On January 16, 2013, I deactivated my Facebook account. I’m not the first one to do so, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. Before I deactivated my account, my home page looked like the photo above.
In a lot of ways, my decision has been a long time coming because Facebook was bringing me down, one update at a time, one feature at a time.
Over the past months, most of the stories and links on my newsfeed involved the following:
Gender-based violence, sectarianism, racism, bigotry, zionism, patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, corruption, injustice, flooded roads, submerged neighborhoods, refugee camps in peril, car explosions, people dying, hypocritical governments, failed governments, friends going places and doing some amazing things with their lives…
As for me, I just sat behind my screen, watching. Little by little, everything started to get under my skin. The deluge of bad news wasn’t stopping. I didn’t feel particularly strong, inspired or driven to take on the systems of control and oppression I wanted to fight. I felt somewhat defeated. On a more personal note, I didn’t feel like I was going places or doing something amazing with my life. When you’re feeling down, it’s distressing seeing cheerful people around you, no matter how well-meaning you are. I knew that soon enough I’d find myself before another crucial crossroads in my life. This made me increasingly anxious and stressed. So hope for better things to come wasn’t exactly booming. I was beginning to suffocate.
And then there were the annoying ads and notifications that screamed for my attention, the companies that I had no interest in and that invaded my newsfeed, and Facebook’s ongoing pursuit to make everything my friends and I did and liked public. I’m glad I left before I had to deal with Facebook’s new Graph Search, which is seen as another hungry monster that is after users’ data. (Remember to review your privacy settings before you start using this tool when you eventually get it.)
It’s no secret that Facebook is designed to open you up and lock you in. So when you do escape, odds are you’ll somehow feel that something’s missing, depending on what you use Facebook for, of course.
So What Will I Miss Without Facebook?
- Updates from expatriate friends or friends living abroad.
- The occasional intriguing links and stories.
- The occasional tag that reminds me that I still cross people’s minds, that I’m not a forgotten connection.
- Notifications and discoveries of art events, and social and political talks, conferences and discussions.
- Updates on transformational movements or movements for change, which I’m part of or I follow.
This last note is probably why I’ll have to go back to Facebook at some point. For all its shortcomings, the social network still plays a major role in raising awareness, mobilizing people and amplifying voices – albeit mostly among those with Internet access. To a certain extent, some things exist only on Facebook. If you want to be involved in “activism,” you cannot ignore Mark Zuckerberg’s creation completely. This is how important it has become. But when I do return to the social network, I’ll be using it differently (e.g.: no more sidebar on the right, better sorting of newsfeed, better filtering of connections, no more game requests, no more joining groups and pages and forgetting all about them later, provided that I have the patience, interest and Facebook’s permission to do all these things).
For now, I just know that I need a break from life on Facebook so that I can take care of my real life away from it.