A week ago I deactivated my Facebook. It’s tempting to indulge in hyperbole and say that it’s the best thing I’ve done for my life, but I don’t feel any different. And I think that’s the point.
After college, I moved across the country, and my mindshare shifted dramatically to figuring out how to be a functioning adult. My Facebook feed started to feel quaint, irrelevant, sometimes inane. At one point, I moved and had to wait a few weeks to get internet setup at my new apartment; not having internet made it easy to not come back to Big Blue.
(Years ago, I ran out of space on my phone while taking photos. Facebook was the first app I deleted to free up space, and I’ve never re-installed it).
When I did come back, I had a big number in the notifications badge. Each seemed mundane, not worthy of a notification. This was especially pronounced since many of the notifications were about things that had happened weeks ago — clicking through the old notifications broke the dopamine feedback cycle for me, as I started associating notifications with irrelevance.
This pattern continued, more or less, over the past two years. The emails were easy to filter out. Every time I visited the site, I wondered why I was there. Occasionally, I’d visit to post something, or start writing a comment, before I’d snap awake and realize there’s no value in doing so, besides collecting a few ephemeral internet points. Definitely not worth the ding to my RescueTime score.
After coming back to a few generic notifications yet again after a week away, I decided to get rid of the temptation — like any sort of vice, I knew that having an account meant I would always be tempted to click in. Deactivating, while not technically deleting my account, would provide a psychological barrier if I tried to go back. Seeing the login page would trigger my competitive desire to maintain my streak. For me, that’s a much stronger force than the temptation to check my notifications.
So far, life doesn’t feel any different. Nothing has broken. Big Blue has disappeared from my “Frequently Visited” list. All the people I talk to are still on iMessage (and the occasional email), as they have been for years. All the photos I care to share with family and friends are polished and saved on Flickr, as I’ve been doing for years. Twitter has been great for connecting with friends, acquaintances, and strangers over topics that I’m genuinely interested in.
But I feel a little more in control of my mind. And — if happiness is reality minus expectations — by eliminating a source of false expectations, a little happier as well.