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Laughing woman outside with trees behind

Hurrah! She just left Facebook.

Let’s make leaving Facebook a positive event.

It’s too easy to linger on the negativity of Facebook: the 1.5 million videos swiftly uploaded of a terrorist attack; the privacy invasions and selling of our personal details; or the deleterious effect on our mental health.

Instead, make it a positive. You might, when you first delete, feel like you are giving Mark Zuckerberg the finger. I certainly did. But as I’ve gone through the last month I’ve realised that’s not what it is about and replacing a toxic environment with toxic emotions is hardly constructive. For a start, MZ doesn’t give a flying one about me. Seriously, I called him and checked. I’m dead to him. I only have to worry about myself.

It’s more beneficial to think of it as a cheery wave; it’s more of a smiling so-long-and-farewell; perhaps even a beckoning come-hither gesture to encourage others to join you.

Come on in the water’s lovely.

Leaving Facebook is a life-enhancing choice brimming over with intentionality; recognition that the world, for many of us, is chock-full of possibilities and opportunities. We don’t need and, in fact, we’re better off without, the activities of our lives being viewed through the lens of Facebook.

Post-Facebook society: Building genuine and worthwhile social relationships

You might choose to have a short period of solitude without digital distractions. You might spend some time with your kids, your mother or father, or other family. If you realise your social options are limited then make plans to get along to some kind of local group, community event, or perhaps a class of some sort. Do something that gives you the chance to meet people.

One interesting aspect about loneliness is that people who feel lonely stop recognising when they are having normal social interactions and don’t value them. Use your Facebook Deletion Day as a chance to re-examine your expectations and make plans for the future. Loneliness is associated with poorer health outcomes.

Our modern human brains have evolved over about 250,000 years and for almost all that time we socialised in small communities.

Don’t expect it all to happen in a rush. It takes time.

But remember that the numbers of ‘friends’ on social media and Facebook are artificially inflated by half-acquaintances. The Dunbar number is a theoretical concept that there is a maximum number of people with whom we can have a meaningful social relationship. The Dunbar number for humans, calculated on the size of our neo-cortex, is 150. Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist, chanced upon the idea when he was working on social relationships and grooming in primates.

It’s perfectly possible to argue over the details of Dunbar’s work and the numbers are always going to be somewhat fluid. It’s worth remembering that our modern human brains have evolved over about 250,000 years and for almost all that time we socialised in small communities. We have very different social networks to early humans. Everyone knew everyone else then. That’s not the same as how we naturally connect nowadays and we need to do more to ensure we get those rich social interactions.

Of course, when I say ‘early’ humans I’m just showing my present-time bias – we need to remember we’re the ones who just turned up to the party with all our fancy gizmos. The telegraph only came into common usage in the 1830s. If the span of the modern humans was a 24-hour clock then we’ve had the telegraph for about the past minute. We’ve had Facebook and social media for about five seconds of that 24-hour period.

Further research has also suggested that we devote most of our time, maybe 40%, to close relationships with just 5 people. Perhaps two-thirds of our time is spent with 15 people. Redressing the balance is one of the best things you can do without Facebook.

Leaving Facebook

Leaving Facebook is a major part of re-balancing my digital life. It’s a concerted effort to wrestle control from the machines and live a more intentional life. I’ve already written about deleting my social media° but Facebook Deletion Day is not the day you take the plunge and hit delete.

It marks the time when your account gets finally and irrecoverably deleted.

As you may well know, when you delete your Facebook account it doesn’t disappear instantly. You have a grace period. Annoying, but there you go. Basically, you have to ensure you don’t log in to your account anywhere within a 30 day period. They state

If it’s been less than 30 days since you initiated the deletion, you can cancel your account deletion. After 30 days, your account and all your information will be permanently deleted, and you won’t be able to retrieve your information.

This has an advantage. If you are wobbling about giving up Facebook then you have the option, as per the advice of Cal Newport, to go through a full digital fast. Spend a month without and see how feel. You can reactivate at the end of the period if you really want.

It also gives you a chance to build up to your Facebook Deletion Day and replace digital activities in your life with other, more fulfilling, activities. That doesn’t happen instantly and it will, very likely, take you 30 days to start building up a head of steam. My experience is that 30 days is just the start of it.

Celebrating Facebook Deletion Day

People laughing and splashing in seaOf course, you may choose to publicise your own Facebook Deletion Day on other social media. This would seem somewhat perverse but if it’s your bag then go for it.

Digital minimalism is about intentional use of technology and it doesn’t have to mean a moratorium on social media.

Do something to celebrate your Facebook Deletion Day.

I’m not on any social media now so how do I go about celebrating my own Facebook Deletion Day? For me, the most important reason to give up Facebook is to have more intentional and healthier social interactions that result in a richer interaction. It’s that pseudo-social connection that flicks our dopamine switches. Facebook plays on two powerful forces: intermittent positive reinforcement plus the craving for social acceptance.

I’ve got a few ideas:

  • Send a letter to an old friend: Yes, *gasp*, using the actual postal system. Sit down and write a letter to someone. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be on bespoke stationery written with a Mont Blanc pen. If that’s your thing then fine — but don’t let it stop you. Don’t put pressure on yourself to write long letters either. I’ve got some cheap blank postcards and I can write one or two in a few minutes. It will give you pleasure writing it. You focus for a few minutes on the words. Writing and receiving letters is sorely in need of a revival.
  • Have a conversation: In person or on the phone. In person is better and we get to exercise the enormous sections of our brain dedicated to interpreting the social cues and responses that come in a conversation. The telephone will do but make it an actual real life conversation. How many friends have you communicated with through sporadic texts or messages? Make it real.
  • Do some writing: For some people writing a letter will do this but for many, myself included, I find I feel better when I write regularly. Fiction or non-fiction, it’s all grist to my writing brain mill.
  • Learn a poem by heart: I started doing this a few years ago. I had nearly 20 down and I recently found a handwritten note listing the ones I knew. It was tucked inside a slim volume of poetry I hadn’t read for years. I realised I no longer know them and I plan to right that wrong.
  • Whittling stickMake something: Perhaps you sew, perhaps you’d like to do some simple whittling and wood carving. Hell, you could hardboil half a dozen eggs, draw faces on them, then lob them down a grassy hill. Don’t wait for Easter and do it even if you don’t have kids. It’s silly, harmless, and stupidly fun. Or do some drawing or painting. Make a birdbox out of wooden offcuts. Youtube is your friend. Just don’t get sucked into watching those kittens.
  • Enjoy the natural world: Just get outside and appreciate it. Breathe it in. Go for a walk (I’d recommend leaving your phone and not using headphones to listen to anything) or find somewhere to sit and relax. You’ll only need a few minutes, you don’t need to go on an expedition, but just make it a deliberate act.
  • Use your body: I’m leaving this vague on purpose – I went for a run but it doesn’t have to be outright exercise. Just have a stretch and do something a little different from normal.

It doesn’t matter if you pick one or you rattle through a whole list.

Do something to celebrate your Facebook Deletion Day.

And, if you’re still not sure then I’d recommend doing something to (re) build and strengthen your social relationships.

Happy Facebook Deletion Day!



Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash
Photo by Jamie Brown on Unsplash
Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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