Social Media Diet: How I committed Facebook social suicide

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A reader caught wind of the fact that I socially bailed on Facebook in 2011, and asked me to share the story. Conveniently, I documented the process on my personal blog. I’ll be sharing the three posts this week, as part of a series called Social Media Diet.

Originally written December 2011
YOU GUYS! I’m doing it! I’m culling my Facebook friends list down to maybe 20 people (Empire staff, family who use it, a few networking folks) and only using it for work stuff from now on.

I absolutely can’t delete my account — I need it to manage all the Offbeat Empire’s Pages, which are a critically important traffic generator. Plus, I don’t WANT to delete it — I like it as an archive.

But committing this more delicate form of Facebook social suicide is taking forever. I’m deleting people one by one (all 400+ of them), which is lame but also interesting … first, I’m realizing how few of these people have interacted with me on Facebook within the last year. Very few of them.

Second, I’m realizing how in almost all cases I have PLENTY of other ways to keep in touch with these folks, and most of them I prefer interacting with elsewhere. Facebook just isn’t a platform I like using.

Third, I’m stoked at cutting myself off from one more digital teat that I can go suck on when I’m feeling H.A.L.T.. I have enough digital addictions. I think I can spare one.

FOURTH! Very amusing to see people’s responses to what I realize now was kind of a flounce. I wasn’t looking for anyone to convince me not to go, but it was sort of amazing to see how fervently some folks were like NOOOOOOOOOO! The best were the suggestions that I create a NEW facebook account rather than kill the old one, and the follower who was overwhelmed by my mentions of the other places I’m already posting…um, see, THAT’S why I’m deleting Facebook. Because I like Flickr better.

Fifth: Once I’d made the decision, I felt almost drunk. I’m freeeeeeeeeeeeee! (A little!)

It took me, all told, about 90 minutes to kill off 400 friends remove 400 connections. At first it was irritating, but then I realized it was being a neat opportunity to do some thinking about each person, and consider stuff like:

  • do I have your email or phone number?
  • do I follow you on Twitter or Flickr or Pinterest or RSS?
  • could I easily find you again if I wanted to contact you?
  • have we interacted on Facebook recently? (…and enjoyed it?)

At first it went slow, but then it was freeing. Favorite deletions: my first love, and that stupid raver boy I had a massive crush on in 1996. FAREWELL, EMOTIONAL DETRITUS!

Interestingly, while my biggest priority with the cull was to cut back on the time I spent on Facebook, I realized afterwards that with only 40 33 friends who I ACTUALLY care about, FB is a much more interesting place. (To clarify: this does NOT mean “everyone cut = not cared about.” It means “people remaining = no uncared-about people.” There’s a big difference there. I removed HUNDREDS of people I care about, but have better ways to keep in touch with.) I mean, I feel like I’m still spending less time there… but there’s definitely a difference in the time that I’m on the site.

I’ll likely continue to cull my list down — I’m following a few colleagues who I see on Twitter all the time anyway, and it’s likely overkill.

I highly recommend a cull. It felt great.

Coming tomorrow: Social Media Diet: …And then I stopped using Instagram

Comments on Social Media Diet: How I committed Facebook social suicide

  1. Kudos to you! I could never do this though. In my job I regularly hire freelancers (at least 1-2 a week) and its so much easier to put a call out to my Facebook page to find a freelancer that’s available instead of e-mailing people individually. I put up the post & in a couple of hours I have someone booked.

  2. I recently did a giant cull of people who have extremely different views from me and making my FB time one big exercise in feeling terrible about knowing that this seemingly nice or that family member/seemingly nice person/etc. worked against the very things I hold valuable. Or I was arguing because I have a brain-mouth-typing fingers problem.

    So I either just culled them or blocked every damn post they make so I can’t see it, without causing drama by actually deleting them. I now have just the people I love more than anything and who aren’t posting constant memes and writing manifestos about how the gays are eating Christmas.

