I deleted the Facebook app from my phone 21 days ago. Here’s what happened next.
A month ago, I was trying to finish reading a book on my iPad. I would sit down in a quiet nook and turn on the app, read one sentence, blink, then find myself watching a Facebook video titled “Legendary Cheesecakes are pumped out by the MILLIONS”. Revolted by the sweetness from the cheesecakes, which you can practically taste it with your eyes, and my lack of self-control, I would close the app, and go back to the iBooks app again.
When I gained control over my brain again I would realise that I was scrolling through the Facebook profile of someone I have unfollowed a few months back. The posts were written by the said someone back in 2009. The someone probably did not even remember me.
A week later, I was still reading the same sentence of the eBook.
I couldn’t live like this.
So I decided to give it the old 21-day-to-get-rid-of-a-new-habit and deleted the Facebook app on my iPad. In the next 30 minutes, while I tried to read through an entire page, I left the iBook app seven times only to realise the Facebook app shortcut on my iPad was nowhere to be seen.
This was the moment I deleted both the Facebook and Instagram app on my phone.
Before ditching Facebook… the app
-I was born with a short attention span. Facebook made it worse by getting me used to reading short bits of information. I tried writing daily on Medium, but writing long posts quickly becomes an excruciating task because I often lost my focus. Reading a book within a month was practically impossible. I can’t sit through a one-hour TV episodes without going on Facebook for at least five times. I procrastinated on procrastinating.
When I talked with my friends, my topics jumped from one to another with no transitions. Previously I regarded this way of talking as my trademark and believed that this way of “cross-field” thinking and talking would actually help me “stay creative”. But this did nothing but harm to my ability to think thoroughly and orderly on any topic. If I were my friend, I would have ditched myself long ago.
-If I had to sit through an entire lecture or meeting without fiddling with my phone and scrolling through Facebook, my mood would change from that of a sulking teen to that of an grumpy old man yelling at everything he sees and hears. I was never 100% mentally present in situations which require my full attention for more than 5 seconds. This resulted in me liking memes or live-posting all the lecture highlights on Facebook, and never paying attention to any details.
-Speaking of live-posting, I had developed this forced habit where I must find interesting content to share on Facebook. I didn’t even know I had this particular habit until I saw a funny sign and thought a funny thought after deleting the app. I would say to myself “I must share this on Facebook” and then realise that I could no longer use Facebook. The realisation would then be followed by me staring at nothing for three minutes. This way of thinking is especially terrifying after watching this.
-Most of my time that I had reserved for working on long-term plans were sucked away by Facebook. I had switched the video auto-play on Facebook app, but I was still one click away from Deep Dark Pit of Facebook Videos™, a place where a low-quality, stolen stock of funny videos were played against a black background. In the Deep Dark Pit, a new video plays right after the previous one ends. Once you stare into it, you lost yourself. Last time I did that I lost 500 years of my life.
-Staying too long on Facebook made my life shittier in general. This is a statement backed with the following objective facts:
You are comparing your sad boring little life to all of your friends’ highlight reel when reading the newsfeed.
This didn’t seem apparent to me as I previously thought my life was genuinely shittier than others. Then came the day when my cousin messaged me simply to tell me she has been reading my Facebook feed as it is quite interesting. This led to yet another shameful procrastination spiral down my own profile, and to my surprise, I found my own online persona quite intriguing as well.
No one’s life is boring on Facebook. Your real life, however, often is.
Facebook also shows you all the absurdity and unfairness in the world even when most of the time, they don’t matter to your life at all.
When I read about wars happening and governments abusing their power, I feel sad. The fact that only memes made me laugh (or, more accurately, breathe air through my nose) made the whole situation looks even more pathetic and sad. However, most of the content on social media, be it news or memes, are unnecessary in our lives. So previously, I have been going through a ton unnecessary brain processing and feeling shitty for mostly nothing. Now I am just going to be a happy irresponsible individual who knows nothing.
Giving thousands of Facebook reactions seemed fun at first, but slowly your emotions swing along with the reactions.
