Unplugged: Facebook Exodus

I remember the act of joining Facebook.

It was 2007, in the spring of my senior year of high school. I had just been accepted to at least 2 universities and I knew I was bound for a big life on campus.

I almost made it a point of principle to not join Facebook before I had some kind of university email address, once required to join.

The next stage of my life was beginning, and that sure as hell felt like a great excuse to jump onto a new social network, I told myself. Myspace was growing to be a relic of the past and AOL Instant Messenger was the application always running in the background, rarely brought to the front.

Facebook represented something adult, something serious. You had to use your real name and you had the choice of a profile picture and interesting information about yourself, all contained within the blue and white theme. No crazy HTML with flashing GIFs, no songs, no top friends, and certainly no fake accounts with crazy names.

It was a static environment so unlike the other spaces where I pointed my mouse online, and that made it genuinely interesting.

Truth be told, joining Facebook was seen as a serious endeavor by those in my immediate social circle online. The first few posts on my wall were commented on my entry into Facebookland. “Finally you’re here!” read one. “Welcome!” said another. “GET DRUNK,” said quite a few.

But that isn’t to say it was deemed so serious only in a positive regard. Of course not.

I remember the fierce opposition to joining Facebook among my friends who used Xanga, the blogging platform. It was made up with a motley crew of the theatre clique at my school and others who had crossed paths with it along the way. We’d often mourn the loss of one of the souls of our group members to Facebook, or dedicate entire posts to the banality of such an experiment. The lifeless “wall” replacing paragraphs of serious discussion, rebuttal, debate, and critical thought.

In a way, I guess that initial criticism was true. Many of us abandoned the medium of well-thought out blog posts for the confined and constricted people connector known as Facebook.

I should have known it was too expansive when friend requests from unknown people starting rolling in, our only connection being the intention to start studying at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the fall. I don’t think I talked to a single one of those individuals once I left that gloomy place.

Alas, we all succumbed to the euphoria of “friending” everyone we knew from all social contexts. We all began to write less and less. Thoughts and ideas shared in complete form became status updates, catered to everyone and anyone.

It’s been 7 years since that time I first signed-up, and my relationship to the network is now very different. And I know it’s the same for many others.

But now I’ve joined the exodus. I followed my own advice and “unplugged” from Facebook.

It unrolled rather slowly in my case. I started small experiments by intentionally avoiding logging in and refreshing the page. I did it for days at a time. It felt great. Rather suddenly, I realized I didn’t need it anymore.

I didn’t need the instantaneous updates, the hundreds of pictures and memes, and videos. I didn’t need the articles, the self-promotion, and the time-consuming clickbait. I could live without it.

Feeling natural and confident, I downloaded my archive (7 years of my online life), found the deactivate button, and hovered over the small box. I gave a moment’s hesitation, a moment filled with thousands of pictures, comments, likes, and the act of constantly scrolling. But it ended with a swift click. And it was gone.

Now I’m back to the blog post. Back where I started. Back to the same medium that has allowed me to make a living, to travel, to love, and to live, whether across the United States, Canada, and now Europe.

I guess it’s time for the next stage of my life. Back to the blank page and back to the blinking cursor.

I love the cursor. It will never let me down.

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, writer, and consumer advocate. His writings and interviews have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and online outlets across the world in multiple languages. He is the founder and editor of Devolution Review and deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center. He was previously a national investigative reporter at Watchdog.org. He has a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) from the CEVRO Institute in Prague, and a Bachelor's in Political Science from Concordia University, Montreal. He currently splits his time between Vienna, Austria and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Website https://yael.ca
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