    • Has deleting really caused drama for you? I delete people rather liberally, and I don’t think I’ve ever been called out on it. Or is it family members? Because I get how that could be a different dynamic

      • Family members (no one close) and non-family members both! For a few people, it was really puzzling why they cared because we don’t talk in person or on FB or in any other way but at one point friended each other because we went to high school together…and that’s the entire relationship. So we once spent time in the same building nearly twenty years ago and once clicked Accept on FB…end scene. Why care we are no longer FB “friends” when we literally have said no things virtually or in person to each other in the past 5+ years? I just needed to streamline and not see everyone’s Anti-AllMyCares postings anymore. And those I love totally have multiple ways of talking to me already.

      • Well to be honest I think what it has boiled down to: people hoarding.

        Facebook participants are hoarding friends, demanding others to curb a *friends* post by texting that person with a “well I saw your Facebook post and *I* think that you should….” <– Ok. That. That is TOTALLY inappropriate. Sadly, people have done this to me.

        I have just began deleting unnecessary people from my life. I killed a lot of social media. Most twitter, linkedin, instagram, a few others. I don't think that anyone should know that much about me.

        I have an excellent job and I talk to whom I want but the socio-political mess that most of social media has became is where I need to get off.

        great article! ⌒.⌒

  3. I only joined Facebook because it was how my fellow students in graduate school organized social events and shared important news and information. I was missing out on a lot of events before I joined. Then after I joined, people formed into smaller social groups a year or so later, and often excluded me anyway.

    Now I’m sort of stuck with a Facebook account because there are a number of people I care about on there that I don’t have other ways of contacting. I don’t like the platform, but I feel stuck with it. Perhaps I’ll consider cutting down my friends list in the new year. It’s pretty small already compared to most people I know, but it could be smaller.

    • Yeah, I think this is what made me finally push back from Facebook: the sense of feeling “stuck” with a platform I don’t like. The stuckness breeds major resentment. It started feeling like I didn’t have control over my own social media life.

      I can handle being professionally beholden to the platform: Facebook is a business tool I have to use. I’m less willing, however, to feel personally stuck with a platform I don’t enjoy or trust.

  4. I’ve been flipflopping between doing this and just creating a “professional” Facebook for my work contacts, etc., but haven’t done much about it. On one hand, I don’t want to cut Facebook away altogether because I do a lot of connecting to both important personal and professional people, but at the same time it is so incredibly tiring to deal with all of the BS that comes with social media, MOST ESPECIALLY Facebook. Facebook makes it easy to stay in touch with my family and friends from home. However, all of my reasons for wanting to trim down on Facebook are the same as yours. Thanks for the great post. I think it’ll really help others figure out what to do if they are in similar situations.

    • Do you have a LinkedIn? That’s what I use for organizing work contacts. I know it’s one more thing to have to check and maintain, but it’s made specifically for professional networking, so it is better than just having an extra FB account that you would have to maintain anyway.

      • I have a LinkedIn account and maybe 10% of the people in my professional network answer my calls for freelancers I’m hiring. Meanwhile everyone else responds to my facebook & twitter posts.
        I’ve noticed people really only log into LinkedIn when they are looking for a job & need to update their resume.

  5. I “clean-up” my Facebook friend list about once a year, but I’d never get rid of my account. Contrary to (what seems like) a lot of people on the OBE, I actually like using Facebook (except for the annual “let’s change the interface for no reason at all” coup) and it has pretty much every option I need. But then again, it’s the only social media I use except for Pinterest (and that one isn’t very “social” for me, more of an organizing ideas and things tool) and LinkedIn (which needs serious updating because I don’t like using it). I even deleted my Twitter account this year because there was nothing interesting going on there for me.

    • Contrary to (what seems like) a lot of people on the OBE, I actually like using Facebook

      Oh, I can say very firmly that the vast majority of Offbeat Empire readers *love* Facebook. The site drives most of our traffic, we have more followers on FB than any other platform, and many people would rather comment on FB than here on the blogs. In other words, don’t fall prey to the reverse discrimination fallacy of feeling like you’re in the minority for being in the majority. 😉 Readers across the Offbeat Empire adooooore FB. I’m the freak, here.

