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My Social Experiment: Letting Go of Facebook

It wasn’t exactly a conscious decision to disengage from Facebook. There was a slow build up of disatisfaction as 2020 progressed. I became more and more disillusioned as my social network began to implode. Friends, former classmates, colleagues, and family members- all known to me but strangers to each other- began bickering on my posts. They revealed aspects of themselves which I would rather not have seen.

I am someone who has used Facebook daily since 2008. I don’t promote my blog on the platform, choosing to keep Confessions of a Patchwork Momma public, yet more or less anonymous. Facebook is the only social media space where I limit my network to people I actually know in real life or am acquainted with through work. My experiences there affect me more because I’m deeply invested in many of the relationships.

This year has challenged everyone. Each of us deals with stress differently, and what we share on social media says a lot about how we are coping. The prevalence of conspiracy theories related to the pandemic, outrageous (and misinformed) political perspectives, and an increasing level of intolerance have at times filled me with despair.

It has saddened me watching people I care about slip down the Rabbit Hole. (This week I plan to start listening to the highly recommended New York Time’s podcast “Rabbit Hole” about how the internet is affecting us). How will we recover from the deep divisions that now separate so many people within our society? Ireland, while not as polarized as the US (yet), seems to be emulating much of what we consume through American media.

There is a lack of genuine discourse about issues affecting us all. While people may think they are “debating” current events online, it seems more like a shouting match. No one is listening. Instead they are talking over one another, trying to press a point. I say “they,” but I have been guilty of the same behavior. I felt like I was going around in circles, wasting energy. Finally I stopped and asked myself: What’s the point?

Normally we can invite people to dinner, meet for coffee or go for walks. We can sit calmly for face to face conversations and exchange ideas. That’s no longer possible because of Covid-19. Instead we’re locked away with our screens as our primary form of communication. It’s dehumanizing.

Last summer I found myself deleting Facebook contacts because I don’t want their negativity in my network. I drew the line at family members, despite two of my cousins posting Confederate flags, while defending Southerners, as Confederate monuments fell in record breaking numbers. I keep them as contacts not because they are my blood relations; I simply want to know how far regular Trump supporters (not just anonymous online trolls) are willing to publicly go with their racist sentiments.

During the Black Lives Matter protests last summer I reached a stage where I’d finally had enough of Facebook. I am a biracial woman who identifies as exactly what I am: a brown person in a predominantly white world. I was raised by white women, married a white man, and live in a white community in rural Ireland. Even though I am half white, living in a white culture, my black identity is also an important part of who I am.

I care very much about the struggle people of color face back home in America as well as abroad. As a result, I have shared a lot of articles and resources online, hoping my white contacts would embrace this moment to deepen their understanding about the obstacles black people are facing. Armed with information, I thought they would join me and call for action.

How many black squares were posted in solidarity on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter last summer? There was an outpouring of support for black content creators, business owners, and artists. I hoped it wasn’t superficial. I hoped eyes were finally being opened to the systemic injustice which has long plagued black communities. I hoped we would see reform at last.

In the midst of all of this, another family member posted a meme on Facebook belittling the movement. It was a sarcastic post mocking the concept of white male privilege. Reading it, one would think white males are the group currently being oppressed. This far left leaning individual is of the perspective that Black Lives Matter is a divisive political party and is prone to saying “All Lives Matter.” Private conversations had already occurred about this particular issue. When the inflammatory post appeared in our newsfeeds, both my partner and I felt the need to comment with our opposing viewpoints. It didn’t go down well.

Suddenly it became a big family event since others were following the post without commenting. Various phone calls were made. Everyone was talking about it both to our faces and behind our backs. Don’t air your dirty laundry in public… and all that. What surprised me was how sympathetic most of them were to the offending party (it seemed to me). One family member went so far as to tell my partner Robin can fight her own battles. That said it all. Even though I’m reading So You Want to Talk About Race, I no longer want to speak to any of them about the subject.

Why does the onus always fall on people of color to rectify racial oppression? Why are my supposed white allies not doing more to combat racism on every level? Why is it my job alone to advocate for justice and equality? If my own relatives can’t stand by my side- or at least listen to what I have to say about my personal experiences- I fear progress will be slower and more painful than I imagined.

The lack of support was incredibly hurtful and I felt deflated by it. Unfortunately a good friend of mine in California was going through the same thing. Despite the 8 hour time difference we managed to chat over the phone and commiserate with one another. I miss my African- American friends. The sense of belonging and acceptance when we are together cannot be replaced.

After the family blowout my instinct was to retreat. I think social activism is important but you need energy for it. Facebook, I realized, had become a hostile environment where many of my acquaintances were offloading their anger and frustrations. What toll was it taking? Was it energizing or draining me? The reason I created an account all those years ago was to feel connected. The truth is I feel the opposite has occurred.

During these challenging times it’s especially important to look after mental health. Disengaging from Facebook was a step towards protecting my wellness. I stepped off the roller coaster of emotions in an effort to preserve my inner peace. I’m so glad I did!

It’s been 5 months since I stopped logging on regularly and I don’t miss it. I can only imagine what the vitriolic posts have been like leading up to tomorrow’s US election. Ireland returned to lockdown Level 5 nearly two weeks ago, and I’m sure there were mixed reactions from my social network. There is so much chaos in the world at present, and everyone’s voices are amplified online. I am happy to steer clear of the frenzy.

