Life after Facebook / La Vita Dopo Facebook

It’s been a week and a half since I decided to leave Facebook.

I have not yet deleted my account. It is deactivated. I keep thinking I will be in a calmer place to do so. I’d like to do so from a place of purpose and intent, without compunctions.

Facebook makes it incredibly complicated to actually delete your account, much like cancelling a phone number with T-Mobile, another major PITA with which I also have extensive personal experience. They do not want to let your data go. A lost account is anathema when your brand relies on marketing and subscriptions. Apparently it takes them two weeks or more to delete your data from their servers, but we all know there is no such things as a true deletion. I am fairly confident that some version of my data will remain vestigially in Facebook, to be used in stats and trends, snapshots and numbers for year-over-year growth and loss.

I did successfully download and unzip my file. I learned I created the account in 2006. That was news to me.

I do have more time now that I am looking less at Facebook, which I always likened to some version of a beauty pageant of friends. You log in, and you see your list of friends, but that is far from accurate compared to your analog friends list, the same way that Trump’s Miss Universe spectacle is hardly a spectrum of the most beautiful women in the world. It is simply a self-filtered list of self-identifying women who believe they are beautiful, or who were trained to be beautiful, and so now find themselves on a stage in a swimsuit and a sash talking about how to solve world hunger.

From the start I have had friends who refused to use Facebook. I never thought they were less a friend for having made that choice, although they were at times harder to track down.

I have more time now. I am feeling calmer. I am reading things I want to read, written by thoughtful people, rather than dumbly scrolling up, down, up, down, clicking things like a lab rat.

Click, click, click. Looking for news from friends. Who can take this much stimulus? What kind of an example am I setting for my kids, aged 3 and 6?

It’s all become so Orwellian, and we’ve done it to ourselves.

As a confessedly extroverted person, Facebook and social media have presented a particular allure. Especially when we have been living abroad. I do feel that I am breaking light social links which, who knows?, might be missed or needed someday. But then again, perhaps not. The more friends I made and shed within the parameters of Facebook, the more stressed I felt about my analog life, the time I spent with my children and husband, how I felt about work. The people I met in my day to day meanderings about Florence.

I also note that Italy without Facebook feels much more like the Europe of the early and mid-nineties where I cut my international travel teeth. Quieter and more thoughtful. More observational, rather than being observed.

I do not love that Facebook owns WhatsApp and Instagram, my remaining social media outlets. I am still on LinkedIn, but it is noisy and less sticky for me.

What does it mean, to have a friend, a friendship, to be a friend, in this time of online friendships? I have made a small handful of friends online, and I treasure them. You know who you are. And I’ll keep you as friends and regard you as friends in this new chapter.

What of the five senses? How can we reclaim the physical experience of life, that is not imagined, as we imagine and fill out experiences when online? I cannot see or hear those online friends as we chat or interact. I do not sense their mood, the conversation stripped of context and reduced to typed phrases. It is difficult. What of all the feelings that online time generated in me, feelings that had nowhere to go, no outlet, no receiver, as I stewed in my own feeling juice. I became exhausted by my own dead-end responses. This, as I yearned for in-person friends and an actual network of social acquaintances who would know my name, greet me, as me how I am, allowing me to reciprocate.

Life has quieted down. My world is shrinking in one sense, and growing in another. Another plus: unhooking from the dopamine loop has really improved my overnight sleep cycle.

Mark me: the next great move culturally will be going off-grid. As much as possible. Private, secret networks that do not sell data to marketing firms. I have been rebuked; people have told me, “I have nothing to hide. I do not care if they monitor me.” But that is not the point. Their monitoring purpose is to datamine and sell your data. What irks me the most is companies like Facebook are making billions off of us each quarter, with their selling selling selling to advertisers, and giving us nothing we would not have already had. We all have friends. We all have groups, and networks. Facebook simply superimposed a filter that we all came to rely on, or so we thought.

I’m on the cusp of something. This reminds me of a Rinzai concept with respect to novitiates: those with the biggest ego to shatter are the best students because they must learn and change the most. I acknowledge I was a frequent Facebook superuser. (This is starting to feel a bit like the twelve steps…) But it became very, very unhealthy.

Leave your ego at the door.
Time to strip it down.

As the French cynically and correctly observe, “Si c’est gratuit, c’est vous le produit!” (If it’s free, the product is you.) I refuse to log in for the privilege of reading the equivalent of junk mail. With apologies to my handful of thoughtful friends who remain.

Onward with analog life in Italy, parenting small children, my adorable intelligent husband, writing, my work, my friends. Making new friends. Valuing analog relationships. Forging ahead. Finding that true horizon.

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