  6. I have never had as many as 400+ people on my FB page, I am way too much of an introvert for that. A complaint from an acquaintance about a post that I shared made me take the time to learn more about privacy settings and managing my personal page. At first I was kind of angry that someone would complain about a post on my page, it is “MY PAGE” and then I realized that managing my personal page properly just made more sense. I took the time to do a small cull of people and then really thought about who I wanted to be restricted, acquaintance and friends and made the appropriate adjustments, which I review occasionally.

    • Yeah, posting something slightly controversial on your own page is okay in theory, but you never know what people will do with it.

      I had a really goofy picture on facebook of VERY platonic friend where it looked like he was licking my face. We weren’t drunk, it was just goofy. Everyone who knew us thought it was hilarious. However, fast forward a year to graduate school. A fellow student DOWNLOADED the picture from facebook and set it as the desktop background on a SHARED computer in a lab we were both in where everyone could see. This particular person had some serious deficiencies in appropriate social behavior beyond this event as well. Honestly, it never occurred to me that someone would go through your old photos, take the time to download them, and put them on a public computer. I learned several lessons:
      1. Even innocent pictures can look weird taken out of context.
      2. Don’t be facebook friends with coworkers.
      3. Never trust that people won’t be stupid.

      • I learned the hard way about the coworker issue. She was very religious and took great offence at a post, she cried when she told me how offensive she found it. Groan.

        Even though I think she should have taken the time to manage her FB page, since she was the offended one, it was a good lesson to me that I need to manage my FB page. Now I work from home but I still pay attention to who can see what on my page even though I don’t have coworkers any more.

        I have also deleted posts I made that cause too much controversy between friends and family. A friend made a flip remark on a post I made and my mother in law called her on the use of the word fuck. I deleted the whole works after a bit of back and forth between my friend and my mother in law, totally not worth the stress and my original post was completely lost in the drama.

  7. In the case of most of my facebook friends (primarily former classmates from all eras of life), facebook is the only way I could ever contact them should I choose to do so. I probably wouldn’t, but since I couldn’t answer “yes,” to Ariel’s first three questions, I’d be reluctant to delete them.

    However, this post just inspired me to be very liberal with the “unfollow” function in facebook’s newsfeed. In a way, this is more harsh as I’m essentially saying, “I find your facebook posts annoying/uninteresting/unrelatable.” But that way I can keep the contact without cluttering my newsfeed. And just because I don’t like reading the person’s posts, it doesn’t mean I don’t like the person. In most cases, I simply don’t know them well enough to be enriched by stories of their daily life.

    • Yeah, I think the main thing I wanted to achieve with this post is reminding people that they have control over their Facebook experience — whatever it may be! Very few folks will feel the need to push back as hard as I did, but even if it’s just reconsidering who you follow or your privacy settings, there’s a big value in not feeling beholden to the blue beast…

      • Indeed! I also like to remind myself of facebook’s relative unimportance by reading “kids these days” news articles about how facebook is no longer the social networking tool of choice among teens. This impression is backed up by personal experience because the 18-19 yr olds I teach seem mostly to use snapchat and instagram for their social interaction (“omg, did you see what she posted on instagram last night!?”). The younger generation has moved on — good for them!

  8. Quite off-topic, but just wanted to pipe in and say that the use of the word “suicide” in this post hurt me as a survivor of someone who completed suicide. I never would have considered a mere word to have such an impact on me before the event, but now I have PTSD and I guess I am hyper-sensitive. Otherwise an interesting, engaging post… I just can’t get past that word. 🙁

    • *webhugs* I feel you there. I always felt people overly sensitive to certain words were just silly and a little annoying, then, a few years ago, my mother had a stroke that nearly took her from me and while it was at it, made her pretty much bedridden with very little ability to do anything at all for herself.