I occasionally will share a photo relating to a family birthday, but that’s as much time as I want to spend on Facebook. I do feel like I miss out on stuff though. My partner shares many of the same friends so he’ll occasionally alert me to important news. The most shocking event occurred when a local friend posted surprise wedding photos last month… We didn’t even know they’d gotten engaged. I could easily have missed the event entirely. (Only family attended due to Covid-19).

I also missed a friend’s divorce announcement. Fortunately my mom is a Facebook friend of hers too and told me about the news. It’s made me realize how much people rely on Facebook to communicate rather than pick up the phone or contact friends individually. Our social circles are much bigger than in the past so in some ways it makes sense. Still… something has been lost.

Have you noticed that your social media usage has changed this year? Has the pandemic created similar ruptures in your social circles? Overall my experiment has proved that I’m happier without Facebook. I can dip into groups for work or check the community notice board when necessary. If I’m concerned about a friend and want to catch up, I can call them or send a message. As for the mindless scrolling and squabbling, it’s time to let that go.

17 thoughts on “My Social Experiment: Letting Go of Facebook

  1. Well said. I also highly recommend The Social Dilemma on Netflix. Not all of their conclusions resonated with me, but there was enough there (plus my personal experience from taking previous “social media breaks”) to convince me to use social media in a similar way as you. Family photos and event invitations only. It’s made a lovely difference in my life already, and I’ve only been at it for a couple weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear you’re already enjoying the benefits of adjusting your social media usage. Thanks for the recommendation. I have The Social Dilemma saved on my Netflix list and plan to watch it soon. Even the trailer is chilling… Knowing the extent of how we’re being monitored is so creepy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They make a compelling argument, straight from some of the people involved in the design (back when they were idealists and wanted to help us all love each other a little bit more). Let me know what you think!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve considered deleted facebook or at least deleted the app off my phone. There are just old people and family members mostly. And I always get irritated when I log on. I feel like the most I use social media is for my blog and that makes me happy. but for personal use, i find it invasive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are definitely generation gaps. My oldest son uses Facebook but my teenagers prefer Snapchat. My second son only logs on to Facebook to watch the “adults” arguing because he thinks it’s funny. He’s 18 and can’t believe the way older people behave on the platform. It sounds like you have a smart approach to social media. Glad you’ve struck a balance that makes you happy. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I’m not alone! I also cut down on my news consumption. I want to stay informed but not be bombarded constantly. I’m trying to be mindful about how much information I take in so I don’t feel overwhelmed by it. Looking forward to reading your post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so hard to choose a name! Originally I planned for this to be a blended family blog but that didn’t work out. (I explained this in a post called Blended Blues). Now I’m stuck with the name.😅 Ireland really is beautiful! I can’t wait to explore it more in the spring now that we have a campervan at last. Eclectic blogs are my favorite! Looking forward to reading more of yours.

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  3. Hello. Thank you so much for this blog. I struggle to make peace with social media and chat apps for both personal and professional reasons. They are addictive and it’s whac-a-mole. I have unfriended at least one person for being disrespectful of political opinions. But I have kept one or two other friends also with opposite political opinions just because they are friends, and like you said, its important to know other’s opinions and not live in a vacuum. That is what is scary to me with social media like FB. People make their own little political worlds or network of people just like them and do not listen to the opposing sides. This has helped foster the polarization that American politics has found itself in. For me, virtual reality is not reality. But it seems that I must make some peace with them in the 21st century. To me, this is the challenge and benchmark of maturity: sorting and sifting out what others believe, deciding what I believe, and sticking with it and standing in my truth. I also appreciate your well developed thought and expression because of my own soul-searching that I have done on similar issues and can relate during these tumultuous times. Thanks again! You inspired me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susan- Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I appreciate your insightful comment. I was a little apprehensive about publishing this post. Knowing it inspired someone makes the discomfort worthwhile.😊

      I agree- we have to be careful about the bubbles we create for ourselves, especially online. I come from a conservative city and Catholic background. As a result, many of my contacts on Facebook are Republicans. I consider myself to be liberal, but if you compare me to many of my other friends on Facebook, I seem moderate because they’re so far left. I try to be respectful of other people’s beliefs but the pandemic has brought some crazy stuff to the surface. I can’t believe how many people I know are buying into conspiracy theories. Strangely the far right and far left seem to be in agreement on issues such as immigration and vaccines. The paranoia, fear and mistrust some people are experiencing has manifest in populism and that really scares me. You’re right-we each need to spend time reflecting and stand in our own truth. I’m trying to become a better listener which isn’t always easy. I think it’s the only way to heal these divisions… ❤️ Robin

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  4. Thanks for sharing your experience on disengaging from FB. With all the madness of the 2020, I really don’t blame you. I personally have quit all social media for personal use back in 2015, and just use it now for my blog. And like you, I don’t miss it at all. I don’t miss the passive-aggressiveness, the hostility, the subliminal messages nor the bickering. Besides, there are so many messaging apps these days, which make it easier to communicate with the people that truly matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow 5 years is a long time! In the past I felt the good aspects of social media outweighed the bad. At one time it helped me feel connected with my friends and family abroad. It seems like 2020 has pushed society to a tipping point though. “I don’t miss the passive-aggressiveness, the hostility, the subliminal messages nor the bickering.” You’ve summed it up perfectly!

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