My breakup with Facebook. Why I hit “delete.”

March 28, 2014 | Life in My 50s

Ever since joining Facebook a few years ago, I’ve been fairly addicted. Okay, super addicted. I loved my Facebook world. Too much. We definitely had a love-hate relationship, Facebook and I. Some sort of weird, dysfunctional co-dependency. I’d “deactivate” on occasion to give myself a brief respite from Facebook’s demand for more and more of my time and energy, but I’d always come back, usually sooner than I’d planned. I couldn’t stay away. Until this week, when I decided to leave Facebook for good. I didn’t just deactivate; I hit “delete,” which means I cut the ties completely.

Deactivating your account is a bit like leaving home on a vacation. When you return, everything is exactly as you left it. Sure, some newspapers may have piled up around your door and the mail is spilling out of the box, but otherwise, your life there is completely unchanged. Deleting your account is like burning the house to the ground, which is what I did. I threw a match on my Facebook life and left with nothing but the clothes on my back. Trust me, it’s wasn’t easy. Although I had already gone through a shedding of 350 “friends” I didn’t really know, I still had 300+ more. I had pictures and messages, stories on my timelines and tags from friends. It was in many ways a zen exercise for me, like blowing away the giant sand mandala I had created bit by bit, status update by status update over the past few years.

Here’s what I saw as my basic Facebook problem: When I first joined, I didn’t have an author page. (I am keeping my professional presence on Facebook thanks to the work of an invisible alter ego, so if you want to follow my blog posts and other writing-related updates, you can go HERE and click “like.”) Anyway, when I first joined, I accepted every single friend request from family and friends but also from total strangers. I was joining to promote books, or so I thought. But very quickly Facebook became less about work and more about connecting with relatives and friends. Suddenly I wasn’t so thrilled to have 600 strangers seeing my photos and reading about my personal life. And try as I might to get people to move from my personal page to my professional page, it just didn’t work. The only way to fix the problem — and to end my addiction to this time suck of a hobby — was to wipe the slate clean.

So far I haven’t experienced the DTs over this breakup. There have been flashes of regret as I realize I only know how to contact certain people through Facebook, or, like this morning, when I looked for a photo only to realize it existed only in my Facebook world. So there are issues, and my alter ego isn’t nearly as much fun as I’d like her to be, but she gets the job done.

If and when I return to Facebook, which will be months down the road or maybe never, it will be in a severely limited way, with only close friends and family in the inner circle. But, to tell you the truth, there’s something mighty freeing about erasing my entire existence, at least in one small sphere. If only other problems in life were so easily fixed.

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