      Now, the minute the word is mentioned I get upset. It doesn’t even have to be used flippantly, although that’s the worst. A few months ago, some commercial kept showing up about warning signs and such. Teaching that stuff is a good thing, right? Each time, I nearly cried/did cry and had to turn the TV off.

      (My boyfriend’s dad also made an offhanded remark one day with me present that some guy he was talking to do was a moron and must’ve had a stroke. It ruined the rest of the day. I know he just wasn’t thinking and probably doesn’t even realise his slip up, but I still don’t think I’ve privately forgiven him.)

  9. The turning point for me was when I realized I was reading about people I hadn’t seen, spoken with, or even interacted with on Facebook in years — and was unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future. It wasn’t that I didn’t like or care about these people, but I realized that I was spending HOURS reading about the dinner plans / movie plans / travel recaps of someone I hadn’t seen since elementary school, or just met twice at summer camp. I wasn’t invested in these people’s lives; I was just curious. And that wasn’t an appropriate enough reason for me.

    I culled my friend list to about 50 people that are still in my life (plus two or three who I decided to keep because they were always positive, uplifting, and thoughtful). It was so refreshing to log in and be able to read my entire newsfeed in less than five minutes and only see the people I whose lives I was invested in right now — and they’re invested in mine.

  10. Oh, this post reminds me that I’ve really been meaning to go through my friend list and purge all the random people I still have there. In my experience there’s always a rash of friending at the beginnings of school years, joining new social activities, grad school orientation…but if I don’t remember you or where I met you, I probably don’t need to be Facebook friends with you. It’s a little overwhelming with 700+ on my list, but Facebook really is the best way to stay in touch with a lot of friends (hi, did I mention I’m a millennial?). At least the “close friends” classification has been extremely valuable for making my favorite people’s posts bubble to the top so there is less distraction and noise.

  11. One thing I really like about Facebook is connecting to local non-profits, businesses and community groups. It helps me to stay connected to what’s going on around town and I definitely know about and attend more events because of it. I have been meaning to make a separate “List” so I can browse them when I want to and not have so much to read each day. Same with national news sites like NPR, which tend to post a lot. I don’t think I’d get rid of my Facebook since I don’t have twitter, instagram, foursquare, flickr, pinterest, etc. and this is my main source of info on things, but this has definitely inspired me to clean it up a bit!

      • I’ve seen this happening too, with many social justice groups and activist groups (Facebook accounts only, no website). It actually concerns me a little bit – I think it really limits their visibility.

  12. I think it’s really important to pick & choose & control your social media outlets. I’ve never been interested in using everything, & what I do use, I maximize by figuring out all the settings, filter, etc., so I get more of the experience I want out of it. I use Facebook, not Twitter; Flickr, not Instagram; Pinterest but with select following; & RSS for specific blog reading. I have massive filters & add-ons created within every tool, synced on all my devices. It’s a small investment of time every so often when there are OS or site updates, but it makes my social media life much, much more sane.

  13. I like spying on random people that I don’t talk to. I am friends on FB with people who I was never friends with IRL (grade school classmates).

    I have over 1000 photos of myself on FB, which means I have over 1000 photos on FB. It’s how I share my life with my friends. I don’t really know why, I just like to do it. Nobody would follow my Flickr page if I just limited it to there, but plenty of people read my blog because of my Facebook links & view my pictures because it’s all in one place.

    Instagram felt competitive. I felt like I was only there to get people to like my photos, and when nobody did, I was just “talking to myself”.

  14. This is so interesting. I fully admit that i could not give up Facebook, but that is because i have very carefully honed it to show only the people and groups i truly care about. Also, I don`t use twitter, or instagram, or pinterest (well, i have an pinterest account i never log in to) so, FB is my social media outlet.

