#12YearsAFacebookUser – Peer Pressure, Social Stigma, Tech Liberation.

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It’s been about 3 months since I deactivated my profile on the world’s favorite social media network. It’s the best thing I could have done for my tech / social media footprint, my eyes, my free time, and my privacy. And I still think about reactivating it sometimes, too.

My 2018 New Year’s resolution (and 2017, too =/ ) was to do less on social media. Be less involved across different platforms, delete what I didn’t want, didn’t need, didn’t use, etc. I knew I was becoming a bit of a tech zombie, between working in IT and social media being the main way that me and my whole damn generation communicate.

Back in 2016 I would have several notifications a minute on my phone at peak times during the day. It was just too much – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, personal email, work email, texts, and of course the occasional actual phone call (always when I’m in the middle of typing something, no less) – it became a headache to just have a smartphone. I would silence my phone for a 2 hour movie and would illuminate my screen to see at least a dozen notifications. My anxiety levels were being spiked by almost every vibration, every time that little sound went off on my phone.

The allure of smartphones as a new technology is long gone. As millennial in my late 20s, I just get tired of using technology. It’s even harder to be an extrovert in today’s world while trying to not over-use social media. I had been deleting unused and unwanted social media accounts of mine since 2015. Some I stayed off, and some I brought back, reinstalled and logged back in. Why? Feelings of boredom, loneliness, not knowing what to fill the void with when I deleted a heavily used app of mine. Mainly, I didn’t want to be so ‘against the grain’ that I lost my most practical ways to communicate with friends and family.

I had been on Facebook since 2006, when I was 16, a sophomore / junior in high school. Back then, Facebook was considered the way out from the mainstream social media site of the time – MySpace. We all know how that went.

Facebook became the central hub of how I communicated with anyone and everyone in my college and post-college years, save for my closer friends and family who had my phone number. Between profiles, photo tags, and Messenger, it became the norm, the dominant avenue, the unquestionable arena where all people (my age, at least) were expected to be.

It’s no secret Facebook has their shady side. Most people have heard of and/or know about the recent info leaks, but don’t want to cut the cord. Why? It’s just not convenient, and that’s no accident, either.

A common thing you’ll hear in conversations among anyone nowadays, not just young adults is “Find me on Facebook,” or “Facebook me.” It can be awkward, sometimes even a social deterrent, when someone replies “I’m not on Facebook.” How surreal is it, that a social media platform is so strong, so widespread, that it carries a social stigma for those without a profile? This is an underlying form of peer pressure that is still a big reason why millions of users have begrudgingly kept their profiles active.

I deactivated (not deleted, that’s different in FB world) my account right before the whole scandal with Caimbridge Analytica came about, so I feel like my timing was pretty impeccable.

I built up to this by taking a few de-techifying steps for myself over the past few years:

  • Disabling ALL phone notifications except for texts and alarms
  • Re-evaluating, uninstalling, and deleting accounts on unnecessary apps on my phone
  • Making accounts private
  • Archiving / downloading my entire Facebook profile and account
  • Deactivating my profile

The last 2 steps came this Spring, and I feel liberated to a large degree. I didn’t go full FB commando though, I still use the Messenger app (no site profile required) and I didn’t ‘request deletion’. The Facebook process for deactivating profiles is full of ‘Are you sure?’ type confirmations, guilt-tripping tactics included. As a user, one is not able to fully delete their profile without ‘Requesting full deletion,’ and awaiting some kind of correspondence.

I haven’t requested full deletion, because, well, after depending on social media my entire adult life, it is hard to fully let go, despite all that I know about over-using technology and social media.

I don’t want my own human experience to be desensitized by technology. I also understand it is an ever-changing world we live in, with no ‘normal’ really lasting for too long.

Something I try to do is strike a balance between making social media useful, but not so much that my time, energy, and moods are consumed by it. Don’t be a tech zombie, but do enjoy what works for you. Don’t go out of your way to be a tech hipster, either. – RSM

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