“A Year Without Facebook” / Elizabeth Maria Naranjo

The following post is by author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo (The Fourth Wall, WiDo, 2014). It originally appeared on her website, and we are reprinting it here with her permission. Although we encourage our authors to stay visible via social media if it’s what they enjoy, there are certain times and sites that can be more of a burden than a joy. Elizabeth’s blog post on quitting Facebook is timely, thoughtful and will no doubt strike a chord with many.

Last May, with a deep sense of relief, I quietly deactivated my Facebook account. Since that day one year ago, I have not logged back on. This is not a self-congratulatory post; I’m writing it because I know many people are overwhelmed with Facebook and have considered quitting it for good too, and if you’re one of them, I want to help if I can.

If you absolutely love Facebook or have never considered walking away because it’s a great way to stay connected to distant family and old friends or you need it for your job or you are too involved with groups that only operate there etc., it’s fine. You don’t need to justify that to anyone. This post isn’t for you.

If, however, you often find yourself weighing the pros and cons of the site and wondering if you could do without it because most of the time you actually hate it or you hate the way you feel about yourself and/or people you like/love when spending time on it, this post is for you.

Here’s what to expect when you break up with Facebook:

At first it will be surprisingly easy, the way quitting most addictions is easier in the first few days when your resolve is strong. And then it will get harder, because the new quiet that was such a luxury begins to feel a little lonely. You wonder what you’re missing. You wonder if you’ve made a mistake. This feeling comes and goes, but—I promise—eventually it stays gone.

At first you’ll find you have so much more time to do the things you love—reading, crafting, taking long walks in the evening—and then something else will start to creep into those moments, like another social media site or television or just the Internet itself. You’ll have to work to stay mindful and protect that time, but it will never be as hard as it was before.

At first you might believe that all your “true” friendships will continue on a regular basis once you ditch Facebook. They won’t. Not all of them. People are busy and you’re going to lose touch with some of them, and this doesn’t mean they’re not real friends. They’d probably be there for you if you really needed them, but not everyone is the kind of friend you’ll go to lunch with once a week to make up for the fact that you’re no longer interacting daily on Facebook. This is fine.

Eventually you’ll feel immense relief at all the things you did miss out on, because you’ll realize they’re not the important things. You’ll learn to like people again because you no longer know everything about them, nor do you feel obligated to know. You’ll feel so much better about yourself because of the fact you feel better about others.

You’ll realize you’re setting a good example for your kids by cutting your screen time and reclaiming some of your privacy, and you’ll be doing them a favor by giving them back some of their privacy too. You’ll concentrate better. You’ll learn again to treasure some memories just for yourself.

I still miss Facebook sometimes. I miss sharing funny and sweet moments from my life with others not in my immediate family. I miss looking back through years of memories the way I’d page through an old photo album. I miss those few dozen or so friends whose posts always made me smile, or laugh, or think about something in a different way. Some of them are people who I connect with in real life, some are on Twitter.

And for those I lost a connection with, I have to weigh that admittedly sad loss against the memories of the constant flood of memes and outrage and racism and politics and fake news and conspiracy theories and oversharing and bickering and clickbait and ugliness and the flat-out sadness of it all. Is it worth it? For me, it was not. I hope, if you’re struggling with the decision, I’ve made it a little easier one way or the other for you to decide whether it’s worth it to you.

Elizabeth Maria Naranjo lives in Tempe, Arizona with her husband and two children. Her debut novel, The Fourth Wall, was released in June 2014 through WiDo Publishing and is available at bookstores and online. She writes short stories and creative nonfiction. Her work has been published in Brevity Magazine, Superstition Review, Literary Mama, SLAB Literary Magazine, Hospital Drive, The Portland Review, among others. Visit Elizabeth at her website, elizabethmarianaranjo.com.