    Earlier this year I dedicated real time to improving it every time i was there. If i realized that certain people Ì barely knew were clogging my feed I either deleted them or just hid them (you have to go through a few menus to pick how much you want to see) and basically every business that had somehow been *liked* by me (how does that even happen) got *unliked* and disappeared from my feed. It took a few months of consciously editing what i see but now when i go my news feed is full of people i (a) am actually close friends with, 0r (b) people I find very interesting or informative or (c) companies that provide information or links I actually click on.

  15. To avoid drama, you can continue to be friends with certain individuals by unfollowing them on your news feed. It’s a great alternative to deleting and then having to explain why. I have a lot of people that are always sharing “share this if you agree” posts and stuff. It gets to be a bit much.

  16. I totally get this! I completely quit facebook in a personal capacity about a year ago but once my business took hold I needed an account to manage pages so created a ‘face’ of our company and did it that way. All my fb connections are work related or business. It felt odd and awkward for a while and people still actually assume I’m on facebook when they refer to something I’ve not seen and then are confused as to why I’m not on there! But, again, you feel very free. It used to be liberating to NOT be on social networking sites not the other way around!

  17. I cull friends regularly too.
    And I have very different friends on Flickr to Facebook, dont use twitter (I never really *got* it), and like another poster, use pinterest for ideas storage. I also dont do instagram. I have a G+ account, but so few people I know are on there that I have barely bothered to investigate how it works. That said, the fact that my in-laws aren’t on there makes it tempting to move regardless!

    And yeah, privacy settings – essential. Makes life so much easier to deal with.
    Right, off to do a cull.

  18. A lot of the reasons listed are reasons I would not leave Facebook socially. I don’t really have other ways to keep in contact with those friends. The people I can keep in contact with other ways I don’t really talk to much on Facebook, but only about 15 of my phone contacts are also Facebook friends.

  19. Thanks for the reminder! I culled down my list a while back when I had my baby, but I’ve been meaning to do so again. The holey, weak privacy settings make me very wary of sharing photos of my girl, but since many of my family members are *only* on FB (as in I don’t have their phone numbers, email addresses, nor are they on Instagram, etc.) I do like to share pics of my adorable goober for them once in a while. However… I don’t think my HS bf or the ex-BFF that I haven’t talked to in 4 years really deserve to see them! (joke! I swear! kinda!)

    Off to wield my mouse as a de-friending sword in the name of my cutie pie 🙂 (and update my password-protected photo site with 1000+ pics of her….)

  20. I want to do a cull ( as I become more conscious of people I don’t really know having access to my/my childrens info) but I can’t bear the thought of someone thinking I don’t like them – realistically they’ll A) never notice, B) don’t care but still I know when I’m defriended I always want to know why. So…. if I could trust people who notice me cull them, to ask me why if they wanted to know, I think I’d do it.

  21. I first got Facebook in 2005. Deactivated my account in late 2008 when I was job-hunting because it became too distracting and depressing (at that time, all several hundred of my closest Facebook friends were in seemingly terrific jobs and leading amazing lives and I was sitting on my butt watching daytime television and not having a job).

    Started career I really liked in early 2009, moved, and met boy I would later marry mid-2010. Everyone asked me if I would get back on Facebook to show off these life updates, but I didn’t see the point. I was in touch with the people I wanted to be in touch with by email and phone and they already knew. I didn’t need Facebook to keep updated on social events because I learned about them through other channels. And my now husband shared his login info with me in case I ever wanted or needed it for anything. I did create a LinkedIn profile and while I haven’t found it to be that helpful yet professionally, I don’t mind having it.

    In 2013, I took a marketing course and the instructor focused heavily on social media marketing. Husband didn’t want me liking so many company Facebook pages from his profile, so I reactivated my old profile. Seeing 5 years worth of updates from people I barely remembered was overwhelming. I re-deactivated it in an hour. At some point, I’ll reactivate in order to grab the photos, and then I’ll re-deactivate it.

