I did it again. For the second time in my life, I deleted my Facebook account. No, not deactivated. Deleted.
I am intentionally using short sentences to make this sound adequately dramatic. Because, apparently, it is controversial. It is not what you are supposed to do, I learned.
Other people expect me to be on Facebook.
I don’t know whether you considered getting off Facebook — but since you clicked this headline, I suspect this may be the case. And if it is, I am coming to remind you — in case you forgot — that you are fully entitled to decide which social media you want to use. Or if you want to use them at all.
Maybe I need to articulate this for myself, too — because lately, I’ve been having the impression that being on Facebook is a kind of social imperative.
I first got rid of Facebook in 2014. Back then, I didn’t feel like it was a big deal. I realized I was better off without it and that my life actually didn’t change that much. So I remained facebookless all the way until 2017.
That was the year when I started putting my first articles online and felt compelled to “build my personal brand.” And how could I do this without sharing my articles on Facebook? It seemed impossible. In my understanding, Facebook was the place to be if I wanted to promote my work.
So I jumped back on the blue-coloured ship, created a fanpage and invited a bunch of friends to like it. I shared my “content” and crafted posts as well as I could. Fast forward two years and in 2019, I had 103 fans on my page. The vast majority of whom were my friends.
For the first time, I realized that different kinds of social media serve different purposes. Don’t laugh — it may be obvious to you. But to me, for a long time, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin were just different names for the same thing: social platforms were companies and individuals fight an endless battle for attention and followers.
This last spring, however, something clicked in my head. I realized that certain platforms are better suited than others for not just promoting my work, but also engaging in conversations. I mean, the kind of conversations that I actually wanted to have. And Facebook wasn’t one of those platforms.
Alongside me having this realization, a bunch of insightful articles about Facebook came out — such as this piece by Chris Hughes, the platform’s co-founder. Some of them clearly depicted how harmful Facebook in its current shape may be for society.
Altogether, the decision to delete my account seemed like the only reasonable one to make.
The biggest surprise came when I started telling people about my decision. The reactions I received made me realize how much an intrinsic part of life Facebook has become. It almost felt like by leaving, I signalled to the ones that stayed on the platform that I don’t care about them.
There were two main types of reactions I received when I announced I was deleting my account.
The first one mostly came from the fellow activists with whom I have been organizing Earth Strike events in my town for the past few months. Our private group on Facebook became our main way of communication and coordinating actions. I understood that by getting off the platform I am making it more difficult to stay in touch with me.
But it is just Facebook after all — right? I don’t owe it to anyone to have an account. It is optional. However, some responses felt somewhat like accusations:
“But how can you do that? How are we going to communicate now?”
“It’s not like you are going to escape social media. Is it really so important to delete it?”
“What do you want to prove by that?”
I will not go into the reasons why I don’t want to be on Facebook anymore. But in those conversations, it felt as if I had to explain myself. As if being on social media — Facebook in particular — was some sort of social obligation.
The second type of reaction came from people to whom Facebook is too advantageous to give it up. And I get it — it just wasn’t that advantageous for me. But some folks felt the need to explain to me why they are not deleting it — even though they thought about it.
Usually, they have some sort of network or a well-functioning fanpage that is too precious for them to abandon. In their case, deleting Facebook would bring more adversities than benefits. And of course, I understand that. I probably wouldn’t get rid of it either if it was a valuable channel of communicating with my clients or readers.
What stroke me was that some people’s first reaction to my news was explaining themselves. As if they were afraid that I might judge them or feel superior, because I freed myself from the “Facebook burden” — while they haven’t.
It seems like Facebook became something of an extension of our real selves. To many, it doesn’t feel optional to have it anymore. It’s more like an imperative if you want to make yourself available and easily reachable to your friends and acquaintances.
Consequently, deleting Facebook may feel like a selfish thing to do. After all, what about all these people who expect to be able to connect with you there? Are you just trying to cut bonds with them? Draw a line on when and how they can access you?
Let’s not get crazy. While Facebook certainly can be a useful communication tool, let’s not forget that it is an optional one. It should only be up to you whether you want to use it or not.
If you want to delete your account, don’t let the feelings of guilt or shame stop you. You don’t owe it to anyone to be on Facebook.
You decide how available you want to be to others and through which channels. Using email or phone for connecting can actually make you more in charge of how you interact with people. Try it if you want.
I certainly will.