What I learned after breaking up with Facebook for 5 Years
Recently, I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal about social media’s current awkward “adolescent stage.” It’s growing, albeit painfully. Although it’s nothing new that people take breaks from social media, and often times delete or deactivate their accounts to get some distance, it’s becoming a growing trend that younger users (teens and 20-somethings) are staying off of Facebook all together, opting for more personalized experience such as Snapchat or Reddit where advertisers and their annoying Aunt Cathy can’t find them.
Of course, as a marketer, this makes my job a little harder. But as a human being, I totally get it.
I was a marketer’s worst nightmare from 2011-2016 because I wasn’t on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I had a LinkedIn profile, but I wasn’t very active on it. I was on Snapchat, but I only connected with a few close friends and family (and I didn’t get the point of a Snapchat “story”).
I took a break in 2011 for the same reasons as everyone else does: I wanted to stop wasting so much time on there and in general, I just didn’t feel better about myself after scrolling through picture-perfect feeds.
What happened when I broke up with Facebook? A few things:
1) My friends were still my friends (We still texted, called and saw each other). Everyone else faded away.
2) I spent more time on priority projects - like writing the book I told myself I would write before I was 30. (I did).
3) I didn’t have to double and triple check my privacy settings to make sure photos from that girl’s trip in Las Vegas would be seen by family or - yikes - my boss.
4) I enjoyed the moment of where I was, when I was there. Because I wasn’t as stressed about getting the perfect shot that would need to be distributed.
5) When my divorce happened, there was one less place to delete photo, delete photo, [cry], delete photo. And therefore, one less place filled with heartache and loss.
And the biggest thing I learned when I came back to Facebook in 2016 (kicking and screaming, but back nonetheless since I was relaunching my marketing career), was that just because I didn’t need social media for personal connections, doesn’t mean it’s evil. I enjoy seeing photos of friends’ kids growing up who don’t live near by, and of connecting with former students and seeing all the good they’re doing in the world.
I came back to social media with a clean slate - a new profile, and a new purpose. (I really didn’t need to re-connect with the 800+ “friends” I had accumulated since 2006). It would be used first and foremost for work - and for personal connections second. For me, it was a secondary or tertiary way to connect, but it was still a way to connect once I realized how to use those platforms in a way that worked for me.
At the end of the day, everybody has a lot of opinions on social media and what it’s doing to our society, yada, yada. However, the last time I checked, divisive and annoying conversations happened off of social media too. We all need to connect in ways that make sense of us. And maybe social media isn’t that avenue for you - but maybe it is. At the end of the day, if there is anything social media can teach us, it’s that connecting with the right people is necessary for our happiness - no matter our age, demographic, or preferred selfie filter.