I Kept Returning

There are 4 times where I decided to return to Facebook. Despite knowing it was harmful to how I felt. Facebook’s aggressive expansion and ease of use means it’s hard to stay away from the platform. At times it felt like it was the only path forward. So I would end my Facebook abstinence and log back in.

Here are the 4 reasons why I made my grand return to Facebook:

  • My flatmates got annoyed I wasn’t in the group chat.
  • Helping a friend with their PR strategy.
  • To join Facebook groups.
  • To use Facebook Marketplace.

These are four very separate reasons for going back on Facebook. They represent many of the different areas that the company operates in. They show exactly how Facebook keeps people on the app. Every time I returned there was a legitimate cause to. But every time I returned so did my unhealthy relationship with the app.

Let’s go over each decision to go back.

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Facebook Messenger

This was quite a few years ago now, after the death of MSN messenger but before the meteoric rise of WhatsApp. Messenger had basically become the most common way to communicate among my friendship groups. When I left Facebook, some relationships were maintained over SMS, others over WhatsApp if they were early adopters.

For the people I lived with the group chat was on Facebook Messenger. So there were some issues when I left. I wasn’t included in group conversations, or they found it inconvenient to message me privately. It made talking about bills, or house related issues harder. So after one of them shouted at me about it, I reactivated my account.

Facebook has coerced me back through my friends. It had upset them and forced me to act. Messenger is convenient but you can’t have a Messenger account without a Facebook account. Once I had the first app downloaded on my phone I quickly had the main app too.

Facebook Pages

I was pursuing an interest in music PR at the time and I had agreed to help my friend’s band. Part of what they wanted me to do was to redesign their social media profiles. The easiest way to do that was by making me a page admin, but that meant having an account. As this was something I wanted to do for a living, it made sense to sign back up for Facebook.

This time around I created a new account that nobody knew about except for my friend in the band. The account’s only intention was as a vehicle to access their Facebook page. I decided to do a no friends approach. I had to add the band member as a friend to gain access to the page however.

What happened next was the same predictable trap. Facebook started to tell everyone I was back. Adding 1 person to my friends meant I was showing up in ‘You Might Know’ on people’s feeds. So people started adding me as a friend. I didn’t want to offend anyone. I accepted the friend requests and suddenly had a new fledging Facebook account.

It seemed I was back, I was using Messenger again. I was scrolling down my feed daily. Facebook had clawed its way back into my life because I wanted to help a friend.

Facebook Groups

The next time I signed back up to the platform is similar to the last time. However, I was doing it to help my own career. I had been looking for ways to promote my website and fell down a promotions hole. When researching online for good ways to promote my blog and my Pinterest, I was often directed to Facebook Groups. Groups where people can share their links and support each other.

It seemed like a good thing to try out — what could be the harm? So I reopened my account and signed up for a variety of different groups. I tried to participate and reciprocate as much as I could. I was logging on a lot. The trouble is the gain from these groups is so superficial. Yes, people are clicking your links, but they don’t care about the content and no one’s really benefiting.

I had linked my satisfaction for my website to these rather toxic groups. The group admins had leveraged a position where they can get all this free promotion without having to give any in return. It didn’t sit right with me so I stopped participating in them. I was back on Facebook though. Falling into the same cycles as before. Feeling jealous, angry, and upset about things I shouldn’t (and didn’t want to) care about.

Facebook Marketplace

I had just moved house and needed furniture. I wanted to find cheap second-hand furniture, so I ended up turning to Facebook Marketplace. I don’t really have any complaints about the marketplace. It served its purpose, I was able to find a sofa, bookcase, and whatever else I needed.

Sadly to access the marketplace you must have an account, so once again my arm was twisted. I was back where Facebook wanted me. I didn’t have to use marketplace, that was totally my choice. There’s no denying how easy Facebook makes it to use. The trouble is I have an addictive personality. So once I had it back for marketplace I couldn’t help but use the rest of it. It’s compulsive and I struggle to control it.

I find it easier to get rid of something completely than to have even one part of it. It’s the same with smoking. If I have a packet in the house I’ll chain smoke until they’re gone. If I don’t have any in the house it won’t even cross my mind. For me and Facebook, it’s all or nothing.

I choose nothing.

How I Know I’ll Never Go Back Again

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I don’t think I’ll ever return to Facebook again now, I know how to navigate life without it. There are alternatives to everything Facebook has to offer. Nothing is pulling me back to the platform and I’ll avoid anything that forces me to have an account.

I’ll never be able to enjoy is Oculus VR since Facebook made an account mandatory. My time on WhatsApp is probably numbered as the company looks to assimilate its apps. Facebook continues to try and force users to its platform. Approximately 32% of the world’s population now has an account.

I’m not alone in jumping ship though. People are leaving Facebook. For some, like me, it’s to protect their mental health. For others, it is to do with privacy and trust. While some people abandon the platform because of freedom of speech.

The last time I quit Facebook, number 5, was in December 2019. At the time of writing that’s 1 year and 1 month ago. I’ve never missed it. I’m still in contact with all of the people I was beforehand. I’m happier without it, I don’t doubt myself as much. I don’t attack myself for not being ‘there’ yet.

I’ve been more productive and focused on my future. I don’t dwell on the past, or other people anymore. Facebook became a distraction for way too long and now it finally feels like things are back on track.

I’ll never go back to Facebook because there is nothing to gain and everything to lose.

Why You Should Quit Too

If anything I’ve mentioned today resonates with you then consider deleting your account. If you find your self mind-numbingly scrolling through the same 10 posts, quit. For people who are struggling with mental health problems ask yourself one question. Is Facebook contributing to the way I feel? If the answer is yes, delete the app.

Facebook stops growth. Facebook encourages comparison. Facebook helps you develop unhealthy attitudes. If you’re thinking about quitting then give it a go. There are two options, first, you can deactivate your account. This will take your account offline but will be brought back the next time you log in.

There’s nothing permanent about deactivating your account. Think of it as a test run. Dip your toe in the water. Drink the Kool-Aid.

For a more permanent solution, you can proceed to delete your account. This will remove you from Facebook entirely. So make sure to back up any pictures, otherwise they will be gone. I made this mistake but I can always take more in the future.

Ignore Facebook when it threatens your friends.

Jamie, Kyle, Sammy, and Lisa will miss you if you leave.

They won’t miss you because you’ll still be in contact with them. People exist off of Facebook, don’t let it trick you into thinking they don’t. Facebook wants you to stay on its platform so it can keep selling you stuff. It doesn’t care about your wants or needs.

If it’s making you miserable please jump ship.

Follow me here for more stories about the world and the people in it. You can also find me on Twitter.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Ted Rivers

Written by

Life is constantly changing. I write about life, mine and yours and how we can find the life we want. Encouraging people to be gentle with themselves always.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

Ted Rivers

Written by

Life is constantly changing. I write about life, mine and yours and how we can find the life we want. Encouraging people to be gentle with themselves always.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

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