I get a lot of questions from fellow writers, and some readers, about Facebook. Mostly around my complete lack of having a Facebook account. Some are shocked to learn I got rid of it over 6 years ago (before the scandals) and my reason wasn’t personal privacy, but rather a loaf of bread. Yup. You read that right. Bread.
I’ve decided to be all artsy-fartsy about it and detail here the steps I took, why I took them, and what happened. All in short story format.
- The focus is on writers, but this guide could be for anyone looking to regain control of their time
- If I sound preachy, I’m really not trying to be. If Facebook works for you and makes you successful, I’m glad it’s a useful tool for you
- I’m so totally 100% aware you’re looking at that Instagram feed over there on the right side of this page (Facebook owns them) and going “OH THE IRONY!” The thing is, I play with Instagram once every couple of weeks, and I strictly curate it to focus on my love of art, books, and gory b-grade horror movies
- I quit Facebook years ago, but I tried to make the story relevant to someone using it in 2018
- This post is going to be long, and I’m writing it in the 2nd person, just to be asinine on a Monday.
Chapter 1 : Choosing to Quit Facebook (A Crack in The Mirror)
You decided to quit Facebook. Because you wanted more time to write. Maybe you sat down to write the next chapter in your novel, and ended up wasting forty five of the precious ninety minutes you had, looking at endless streams of encouraging GIF’s stating “Writer’s write!” Maybe you were in your local grocery store and saw a Facebook logo on a loaf of bread, and you said–
“Why has everyone accepted the dominance of this corporate force into their lives, to the point where food packaging is branded with a tiny F? Why do food companies want me to “connect” with them? Shouldn’t I spend my limited time on this mortal coil exercising my freedom of creative human expression, instead of connecting with Pop-Tarts on social media?”
Then you shouted, “I reject this, Mark. I reject all of this! I want more time to write!” And freaked out the elderly woman standing next to you in aisle nine.
Chapter 2: Quitting Facebook (Navigating the Maze)
- You went to CVS and bought a Planner/notebook. Or maybe you were super into Bullet Journaling (hashtag BuJo and all that) and you cracked open a new Moleskine. Or maybe you created a new address book and calendar in Google or Yahoo or whatever email service you use, because it wasn’t about being a Luddite and rejecting technology while wearing a tin foil hat. It was about getting your writing time back.
- You spent three days slowly reviewing every person you’d connected to on Facebook. You scanned your Author Page to discover your true connections. Agents, editors, and peers you’d worked with. Then you realized Mark no longer allowed writers to have author pages without a personal page, because he admonishes pseudonyms and MUST know who penned that stunning piece of flash fiction. You took a deep breath and said, “I want my writing time back”. You began filtering through close friends and family who you truly needed to stay in touch with. Not Gary from high school, who you “pity friended” only to find out he posts photos of hobby RC cars he builds in his basement every weekend.
- You collected the personal and professional information of everyone who was important to you (Just like Mark!) and recorded it in your new cataloging system (just like Mark!). This inevitably led to contacting people who you hadn’t written or spoken to in a long time, even though you’ve quietly monitored their breakfast and vacation photos for years. They were surprised to hear from you, and discover that you planned to quit Facebook to get your writing time back. In fact, they didn’t even know you were a writer, but said good luck and they want to buy your book when it’s finished. It felt a little awkward, but good.
- You downloaded your profile and pictures, and backed it up on a thumb drive. You clicked “delete my account”, and Mark asked you to stay. You said, “no Mark, I want my writing time back.” Mark then utilized a time-tested method designed by the psychologists he employs (no, seriously) to make you feel guilty, and maybe just “deactivate” to take a short break. You persisted. You said, “no, my writing is more important than Facebook.” Mark finally allowed it, but said he’d keep your account around for a few weeks in case you changed your mind.
- You clicked the little F on your phone, due to muscle memory and habit, and Mark immediately asked if you wanted to reactivate. You said “NO”, and deleted the app from your phone.
Chapter 3: Life After Facebook (The Awakening)
The first few days, and weeks, were tough. However, things evolved.
- You panic’d from the quiet. What was everyone else doing? The five and ten minute voids in line at the grocery store, walking on your lunch break, or in the bathroom (gross), truly tested your resolve. Over time though, you became more aware of your environment, and started pondering short story ideas or plot points in your novel during the mental downtime.
- Your world instantly became smaller, and it was terrifying. Your friends and family regarded your lack of Facebook as admirable/confusing/irritating (how will you Like pictures of the new baby?!) but eventually they respected your desire to have more writing time.
- You re-discovered reading for pleasure. Quiet moments spent studying the craft rather than scrolling a feed.
- You subscribed to a local newspaper to stay informed. It let you read news at your own pace, in a classically written format, about nearby events that affected you, and that you could sometimes have an effect on.
- Your personal interactions became more meaningful. You called, emailed, or wrote to your smaller social circle. Maybe you even wished them “Happy Birthday” without a pre-made notification. They appreciated it, and it felt good to communicate with true intention. You gradually noticed you could be surprised again (even about little things), and when you called or met friends and family you engaged them in deep, meaningful conversations because your lack of constant updates meant you were truly invested in catching up. Just like people back in the 1990’s. These interactions bled into your writing, and your dialogue became more natural; the characters more three dimensional and genuine in their interactions as well.
- You missed out on things-some important, but most not. Your fear of missing out and “not knowing” ebbed to minor disappointments, shrugged off with a focus on all the future opportunities discovered in your extra free time. Your writing output increased as the spare minutes added up, and friends and family commented on “how productive you were” and “where you found the time to write in between everything else”
- You finished a novel. You wrote numerous short stories. You were rejected endlessly, but then you got published…and published again after that.
You haven’t thought about Facebook in quite a while. You use other websites now that are focused on your writerly needs. They take up very little of your precious writing time.
Mark hasn’t called. After everything he said about wanting to promote you as a writer and share your work with everyone, he hasn’t tried to contact you. Even after you got published.
It’s almost like he doesn’t care that you left.
(I want to thank Debra Lee Luskin for her post that inspired me to get off my butt and finally get this insane piece out of draft.)