The REAL Reason to Quit Facebook (and 10 what-ifs)

The real reason to quit Facebook is not because of trust and privacy issues, or continual changes in format, sponsored posts, increased advertisements or the selling of your personal data and attention. Although all of these are legitimate, there is a more important reason to quit Facebook.

(Now, my reasoning here may sound a bit dramatic to some of you. But for many people, who now treat Facebook as an additional appendage to their body…this is for you. For everyone else, I hope it’s some good food for thought.)

Facebook is a good thing…an amazing, paradigm-shifting phenomenon, actually. And I, just as you, can compile a long list of the great benefits of its use. There are many good things that would have never happened if it hadn’t been for Facebook.

But that’s exactly why it’s been so quietly insidious to so many lives. Hidden in the celebration of its greatness, I believe, is a long list of even greater things you didn’t do because you were too busy on Facebook.

What if…

  1. What if the next time I have 5 minutes in line at the store, instead of checking Facebook, I strike up a conversation or a smile with the people around me?
  2. What if the next time I have 2 minutes at a traffic light, instead of checking Facebook, I say a prayer to the God of the universe?
  3. What if when I have a 15 minute break during the day, instead of checking Facebook, I put some time into planning a meaningful evening with my wife?
  4. What if when I have 30 minutes before bed, instead of checking Facebook, I read a spiritual masterpiece that changes my life and the lives of those around me?
  5. What if when I have my lunch break at work, instead of checking Facebook, I strike up a meaningful conversation with a co-worker and ask them about their life?
  6. What if when commercials come on, instead of checking Facebook, I jump on the floor with my kids for an impromptu wrestling match?
  7. What if the next time I get an hour on the weekend to relax, instead of checking Facebook, I put on some amazing music and get lost in its beauty?
  8. What if the next time I feel like spending 20 minutes crafting a silly status message that will surely garner lots of *likes* on Facebook, instead I spend 20 minutes writing a personal note to somebody I care about?
  9. What if the next time I meet somebody new, instead of immediately looking them up on Facebook when I get home, I embrace the adventure and mystery of getting to know somebody new by actually spending time with them?
  10. What if when I finally get the kids to bed, instead of checking Facebook, I stop for a few still moments just to watch them sleep? And then pop open a bottle of wine with my wife?

What if there was no Facebook in your life? It sure seems like life could be better. Not because Facebook is bad, but because there are so many greater things you could do instead. There is only so much time in a day. Choosing to do one thing always means choosing to not do something else. It’s a fact of the universe. And for every good thing I can do on Facebook, I can think of something better that I’m not yet doing that I could do with that time instead. It really is that simple.

Facebook is a great good. But if it’s keeping you from doing greater and more important things in your life, cut it off. Be bold! Free yourself. Don’t settle for a good life, demand a great one.

But what about Facebook in moderation?

It’s a nice idea, but difficult in practice (for reasons I explain more below). But if that works well for you, go for it!

I’m not being a puritan here. I’m just recognizing that, at least for right now, even if I achieved moderation I feel like it would still be holding me back from a better life. Maybe that will change in the future and I’ll be back on the bandwagon.

But couldn’t you make this argument about a million other things, too?

Yes. There are surely worse things you could be doing than Facebook. What makes Facebook unique is that, on top of being so helpful, it’s such an easy addiction, its barrier-to-use is very low and it’s accessible to you at every second of your day, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. That’s why a billion people have embraced it more quickly than anything else in the history of mankind. For many people, it’s taken a unique place in our lives.

The intent vs. the reality

Facebook claims to do something specific: To connect you with your friends and family. That’s its core function and the primary reason most people use it. But how good is it at doing this? For me, it’s not very good.

It’s pretty good at keeping me aware of current events and what my acquaintances are up to. It’s okay at reminding me of what’s going on in some (but nowhere near all) of my family and friends’ lives. That’s about it. And it does so too often at the expense of time I should be spending on my most important relationships (that’s the key).

I actually think Facebook might still be a good way to follow public figures, artists and other pages (which is why I intend to maintain The Radical Life Facebook page). But that is a different intent and purpose. To the extent I have let it pretend to be something that is best for my friends and family, I think it has been a distraction and impediment. And that’s why I’m deleting my personal Facebook profile.

