My last two posts here and here were glimpses into my personal struggle with social media/web addiction and how I was just barely hanging on. So this last spring, after many many months of milling over if it was possible to cut the cord, I took one last deep breath and deleted my Facebook account. Of course before I said goodbye, I downloaded all of my Facebook data and history (they give you the option to do that) which was eye-opening in itself. They kept track of every "Like" and comment and Status Update and article read and link that had I clicked, EVER. Essentially it was my life in a nutshell (or zip file to be exact).
If it sounds like ending it all was easy, it wasn't. When I got the long-awaited courage to deactivate my account, Facebook made me take a mandatory survey to answer why I'm leaving. Some of the options were: "It's temporary, I'll be back" (which if you hover over that option, a pop up answers, "Okay see you soon"), or "I'm spending too much time on Facebook" (which baits something like, "Did you know you can select how much you see in your News Feed, excuse excuse excuse"), and "I'm having privacy issues" (to which they reel, "You can personalize who sees your information by following this rabbit trail to your settings"). You get the idea. They don't make it easy to just say goodbye. When I gave the answer, "I'm leaving for good," Facebook kept their foot in the door by telling me that if I ever want to come back, they keep ALL of my information and all I have to do is sign in and everything will appear like I never left. How comforting.
But that's not all. When I finally got to the deactivation page, I was met bold-face with the Profile Pictures of my dearest friends and family, no kidding. And it said, "Are you sure you want to leave? BFF from high school, and one of your bridesmaids, and your aunt, and your friend on the east coast you haven't spoken to in six years but whose every picture you like and comment on will miss you!" How painful is that?
But alas, 1...2...3...click. I'm gone. Dead to the Facebook world, like I never even existed.
So this begs the question: does life exist after Facebook?
It's funny though, when friends ask me how things are going post-FB, they lower their voice almost like they're talking about the no-longer-living: "So, how have you been doing since <lower tender tone> you're no longer on Facebook?"
My answer is, THE AFTERLIFE IS AWESOME.
It was a few days after I lept off the Facebook cliff that I saw how great the ground is below. First, my own dad texted me, "I can't find you on Facebook are you okay?" And then a dear soul-sister in California texted, "I went to write on your wall and you were gone...how are you birdie?" Which began a sweet text catch-up that no one saw on my "Wall" or in their "Newsfeed". Then, you know that friend I hadn't talked to in six years but whose every picture I "liked" and commented on? She texted me, "Hi Tracy! I hope this is still your phone number, I hope everyone is doing well I was just thinking about you guys and noticed you are no longer on FB and thought of dropping you a little note!" Which began a personal interaction with this sweet old friend that we hadn't had since we moved over six years ago. You ask, "but didn't you comment on all her pictures?" Of course I did, but did we interact personally? Nope; you feel real personal connection in the afterlife.
My favorite experience in this afterlife so far was when I met up with a friend for coffee after a good couple of months without seeing her. I knew she had been on a mission trip to Thailand, and when she referenced something from the trip, I looked puzzled because I didn't know about it. She said, "Well didn't you read my post-trip update on Facebook?" I answered, "No, I must have missed that...tell me about it." Then she and I sipped coffee and walked the lake while she told me stories and things about her trip that probably wouldn't have made Facebook, or if they did, didn't come with her eye contact and voice ebbing and flowing with the story that I had the privilege of experiencing. Sure, I could have read her update and clicked the "like" button so she knew I approved, but instead I listened to her and responded with laughter, and "oh no" and "that's awesome" and with nods and grins and my own questions to dig deeper into what's going on in her life. It was a gift, and life-giving.
Fear of diminishing friendships and not knowing what was going on in the lives of my 836 Facebook friends was what kept me on for so long. I shuddered to think of all that I'd miss from the social groups I'm a part of, not to mention, I was afraid of missing all of the great articles and blogs and funny comic strips and vacation pictures that were shared. The fear clinched me: "I learn so much from those blogs and comments and links, and I'm so connected to what's going on--what would happen if I closed that window to the world?"
A window of real, fresh air was opened. And I don't miss a thing.
Of course, I miss interacting with my cousins and family and close friends (thankfully some of whom I still see on my much more manageable Instagram: @tracyfrue). I do miss a few baby announcements and funny animal videos that everyone is talking about. But when I say I don't miss a thing, I don't miss the multitude of trivial distractions that overcrowded those few genuine interactions. That's why I left, and how I'll navigate social media in the future is left to be determined. But at this point I don't expect a Facebook resurrection...I'm in a much better place now.
As heavenly as that sounds, to my dismay, I am still very much trying to untangle myself from the sticky trap of the world-wide-web, and just the habit of screen-gazing in general. My hope is that my heart will be helped so that my usage of media is more redemptive than destructive. I'd be pushing the metaphor to call this a purgatory, but right now I'm seeking the pages of good books and arduous prayers to help me out of this life in-between.
Dying to Facebook may not be the prescription for everyone's social-suction malady, but I'm so thankful to have ended the life I maintained on Facebook in hopes that I can revel in the angelic faces around me (Heaven help me).