What it's really like to delete yourself from the Metaverse
It's been one year since I chose to remove myself from anything related to Meta: no Facebook and no Instagram. Here are my observations
Admit it. You’ve thought about it. Maybe you’ve even flirted with the idea of leaving Facebook by temporarily suspending your account, or reducing the amount of time you spend scrolling, or by simply removing the app from your phone. But you haven’t been able to justify leaving, because of your business, your extended network of friends, or because your neighbor's cousin is about to have a baby, and you just have to see those fresh chubby cheeks when they arrive.
Me? I did it. Despite the reasons that have held you back and more I left Facebook, and Instagram… and for the moment, I can honestly say I have no intention of ever going back.
I’ve learned some surprising things in the year since I deleted my profiles, including the biggest surprise of a profound discomfort that lasted much longer than just the first few months of attempting to live my life privately instead of publicly. But as I reflect on what has changed for me since making the choice to go, I’m glad I left.
Maybe reading this will help you think about what role social media is playing in your life too.
The Hard Decision…
About a year ago, I realized it was time for me to end my relationship with Facebook. More accurately, I announced my intentions to delete my profiles.
I had known it was time to abandon what had become a toxic sludge filled experience for several years. Like a crappy relationship, the honeymoon phase had ended long ago, and the reward of simply being there wasn’t worth even the smallest effort it took to try and ‘make it work.’ But eventually justifying my way into staying annoyed me to a breaking point. And so I made the announcement that my kickoff to New Year 2022 would be a complete deletion.
It was hard to say goodbye.
I had a network of well over 3000 personal connections. These were real people I shared memories with, who live all over the world, and whom I connected with due to the nature of my work as a speaker and improv theatre performer/teacher. My business page wasn’t at celebrity status by any stretch of the imagination but it had 1700 active followers, and my Facebook group of 200 was quite active as well. On Instagram my following was nothing to write home about, but that was due to my brain functioning in a words-first over a pictures-first kind of way.
In the early days of Facebook, it was a natural fit for the way I enjoyed socializing, the way I had always had a rather unfiltered way of communicating and my somewhat voyeuristic and gossipy tendencies; I delighted in my ability to lurk in other people’s lives without getting deeply involved. Every time someone reacted to something I said, it felt like I was making some kind of positive impact in the world.
There was a kind of like-me bias on steroids at play, and it felt oh-so-good to be on the same page with basically everybody. The platform would rearrange itself, and we would all complain in unison about how “new facebook” was the worst, and then just keep on engaging with it.
But by the time I announced my breakup with Facebook, my experience of the platform was that it brought the worst out in people. I watched as humans I respected and admired, repeatedly disappointed me in their conduct, and as a person whose life's work is to bring out the best in people, I just could not invest myself a moment longer.
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On January 1st, 2022 I pulled down every single post, picture and poke and removed every bit of me from Facebook and from Instagram.
The first months were ridiculously challenging.
I knew the first month was going to suck. I assumed I would be grumpy for the first 7 days.
What I didn’t anticipate was how deeply ingrained the habit loop had become. I was completely unaware that my reward for finishing tasks had been to scroll Facebook. That on clicking send on an email, the very next click would be to my Facebook feed.
Worse than that, I discovered that my brain had been rewired to think in Facebook posts. This was a particularly disturbing discovery and I was grossed out by the realization that every picture I had taken in the last decade had been for social media, and not for my own personal scrapbook.
Quickly I began searching for alternatives to Facebook. Surely there had to be a social media platform that felt good to be part of… If heroin addicts get methadone as they wean themselves off of their drug of choice, wasn’t there a social media equivalent for me?
I tried Telegram, spent more time on LinkedIn, tried to understand the benefits of Twitter (turns out it’s even more toxic there!... but I bet you already knew that), I created a profile on Bizfluence and even invested in their development! I began posting audio pieces on Wisdom, and most recently have created myself a profile on Ibble. Hardly anyone is there, but I do enjoy the social nature of Ibble… and haven’t abandoned ship there quite yet.
My one saving grace was and still is Marco Polo. I am connected to a handful of friends there, and it really is the next best thing to having an in person cup of coffee with my few connections there. And honestly I prefer it to text messaging too.
Eventually I had to admit to myself that either I was an addict, or that the social network had rewired social networking altogether. Some mix of both is probably true.
Fast Forward to now…
My husband still has a Facebook account. He says he is hardly ever there, but he’s on frequently enough to let me know about party invitations… in theory. I believe I still miss out on a lot.
My close social network is now a handful of people. The number of people I talk to on the phone, over text or Marco Polo is literally fewer than 10. I still think a great deal about my extended network, and occasionally connect with the folks I’ve met globally on LinkedIn or over Zoom… but it is quieter.
My thoughts have finally restructured themselves. I no longer think in Facebook posts. Also I just came back from a vacation, and I took pictures of moments I wanted to remember, as opposed to pictures I wanted to post for likes. Progress!
Though it is quieter, and frankly less hilarious (I have met a lot of funny people over the years), I feel grateful to be free of something that had rewired my brain. I honestly cannot think of a creepier product than one that weaves its way into your neural pathways the way social media does.
I am still doing the exact same amount of work as I was when I was on Facebook all of the time. It turns out that Facebook was driving a whopping 0% of my business while it was taking up roughly 50% of my time (which made me feel really productive — not the same as actually being productive).
I don’t know about you, but I would much rather spend my time on projects that enrich my life instead of endlessly pouring myself into a data harvesting machine.
I still very much miss the local Free & Trade groups… but thrift stores still exist, so I’m okay.
Are you considering leaving Facebook? Here are some things to keep in mind.
There will very likely be withdrawal symptoms.
You might have to relearn how to socialize.
You may be surprised to learn which of you connections run deepest. Some relationships will likely fade into the background and may fade away altogether.
Feeling sad after leaving social media is normal and natural, but it is temporary.
You may rediscover hobbies you forgot you loved.
You’ll be able to congratulate yourself for doing something that isn’t easy.
Arguably, you’ll be doing a social good!
Journaling is helpful for processing the change.
Facebook will try and manipulate you into staying by offering the option to just “take a break” instead of leaving, and by telling you that your “friends will miss you” and more.
Download your data first… but know this: Each post will be in it’s own file folder. Facebook makes it very annoying to go through all of your own content off of the platform. Download your content anyway. You made it.. It’s yours!
This article offers an excellent write up of how to delete your account. (Link: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/how-to-permanently-delete-your-facebook-account/ar-AA1445bd)
Look, if you love Facebook, great! But if you don’t love it, ask yourself the hard questions about why you stay. Is it a habit? Is it because you’re afraid?
I’m here to say it’s doable, it’s healthy and if you want to talk to someone about it, I am here.
Thanks for your insight. I am struggling with similar and am heading towards leaving as well.
I 'took a break' from Fakebook a while back, because I got tired of my brain being rewired to fear the censors and blizzards of hateful reactions that had been normalized. Didn't care for the fact that I was profiling myself for hidden players (CIAbook?) with every post. I do go back for the birthday feature, but only for a few minutes a day. That's a very sticky feature, and at some point I'll follow you out the door. Your article is both honest and accurate, and I appreciate you for writing it!