Monday, November 14, 2016

38 days without Facebook or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Real Life

So on October 1st, 2016 I did the unthinkable, I left Facebook. Not just left, I posted an epic goodbye and archived all my digital life with the intention of disabling Facebook never to return.

(ok in my own addicted mind I thought it was epic goodbye, hell it even had a kitten waving goodbye!)
It's Not You Facebook, it's Me, We've just grown apart
I made the decision on 9/31, angry about some family drama, over what I can't even remember anymore, honestly I can't, I think something about blocking someone who was annoying me or some such non-sense, again not that important to the overall story, other to bring attention to the fact that I became so focused on what people did/said on Facebook that my response was to block said person rather than discuss/deal with the issue like I would in real life. How egotistical, self centered, and downright douchbaggy was I? I mean, that was my response, you said/did something that made me mad, I block you, like a president elect hosting a reality TV show, my response was to sit in my Smug Computer Chair and say "I block you".
Family Thanksgiving Dinner, yeah it's like that
It was on 9/31 that I realized that Facebook has become the Thanksgiving Dinner of 2016 -  Facebook acts like that annual family event where people who have grown so far apart suddenly find themselves forced to spend time together in confined spaces, it all starts out hugs and kisses, then by the time the dinner is on the table we are all at each others throats and Uncle Ernie (who has enjoyed a little too much of his addiction Mr. Daniels) is as beligerant as a Irishman in an English pub and reminding you why you only see these people but once a year on Thanksgiving (or <insert your guilt obligated family holiday/event here>). The very platform breeds the worst in us all, you can sit back and say things you wouldn't dare have the guts to say in real life (except at the height of an alcohol fueled dinner with people you loath). Facebook really is like the training ground of Internet Trolls, don't believe me, go back last month and see the posts from that crazy relative who you thought was normal, arguing why you should vote for someone other than you voted for, now remember how it made you feel, hell you might have even engaged said person in an all out flame war in the comments, but in the end, that's Facebook 2016, but worse because your mom's turkey isn't there to remind you all how life is better than the argument of Trump/Clinton.

Don't You Wish Your Girlfriend was hot like me?
Facebook had become toxic to me, beyond the constant reposts of bullshit memes, looking past the tailor fed feed of like-minded pages/people I had "liked" over the years (feeding my ego, my desire to be accepted by others), above the barrage of stories that were tailored designed to keep me hooked to the daily fix of Facebook, It had become to me my reason for social interaction outside of my pathetic, sad little existence that I called life. I started every morning, checking Facebook, Notifications, then Newsfeed, hey FB you douche I said Newest Posts not Top Posts (start over 30m later), who has something to say funny, important, who believes what I believe, more scary, who is still in my feed who doesn't!?!? Every funny(-ish) thought I thought I had, I brought it to Facebook, for every Seinfeld like observation on the world around me, I stood on my stage like stand-up comedian filming his first HBO special, and every Like was like the audience bursting into gut wrenching laughter. As I travel for work, every Check In was a narcissistic cry for help, "look at me, I'm in Maui for work (pity poor me)", Look at my hot wife in her bathing suit on our cruise (don't you wish your girlfriend/wife was as hot?)", "Sipping $200 / glass Single Malt with customers (yeah, my life is just that Mark Cuban, bitches). I fed on the social acceptance, for every like/reaction I received from my FB feed my self esteem was bolstered. For all intents and purposes, I had turned my life into Reality TV show, my approval rating was the Likes, my success judged by the Re-shares. And every dissenting opinion was treated like virus, I trusted the hive mind of my friends/followers to crucify you for your assine response to my awesomeness, and when they didn't (likely because they were too busy living in their own little narcissistic versions of Facebook fueled self approval) I blocked you as a troll or ignorant fool who didn't understand the real world as I saw it.

Did any of you ever take a second to realize why Facebook reminds you on a weekly if not daily basis "what happened on this day"? The entire system knows it's a drug, the most addictive drug on the planet - social acceptance from our peers. But most of us don't realize how unhealthy this "social" interaction actually is, I find myself not talking to people on the phone anymore because I already know what you are doing in your life, thanks to a constant feed of your life appearing on my screen. It becomes so systemic that one day you wake up and realize that you haven't called someone you love in months because your social interaction is all via Social Media then it hits you, you aren't actually being social anymore - and no clicking Like doesn't count. Sure, it's easy when a computer overlord is reminding you how awesome your fucking life was x many years ago, like that guy who still was sporting his Letterman jacket in his late 20s, drinking cheap beer at the local bar talking about the good ol' days, talking about that time he took the team to State. But in the end it's not today, its not what I am, and I sure has hell don't need the Internet reminding me on a daily basis how you use to be that fucking awesome, but now you are sitting in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest wishing you had that glory day again. So I decided a little experiment was in order.

Could you do it?
I'm sure we've all see this image appear on your feed, we all get a mansion to live in rent free if you give up crackbook. It had me thinking, could I do it? Sure I could, but do I want to, that's the bigger question. Not that I've ever been in AA or anything, but my guess is that's the biggest struggle for most addicts, is admitting that they actually have the addiction in the first place, sure I could give up drink anytime I want to, but I don't have a problem, so I don't need to quit. The first step, at least for me in this experiment was admitting that Facebook was a problem, thankfully the non-stop barrage of pre-US-election garbage that was polluting my feed was very helpful in making that decision super easy, the perfect storm of toxicity that finally opened my eyes to the problem.