I began to laugh along the haha react and feel sad while giving the sad react. If reading a post takes 3 second, and each post yields different reactions, using Facebook for one hour may cause thousands of little emotional ups-and-downs. Reading and reacting like this probably prompted my brain to react to every little thing around me in my daily life, clouding the rational decision maker in my brain with irrational decisions; it also made me feel numb at the end of the day. I lost the ability to feel happy when something genuinely great happens.
Facebook taps into our creepy side where we secretly wish that we have the superpower to be invisible and follow people.
The side where we wish to put a infinite pause in our own lives and marvel at the miracles in other people’s lives.
Where we also hope to spot the cracks in other people’s seemingly perfect, carefully curated lives, in order to prove that, underneath the perfection, we are all just the same.
I got addicted to reading Facebook profiles, because it gives me the illusion of control, that I have God-like powers which allow me look at everything everyone has done, is doing and will do, and zoom into every detail whenever I please.
Until I realise the people I care about isn’t on Facebook.
Until I realise those people probably didn’t care about me.
These two thoughts made me move the Facebook app to the trash bin.
After ditching Facebook… the app
Notice how I put “the app” at the end of the title line, because I was technically still using Facebook, just not as compulsively. My Facebook account was still there. I still have my Facebook messenger on my phone because it is a cool app for sending gifs and I have 50 ongoing conversations on the app. They needed to stay.
How I felt
The morning after I ditched Facebook, I woke up, checked my phone, and felt this immense nothingness in my chest. Well, probably it was just a sign of Facebook addiction withdrawal. Let’s continue to call it immense nothingness.
Two days later, I gave in. I checked my Facebook feed using Chrome, but I couldn’t react to anything because I told my friends that I was going to quit Facebook for 21 days for a blog post, and reacting to anything would signify that I had used Facebook, which would be very uncool. There were 62 notifications. I checked some of them and none are about me. They were all highlights from different Facebook groups I joined. Annoyed, I started googling how to stop event and groups notifications. That’s when I realised that 62 unread notifications could have been a really cool thing to show off in the Medium post, and I just lost it.
I spent the next three days reading a huge part of the book I wanted to finish, and figured out that wanting to show off everything interesting is actually pretty dumb anyways.
My mood gradually improved in the next few weeks; I have more time to focus on solving my problems on hand, and I experienced the delight brought forth by just not knowing things. I was on the metro with my family one day, and my mum pointed at the LED news screen and told me a legislator had died. I literally squealed in delight because this is useless information and I didn’t know before she told me. There are just way less reasons to feel sad and angry without Facebook.
What I did
I am not sure whether binge watching a season of House of Cards in one sitting without being disturbed by phone checking is worth celebrating or not.
I also scrolled through several people’s Facebook profile with Chrome until I reached the bottom, again.
Ditching Facebook for 21 days is indeed an attention detox. In the first week, I would have the giddy urge to post interesting things immediately on Facebook, only to realise the sharing button was not there anymore. That’s when I started taking photos on my phone instead. What happened were recorded and not shared. No one could judge me.
A lot of time was saved from reading well-curated posts and wallowing in self-hatred.
The biggest emotional change was brought forth by removing one of the “Not again!” moments in the morning. Prior to deleting the Facebook app, I would get 18 notifications on my phone when I woke up and checked the time. Now I was greeted with sweet nothing.
What you should do to your Facebook app
If you have a short attention span, often feel paranoid for no reason and is using Facebook, I recommend you delete the app from your phone for a while.
If you want to focus on the now but keep wallowing in your memories, I recommend you delete the app from your phone for a while.
If you have a big project you want to finish, I recommend you delete the app from your phone. Writing this article takes way more time that I expected as I downloaded the app right after 21 days and I have checked my phone five times while writing this section. Crap.
Whenever you get a push notification from a group, stop everything you are doing and click on the notification. The button will take you to the group, and you can read “group information” and turn the annoying notifications off. If there are highlights from a group, you will read them in your feed anyways.
Hopefully I can stop wasting my time on Facebook memes.
(But I will keep spotting dogs. No one can take that from me.)