It’s a crutch

When we see each other’s status updates every once in awhile, it gives us the illusion that we’ve “kept in touch” (even though most family and friends don’t see our updates — they aren’t on Facebook, don’t check regularly or missed it in their feed). It’s a poor substitute for meaningfully keeping in touch with our loved ones, but we compromise and settle for it anyway because it’s easy. When it comes to allocating how much energy we put into which relationships, it builds in a bias toward convenience vs importance. And, again, we end up doing so at the expense of time we should be spending on more personal interaction with our most important relationships.

It’s made me into a lazy friend and loved one.

But I find so much great, inspiring content on Facebook!

Hey, me too! But the signal to noise ratio is low. Also, I have a bookshelf full of classic books I haven’t read yet. Books filled with truth and inspiring content that has stood the test of time. Should I not read these first? Even better, I don’t have to sort through 100 of them to find one worth reading. When it comes to worthwhile content to read, I have a lot on the list ahead of most things I’d find on Facebook.

Your own reality show

I’ve heard it said that Facebook is like a bad reality show, except we can’t stop watching because we personally know all the characters! This sums up a lot of the experience fairly well (and most “news” in general), actually.

Our human nature has this misdirected need to be in the know. It’s actually a real syndrome now called F.O.M.O. (the Fear Of Missing Out). It’s root is insecurity and its fruit is you checking your Facebook app every 3 minutes, scrolling down your Facebook wall endlessly, even when your bed time was an hour ago.

But the truth is that even IF you could consume everything posted on Facebook (you can’t), you’d still be missing out on the vast majority of LIFE going on around you. Give it up. Embrace well what you can, let the rest go. Feeding that fear of missing out is an illusion that drains the life from your day.

Life through a lens

All this social sharing has too often ruined my ability to be present and live in the moment. It’s easy to start viewing the world in terms of what will make a great status update. Or taking photos only for the sake of letting other people share in a moment. We soon find ourselves viewing every thing we do in life through the lens of our smartphone. Constantly reporting our lives rather than living them. Only valuing activities to the extent that they can be captured and shared online.

It’s a sad state to find yourself in. But it’s freeing to again realize that every experience throughout your day is beautiful and important, even if nobody knows about it (and sometimes *especially* if nobody else knows about it).

Protecting intimacy

Intimacy requires some level of privacy and exclusivity of audience. That’s what makes it special. With Facebook, if we have something good to share, we rarely *only* share it with somebody special. The ability to share it with *lots of people* is too easy and the temptation too strong. This has led to fewer special, personal and intimate moments in our friendships.

Ignoring your hard relationships

Mobility and technology have done this in general, but Facebook magnifies it, allowing us to connect and maintain only our easiest friendships…while easily ignoring our most difficult ones (which are often our most important ones).

In the past, if your neighbor or family member was a stubborn fool, you had to deal with it…cuz you had to live with them. You had to work it out. Which, while harder, was better for everyone…including you. Because you’re probably a more stubborn fool than that stubborn fool of a neighbor of yours.

With Facebook, we just busy ourselves with easy relationships and end up with no time for the hard (best) ones.

Don’t you like us anymore?

I love all of the people I’ve been privileged to connect with through my personal Facebook account. And I truly am sad about deleting these connections. But the truth is that if our relationship is more than Facebook telling us that we’re friends, I think we’ll be just fine. I’m still available online via many means. At the end of the day, please know I’m doing this for the benefit of the most important relationships in my life. I must have faith that those must come first.

Overspending your time

How often does “just checking Facebook for a minute” turn into 30 minutes or 2 hours of tangents, rabbit holes, new links, videos, etc.?

Because of the engaging factor of Facebook, it’s easy to overspend your time on there. You almost always spend more time on it than you originally intended, and probably more time than you really had in the day for it. It sucks you in and encourages you to spend more time than you should…necessarily leaving less time for other important things in your life.

How many times have you logged off and thought, “Yes! What a great session of well-spent time on Facebook!”?

Ever!? On the other hand, how many more times have you had to force yourself to stop refreshing, scrolling, browsing and responding to notifications, shut your computer and said, “Gah! I’ve already spent way too much time on here today! I have more important things to do!”?

It’s way past time for me to get on to the “more important things to do!” I’m not saying that’s what you should do. But hopefully some of this gives you food for thought. As for me and my mouse, we shall click delete.

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