Why I decided to leave Facebook.
Four years ago, a good friend of mine who lives in Sydney, Australia, visited me. We had not seen each other for a couple of years. We missed each other and created the time to meet and enjoy each other's company. By the end of our meeting, my friend invited me to connect with him on Facebook. "It will be a great way for us to keep in touch," he said.
I'd been reluctant to join the Facebook bandwagon for a while until that moment. But, my friend had some good persuasion skills and the next day I created an account and started inviting people I know to connect.
I had a simple rule about accepting friends, I said yes to people I knew personally and to people I have some kind of a relationship with already. Soon enough the friends counter passed the 100 mark, then 200, then 300, then 400 until it peaked at about 480. That's a lot of people to know.
Facebook is a wild frontier of online communication. There weren't really any rules on to how to use Facebook. Everyone who is on it uses it differently. It was an interesting social experiment to observe how people chose to show up in this space and what they chose to say to the world. Some use Facebook as a way to vent out frustrations, some use it to share inspiring things they find on the internet, some use it to simply jot down random thoughts or share photos of important moments in their lives.
Facebook turned me into a voyeur. There was something mysterious, exciting and most of all, addictive about this space. I was seeing parts of people's lives that I would normally see or know about and frankly, most of it wasn't so interesting to me. Little by little, I hid people from my news feed as I was tired of seeing what they ate for breakfast or another YouTube cat video. Slowly, my newsfeed became sparse and even less interesting.
But, most of all, I noticed that I wasn't really connecting to my friends like I used to. Facebook turned us into lazy friends. We didn't seek spending real time together or having a real live conversation any more because we pretty much knew everything that was going on in each other's lives already. Facebook provided an artificial sense of connection.
Earlier this year, I took a three month sabbatical and logged off Facebook for that time. It wasn't easy, but it was part of my intention to take total time off. After returning from my sabbatical, I started to reconnect with friends and clients mostly via email. We set up time to meet or talk right away. We missed each other. And when we talked, we had wonderful, deep conversations, we shared the good and bad news in our lives and we made a deep connection. I believe this was possible to achieve only because we had time to be apart from each other without Facebook keeping us connected.
Last week, I stumbled upon an article by Owen Williams titled "Leaving Facebook is the best thing I ever did." Owen asked "Take a look at your Facebook search history. When was the last time you actually had a conversation with half of those people?"
So, I did. And discovered that the number was shockingly low. Out of almost 500 people, in the past year I had a real live conversation with less than 50. And of those 50, half were my family and the rest were my close intimate friends.
It became clear that there wasn't much value or interest in staying on Facebook to maintain relationships. I much prefer putting time and effort into connecting to the people I care about the old-fashioned way. I am looking for the kind of friends who are willing to make an effort beyond "liking" something I say.
Facebook is changing from being a social network of connecting friends and loved ones to a strong marketing tool for businesses. Earlier this year, I started a professional page where I've been posting insights, news and announcements. I currently have about 130 people who are getting my posts and those are people who are part of my tribe.
I see the value of keeping Facebook as a marketing tool. For some people, Facebook is the only channel of receiving news and information. That's what Facebook has become for me. I've been "liking" pages by my favorite recording artists, brands I am interested in and people who act as good curators to things I am interested in. I'm finding it valuable to visit my Facebook page for news and information.
Un-friending people one-by-one at first brought some guilt and sadness, but the kind you get when you're leaving a party, not the relationship. I sent each of my Facebook friends a personal message explaining why I am about to unfriend them and how I plan to use Facebook in my life from now on.
Surprisingly, many of my friends responded saying "I'm thinking of doing exactly that" when they received my message. Who knows, I may be starting a trend here. Until then, I'm going to enjoy my freedom and liberation and dedicate my time to things that matter more.