How Quitting Facebook Helped My Mental Health
About a year ago, I quit Facebook. It had become a place for me to experience disappointment and agitation. Distant relatives whom I hadn’t seen in years were messaging me for favors. The presidential election was gearing up and people were getting very vocal about politics. And some of my best friends were dropping out of the site or not sharing anything anymore.
I decided it was time to close my account and do something more positive with my time. It was hard to break the habit, but there was much to be gained.
I stopped broadcasting my opinions
I am not my opinions. The world wasn’t put in front of me so I could sit there and pass my imperial judgment on each and every thing. I was put on this earth to live, not to sit around opining on the news of the day.
It’s common on Facebook for people to post their opinions in an effort to make themselves known — to paint a picture of who they are. But that picture can never be accurate. It’s just a small sample of a much deeper personality that can never fully be conveyed on such a medium.
Leaving Facebook meant I could just do me. I now have to focus on my own life and what I really want. Since I’m no longer trying to uphold an image I want people to have of me, I’ve become more open to new possibilities. In the timeless words of Lao Tzu, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Defensiveness and perfectionism fell away; open-mindedness remains. I practice finding silver linings and avoid being critical.
I stopped feeling alienated by the opinions of others
Instead of promoting inclusiveness or social bonding, sometimes social media seems like a place to go when we want to be offended. Some of my friends/followers aren’t like me. They have different backgrounds, religions, occupations, and sensibilities. In real time, I can sense differences and put them aside. That can’t be done on Facebook.
Furthermore, there are some things you don’t want to know about your biology partner from high school, but social media promotes the broadcasting of that person’s beliefs whether you want to see them or not. Imagine that it’s 1993 and you didn’t just discover that Hannah believes all the bees are dying off because Prince George eats organic-only. Sounds like a lot simpler life, doesn’t it? Certainly less cluttered with information you never really wanted to know anyway.
I stopped comparing myself
Social media is a great place to present the best parts of our life while cropping out all the hardship. We’re convinced that life is easier, more successful, and more fun for everyone else. Everyone else can afford a vacation, a new car, space camp for their kids, and a subscription service for their English bulldog.
The grass is not always greener. Everyone meets with hardship. And not everyone experiences real joy and gratitude. The important things in life that really pay dividends can’t be captured in a Facebook post.
I stopped wasting time
I don’t know how many times a day I would automatically type “FAC” into my web browser and have it autofill “Facebook.” Sometimes I didn’t even remember keying it in. I’d find myself on my feed wondering, “Why am I here? What am I doing?”
Any social media can become a bad habit. It robs you of productivity and gives you a reliable place to procrastinate 24 hours a day. After Facebook, I wonder how I ever had time to be on it in the first place.
I regained a level a privacy I didn’t know I missed
Does Keith from third grade really need to see a photo of me running around Catalina in a bikini top? Does distant cousin Miriam, who I only met once at my Aunt’s wedding in 1997, need to know that I’ve gone to the same comedy show every month for the last four years?
Let’s face it, we’re not close with all our Facebook friends. In fact, we may only be close with a handful of them. Some users never even share anything themselves, meanwhile we’re advertising everything about ourselves.
Facebook let’s you make lists and decide who you want to share what with, but then you become a part-time social media curator and organizer. You’ve got lists of ex’s you don’t talk to, lists of ex’s you’re friends with, lists of friends with kids, lists of relatives you don’t really know very well. Who wants to spend all this time putting people into categories of categories? It seems like there should be an algorithm at this point that could take care of this for us. But that’s the thing. Social media companies want us to share with all our contacts; that’s their bread and butter.
There was a time when it would be ridiculous for everyone you knew in middle school to know you got married … and see all the wedding photos. There was a time when people had to be close to you in order to know such personal information. It was a more sincere time.
Without Facebook, I live life in real time. I don’t find myself mindlessly keying in “FAC” and wasting time reading about other peoples lives for 10-20 minutes every morning, afternoon, and night. I don’t have to pause and take photos so I can share my experiences with the Facebook audience. I don’t have to make sure I weigh in on issues before they become yesterday’s news.
I’m no longer cultivating an image through social media while sitting on my butt. A few keystrokes won’t cut it. I cultivate my “image” through actions. And now you have to actually know me to know me. When I stopped worrying about my social media audience, I had the emotional energy to reflect and show gratitude to the people in my life who I love and cherish — the people who really know me.
Sure, I miss some things not being on Facebook. I don’t get 100 birthday wishes anymore, but those were from people I hadn’t seen in 10 years anyway. It takes me a little longer to find out my friend had her baby or my cousin moved. But information still travels, sans Facebook. For me, the benefits far outweigh the losses. What might you gain if you quit social media — even if you just suspended your accounts for a while?
Newman, S. (2016). How Quitting Facebook Helped My Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 11, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/05/23/how-quitting-facebook-helped-my-mental-health/