Why I Left Facebook et al. and You Should Too

Posted by Johan on Wednesday, April 3, 2019



Ever since that GDPR date last year I’ve thinking a lot about social media and especially Facebook and Instagram. When I logged into Instagram the day after GDPR went into effect I just couldn’t accept the new terms, which is weird because blindly accepting EULAs has kind of been a think ever since I installed Windows for the first time.

I just never accepted it and suddenly I didn’t have to endlessly scroll that feed while commuting, I listened more to my audiobooks instead. Still I sometimes ended up scrolling in the video feed of Facebook which was probably even worse.

Last fall I thought about deleting my Facebook account but when I hit delete I realised that Messenger is bound to Facebook just like Gollum is bound to the ring. Basically if you’ve ever used Facebook your Messenger account cannot exist without the other.

No big deal but I could still deactivate the account, but not before I migrated away my developer apps (Single Sign-On) and pages (of course my turtle has a fan page). This was fairly easy, I just created a new Facebook profile with just 1 friend which was my current account and then I handed over the keys to the apps and the pages and I was all set. I don’t remember the date when I deactivated the account but I haven’t missed it a bit. Every time I commute I look at the poor people who just stare at their phones, most of them are using Facebook or Instagram and I feel sorry for them just wasting away their lives.

Wasting time and life

Let’s just run some numbers here and I will try to prove to you why Facebook or any other social platform is really bad for you, and your friends. I don’t want to point fingers at Facebook so I’m going to use the word Social Platform below because this applies to all of them, including Twitter which I’m still using.

Let’s say you spend 10 minutes per day in your Social Platform feed, this is a conservative estimate and some people probably spend between 1 and 4 hours. 10 minutes per day is 70 minutes a week, roughly 1 hour and in a year you’ve spent 3,640 minutes which is about 60 hours. This is 1.5 weeks working (1 hour a day translates to 360 hours a year and that’s more than 2 full months working).

Maybe your 10 minutes per day are super productive and then this doesn’t apply to you but if you feel that urge in the morning to reach for your phone just to “check what’s new” before you think about breakfast then you might have a problem.

Now we’re talking about procrastinanion and if you’re interested in that you should definitely read this article: Why Procrastinators Procrastinate. Our brains love distractions and you get a small dopamine kick when launching your app and scrolling that feed but you don’t really feel happy right?

We only have a limited number of days and let’s get serious about those 60 hours. Let’s say a friend or relative passes away and you feel “Why didn’t I spend more time with them?”. Maybe you could have used those 60 hours talking to that person instead of trying to win a raffle or sharing some news article with your “friends”?

Of course this depends on if your friend had time, maybe he or she was too caught up in this too so even if you had all the time in the world you wouldn’t get to spend that time with him/her. On average, you have 29 000 days to live on planet earth so the question is how many of those days do you want to spend giving your brain dopamine kicks based on cute cat videos?

Sorry for being a bit harsh here, maybe your life is perfect and you only get happy thoughts and awesomeness from your Social Platform and then I’m super happy for you and you should continue using it.

The trigger

After reading that Google+ is shutting down on the 2nd of April 2019 I thought that this was the trigger I had waited for. I started planning for deleting Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp since they’re basically the same and are morphing into something even weirder and while I’m at it I threw Snapchat into the mix too, I don’t really use Snap or WhatsApp so the impact is small but it’s more of a statement.

After mentally deciding to go for 2nd of April I started drafting a short message for the people I still wanted to have contact with so that they could reach me even after I dropped Messenger. I didn’t send this to all people since some of them I still have on Twitter, LinkedIn etc.

T-minus 1 month

Early March I started contacting people on Messenger, some had questions as to why I was leaving and others were impressed and said that they wanted to leave but just couldn’t do it. I think the curious part of the human brain really likes being able to anonymously cyber stalk other people and then paint a mental picture of how wonderful their lives are based on a couple of photos and checkins.

One old friend was so inspired that he went along and deleted Facebook before me so I have at least saved one soul.

I have managed to move my friends to either iMessage (for the Apple users) or Signal for others. Signal is basically instant messaging done right and their protocol is in use in both Messenger and WhatsApp but you need to use the Secret Conversation feature in Messenger. Signal is a great app, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Messenger but at least you can search and include Gifs and just recently they added previews for YouTube and some other sites so you don’t risk getting Rickrolled.

Lift off

On the 1st of April I ordered a data export from Facebook, I had already taken an export from Instagram since I don’t use it anymore. The data was not exported 24 hours later so I canceled and started a new one and that one was done in 2 hours, this was a JSON export so that I could programmatically play with the data later if I wanted to. The size of the export was 5 GB.

I also ordered the same export in HTML format, this is browsable in your browser so that you can go through your data if you wanted too.

Early morning I deleted Instagram, Snap and WhatsApp and as soon as I had downloaded the Facebook export I deleted my account. It will be another 30 days before it will be deleted in case I change my mind but so far this feels great!

2019 so far

A friend got me to try Calm so I’ve been meditating for 10 minutes every day since the 1st of January. Now you’re thinking that I’m going to waste 60 hours a year meditating and that’s true, I’m such a hypocrite right? On the other hand meditating is really great and I feel relaxed afterwards, it’s super hard to try and not to think about every moving part in my life but it gets easier.

I walk a lot, not while meditating but I like walking because my brain don’t really get time to think too much when it’s occupied trying to put one foot in front of the other. During spring Stockholm is really beautiful and I usually take some photos and I sometimes send them to friends. After leaving Instagram I don’t feel that urge to put some filters on it and hope that I get a bunch of likes and it’s a nice feeling. The memory is mine and if you weren’t there I don’t think you’d understand even if my Instagram picture with a filter looks great.

The other week I deleted Quora and Reddit, mostly because they only send me emails and push notifications and I occasionally click on them to learn somethink I probably didn’t need to know. Both are great services but I need to focus on the most important things in life.

I used Google News a lot but since this has a feed (not endless though) I started it and went through the news several times per day, switch editions to get more news but in the end it didn’t really make me happy so I deleted it last week and I don’t miss it. Of course I’m not that up to speed about that tweeting president but to be honest I don’t care.

Thank you

If you read this far I’m impressed, this was less of a blog post and more of a short story. I hope that my thoughts didn’t provoke you too much and that maybe you’ll spend 10 minutes less on your Social Platform(s) today and instead call your parents, your grandma or your best friend.

Cheers, Johan