On January 1st, 2017, I posted a link to the Breeders’ song “New Year” and signed off of Facebook. 2016 had been so bad on the platform that I wanted to take a break.
For those of you reading this in the far future, 2016 was kind of a bad year for politics and Facebook. I often times found myself arguing with idiots and strangers (and strangers who were idiots) about politics.
I should clarify that I’m not some casual social media consumer. I use different platforms every day. It’s an amazingly powerful tool for marketing. For the duration of my Facebook sabbatical “social media” was in my job description at work. I’m a heavy user who not only attends social media conferences, but I consult companies on how to best leverage social media to grow their business.
Anyway, about halfway through 2016, I got tired of arguing politics with people I barely knew, anymore. So, I started to respond by ignoring the posts and instead adding photos of my kids. They bring happiness to people, and I decided I’d rather bring kindness to Facebook rather than try to convince someone that Obama is not the Muslim antichrist who is going to steal your guns and give you an abortion while making you gay in the middle of the night all while screaming “happy holidays!”
During the course of the election and multiple mass shootings, I started having people de-friend me. I was cool with that. They didn’t like common sense messing with their Fox News-colored world. Fine by me.
After a while, I started following more Marketing accounts so I could mix in some useful content along with political memes, sports posts, and back-to-school kid photos.
It was at this point that I realized I was just recreating the experience that I already had on Twitter. I always used Facebook for personal content and Twitter for professional learning content.
Here’s where the epiphany came in: what if I just focused on career-advancing materials and ditched the stuff that provided unnecessary tension.
Why was I subjecting myself to this stress?!? I opted into every single Facebook friendship. Maybe it was time to take a break. So on Jan 1st, I posted one last time and deleted the app off of my phone.
At first, it was a hard habit to break. Three minutes of downtime? I wonder what so-and-so it up to. Another improbable Patriots Super Bowl win? I wonder what everyone is saying? An unexpected dead celebrity/musician? I was missing the thoughts and prayers. And it went on and on. But, I remained strong that I was going to give it three months to see what it was like.
Eventually, I got used to not being in the know. I was really busy with work anyway, so it was fine.
April 1st marked three months (and my 10 year wedding anniversary), so I logged back on and started to scroll.
It didn’t take long before I saw someone had reposted a Rob Schneider post about politics.
Apparently, while I was gone, not only was Donald Trump sworn into office but now Rob Schneider had become someone we look to for political advice.
Logged out. App deleted again.
It was unique not being “in the know” with my family, friends, and Facebook friends (don’t lie, you all know the difference between friends and Facebook friends). But this eventually allowed for an authentic experience when I saw friends in person. I literally had no idea what they were up to! I could have a real conversation that didn’t prematurely end 12 times with, “oh yeah, I saw those photos you posted.”
I logged in again around the Fourth of July so I could post some open positions I was hiring for. I saw that someone I had known for a couple of decades was very, very pregnant. I sent her a message to congratulate her.
Note, I was still using Facebook Messenger throughout the year. It’s one-to-one communication and it’s free from clutter (for now).
In September, I signed in on my birthday to thank everyone for posting for my birthday. I know there’s maybe 4–5 people who know when my birthday is without a reminder, but people had taken the time, so I wanted to say thanks.
One of my friends received a notification that I posted for the first time in a while. He texted me to ask if everything was okay. In fairness, I see him at the gym from time to time, so it’s not like he went nine months without hearing from me and didn’t notice. But, he reached out and when I explained it, he understood why I was taking time off.
What did I do during this time? I continued to learn and laugh on Twitter (there’s a lot of nonsense on there, but it’s easier to filter out if you use the right apps). I spent a lot more time on Instagram. And I lived life. I was able to better focus on my family and work.
So, it’s been a year. Now what?
One of my good friends once told me, “there are things that add to your life, and things that subtract from your life. Get rid of the things that subtract.” I’ll reinstall the app and we’ll see if Facebook adds or subtracts.
Happy New Year!