"There's a trick to the 'graceful exit.' It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over—and let it go. It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out." —Ellen Goodman
Over the first week of May of this year, I decided to close my Facebook account. I had been on the toxic social media platform for three months shy of 14 years and I saw it change dramatically over the years. Like most people who joined Facebook back in the day, I joined to keep in touch with friends and family. In my case, I wanted to stay in touch with friends and family with whom Paul and I moved away from when we moved to Puerto Rico.
When I noticed I had over 2500 friends, I knew my original reasons for joining and what I had turned my Facebook profile into were two very different things.
Over the years the platform changed from a place to keep in touch to a place to come to over everything. It was no longer fun, and in fact, it was becoming a health hazard—both mentally and physically.
Although it's been a little over a month since I left Facebook, I was only recently able to articulate its grip over me, and the subsequent positive effect leaving has had on me. I wrote it all out last night and here's my stream of consciousness. If any of this resonates, I would recommend you consider doing what I did, but that's not my call.
Facebook: The Slippery Slope into a Social Experiment
By nature I’m political. Everything is politics, if you think about it. We often think of the biggies: religion and prayer in schools, abortion, race, gender, sexual orientation, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, whether to legalize plant medicine, the 2nd amendment, etc. But we rarely think that the little things are also political: to eat or not to eat Nutella because it contains palm oil; vegetarianism on all levels, not just health; tourism’s impact on the environment; to rescue or buy from a breeder; public vs private school and maybe even certain TV shows.
Before we know it, we’ve stepped in multiple land minds on top of the intentional ones.
And because we’re passionate people, we engage and eventually argue. Soon the act of arguing becomes as important as what we’re arguing about: “I can’t believe they said that to me?” And suddenly we’re bringing our spouse or partner into it, even friends. Now it’s taken on a life of its own.
This was me for most of the 14 years I had a personal account on FB. I have been suspended more times than I can count. And with each suspension, I defended my position. "Why does Facebook suspend me for speaking out against ____________________?" That blank can be anti-racism, misogyny, Roe v. Wade, the vaccination, Palestine vs. Israel, whatever. Why didn't Facebook support my right to speak out? Why is Facebook censoring me?
And I can even say that as a writer, I often used discussions I had on social media as the basis of an article I pitched to a publication to write about. I’d go back and share my position on my wall and guess what? More discourse.
It was a sickness that I had no idea how to stop.
Then one day, I looked at a few things:
- The time I was wasting on people who mean nothing to me
- I was donating a portion of my brain (my life experiences, my views on everything, which are the result of my life experiences, the way I was raised and my own research, etc.). Despite the time it took to develop those opinions and how long it took to explain in my comments, it was given to people who would just discard it without a second of consideration.
- I wasn’t operating at full capacity because I was donating a portion of my brain to people who never intended on learning anything
- It was affecting my marriage
So one day I just made a decision to close my account. I informed people and asked for email addresses and promised to stay in touch. Guess how many I’ve stayed in touch with? Of the 1500 “friends” I had at the time I closed my account, fewer than 50. The rest, I'm sorry to admit, were noise and distractions.
Now since I closed that account and have a new one (strictly for work!) that’s in a name nobody who knew / knows me could associate with me:
- I am more productive
- I am getting more clients
- I have more "me" time
- My marriage dramatically improved overnight
- I must have been holding on to stress or frustration because I lost 10 pounds*
*The weight loss can very likely also be attributed to working with a natural healer.
I’m 55 and people have been telling me I look like I’m in my 30s. I have more energy and I’m literally on fire everyday. I go to bed feeling accomplished and not drained. I wake up genuinely excited about the day. As I look at my to-do list, I revel as much in the mundane as I do in the things I love to do the most: assist my clients, write and being with my husband and our pack.
My response to getting off Facebook for socialization isn’t unique, I’ve learned, as was the response to being on it all those years.
And believe me when I say I needed to be away from it to believe I was the opposite of the person I just described, meaning that my addiction to social media negatively impacted my mental and physical health. It’s healthy for those who can use it for the tool it is and not use it to discuss controversial topics, but that’s not most of us.
There are many articles about this social experiment that is social media. The data aren’t good.
What will you do?