    I created a new profile in 2013 originally for the purpose of following different companies for this course. I didn’t even put up my real name because I didn’t want to be found so easily. I got sucked in, started adding friends and photos and checking everyday. I find that I don’t even like Facebook. Every time I go on, I feel like I dislike my friends and myself a little bit and feel vaguely depressed, and yet it’s amazing how quickly it became so addictive. I’d like to curb the habit and get off soon…

  22. I remember the lull between Myspace and Facebook. Myspace had petered out, no one was using it. A few friends asked me if I was on FB and I would always reply, “Hell no – I won’t do it!” Things got quiet, I got lonely, I didn’t hear from a lot of people for months, years. I thought it was just a coincidence that everyone was “busy” all at once. Eventually I realized businesses and groups were using FB so I peeked on there…and found 200 of my friends and family actively involved with FB! I really felt like the kid left out on the playground! And I am not an insecure person. But there they were, living, taking photos, announcing important life events. Almost no one reached out to me outside FB with the same info. It was like being punished for not “joining” – although I know that was not anyone’s intention, it’s just how FB is. It’s a club. It’s an apathetic mindset: If 95% of my friends are on Facebook, I can share my life there, and the other 5%, well, too bad?

    So, of course, I joined, and have been pulling the miserable rat lever ever since. I hate it. But I also know that a lot of people aren’t willing to leave FB to go find me and connect. And these are people in their late 30s, mature, emotional grounded, real friends. This isn’t high school drama- pseudo-friendships, this is the adult population!

    I’m an artist, writer and photographer and post a lot of original work on my personal website and on Flickr, but no one looks at it. And I REFUSE to spoon feed them by posting a LINK of my stuff to FB. It feels like we all work FOR Facebook, doesn’t it?!

    On the other hand, I have friends and family all over the world in different time zones, and before FB I got their life updates once a year. Now I’m getting them weekly, which does feel like an improvement.

    Everyone I know has a love/hate relationship with Facebook, where, even if you love it, you can still sense that you need it for emotional fulfillment. Which, I think we can all agree, feels icky and is not really healthy place to be. I’m still in that icky place, and I have no idea if I’ll be able to wean from the poison teat.

  23. I consider it and consider it and consider it, but deep down I know I just don’t want to do it. Now I’m working on being OK with not *wanting* to cut out Facebook. I think it’s part of the culture I live in (I’m an expat in Asia) where Facebook still has that god-like status that America has moved on from: I post pictures of food decorated with silly cartoons because that’s what all my local friends are doing!

    A few times I’ve tried to cull people, but then I remember the few times that I’ve added someone I barely knew or knew a long time ago but had fallen out of touch with, and a few months or even years later, our mutual interest in each other’s posts has led to a new or rekindled “real” friendship.

    I also remember how I have two local friends I always invite to gatherings, but their invitations always go out late because they’re not on Facebook and days later I remember to message them to invite them, too. Then I check Facebook to get head counts (especially if there’s a reservation involved), those two are coming but not on the Facebook list, I forget to add them, then I have to change the reservation I’ve just made. I don’t want to be the person for whom others have to do this (although I gladly deal with it for my friends not on Facebook – I do care about them after all).

    In the end having a large “Acquaintances” list has worked for me – people I don’t want to be besties with, barely know, can’t delete for diplomatic reasons, or may reconnect with someday but not now – I can peruse their posts on my own time to see if anything catches my eye and hide a lot of what I post from them if I don’t want it to be too “public”.

    But then I haven’t found another venue I like more than Facebook (though I would not say I love Facebook). I never took to Twitter, get into interesting discussions on LinkedIn but won’t ever fully invest in it, and don’t feel very ‘social’ on Flickr. Line and its ilk are good for people you already know well, not for meeting new people.

  24. LOL! Farewell Emotional Detritus might be the best phrase I’ve heard in a very long time!

    I’ve been busy spring cleaning my FB account. Going back through my timeline, deleting with gay abandon, locking other things down to me only, moving people to “lists” and then only posting to particular lists and generally being very frugal with my postings. I’m kinda over all the social engineering and gawd knows who reading my business. If they’d said up front what their intentions where I never would have signed up.

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