Creating File LifeArchive2016.7z - 99% Complete
Has it come to this? Do I need save the entirety of my miserable little life in the click of one button?!? I sat at this screen for a few minutes (hours, I'm not kidding  you). I asked myself, maybe it's just me, maybe I need to be more inclusive, maybe I need to not be so sensitive about people's lack of approval. But in the end, I decided to start the the process to archive all my life (as I saw it at that moment), yes I say my life because do any of us understand how much of LIFE is on Social Media? Wedding Photos (including the great times with friends who I never see, except on Facebook), Birth of children, the adoption of children, the family vacations, the building of homes, the selling of homes, the moving to new parts of the country, the thousands of announcements of important events like being the first of our family to graduate college, the birth of every member of my siblings kids, everyone I knew, everything I knew now came from Facebook, not real human interaction. Click <Start My Archive>. FYI, in case you are using this blog post as some sort of sick instruction manual, this shit takes a LONG fucking time, especially if your Facebook account spans years.

Exodus delayed = start date + 1
So did I mention that Archiving your Facebook Life, takes a while, like a day or longer. Yeah, so go ahead and click, think about it later, because you got plenty of time **Lessons Learned**. So in retrospect, I should have waited to announce my departure from Facebook's little social experiment till after I got my archive, because the next day later I'm feeling like maybe I'm being rash, I start reading my feed like normal, about 2 hours into the process you find yourself asking yourself, "really man, I thought we were done with this scene? Download the damn file and deactivate your account already. Life. It's Out There. Not in front of this damn screen." Never the less, I decide to post my final farewell and in a last narcissistic cry for "please look at me", I respond to all the friends who tell me "it's just he 2016 election, you'll get over it, don't leave" posts with one final witty response, and Cat Picture because cat's are still Internet Gold (tm). Which is entirely moot as I jump over to the Deactivate account section right after (thus hiding my feed, my posts, my entire FB existence from all the people who posted) - a fact I learned a few days later when in a desperate offline attempt to connect I ask my wife - "hey what did people have to say about my cat picture goodbye?!?" the answer I got back almost had me logging back in, "what cat picture?"

So you did it, you too the Red Pill
.. .. ..
*skip this damn section if you still give a shit about Walking Dead ep701*
I'm not going to sugar coat this for you. The first week away from Social Media. It's hell. Not just hell, it's like watching Negan kill Glenn. You sit there for a few days wondering is this real, what's the catch. Did I really just seem my favorite character die like a little bitch with his eyeball hanging out his eye socket?!? Maybe I can go back and watch it again and he won't be dead. But no, its done, you are done, apps uninstalled, you wake up opening the phone to find Facebook missing, no instantaneous start of the day on a high not watching the Likes add up. 
They say when someone loses a limb, there is a ghost effect, where the person still "feels" his limb moving, itching, moving, just like the limb isn't lost. Disconnecting from Facebook, feels the same way (or what I can imagine the same way, never lost a limb), you find yourself going though the day thinking something funny, or seeing something off the way or downright batshit crazy and you just want to post it to Facebook. That goes away. I promise, but the first week is hard. You ask yourself maybe I could just login, and look, read-only like. No posting, just reading, no harm in that right?! Resist this shit, it's hard, but you need to do that for your own sanity. 

Please don't make any sudden moves
You don't know the half of the abuse
Now I won't lie, about 3 weeks into this my wife tells me my Facebook account is back, "I knew you couldn't make it". To which I say, the heroin mostly out of my system by now, "what the hell are you talking about it, I'm the rock baby, I haven't logged in once!" - this is when you learn just how much the Facebook Virus has infected your life. In my case it turns out that thanks to Facebook Connect there is a TON of shit you use on the Internet that ties back to your Facebook account, in my case the problem service - iHeartRadio - we have whole house audio, speakers in the house tied to a central stereo connected to a android tablet with a number of internet based music applications, including iHeartRadio. I love music, call it a sick side effect of growing up in a house where my Dad always had some album running on his old turntable at max volume as he worked around the house. Apparently eventually it will "log back in" to the Facebook service after a few weeks of running, now when you deactivate your Facebook it's all there, just hidden away until you log back in, thus re-initializing your agreement that you are slave to the Social Media service (apparently without prompt automagiclly by the way). Turns out this is partial, almost ghost-like return, the computer scientist in me asks, "really, what can you do?" to which she responds, "I can see you account, your posts, but can't tag you," - well at least it's a partial win, still disturbing, but I feel doesn't count as "returning to Facebook". But it also means if one ever wants to completely unhook you need to accept a lot of sacrifice in your life, and a lot of taking time to find every damn crack Facebook has sneaked into your life, so don't forget to start exercising the demon before you deactivate your account.

So how is it out here, first off, I know this will sound like a cat poster...
Second, I've talked to people more, like actually talked either in person or on the phone, but it's real live human interaction (as in being truly social). I've run a 5k with my wife and kiddos, and after about two weeks I suddenly found myself more happy than I had been in years. I remembered what it was like to not be bombarded with negativity or force fed people's opinions on a daily basis. Living without Facebook for a month made me realize that I need interaction with real people, we all do, Facebook gives you this illusion of interaction, but ask yourself how often do you get off Facebook feeling BETTER about your life? If it's 51% of the time, then I guess you are good, I guess. But I have a feeling when you honestly evaluate your daily Facebook interactions you'll find you feel a lot less happy and a lot more sad, frustrated, up-tight or downright pissed off because of something that appeared on your feed. My only advice, give it a shot, what do you have to lose? All your stuff remains, in 30 days if you don't feel better, happier, even more like a social human being then log back in and resume your addiction. What do you got to lose, uninstall the damn thing off your phone, archive your life, and deactivate (or heck downright delete it), then get out there and start enjoying REAL life.

But what do I know.

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