Paul Berens

Farewell, Facebook

Too many people have already ditched Facebook for me to be awarded any cool points, but when I asked myself why I was still on—rather, when Van did—I had trouble coming up with very good reasons. And now the emergence of the Facebook Files this week sort of breaks the camel’s back for me.

Why I joined (back in ‘07)

Why I stayed

Why leave?

Just the typical litany

I guess I don’t really have >1k friends

I genuinely like people a lot…and like a lot of people. The institutions and communities I’ve been fortunate to be a part of have surrounded me with endlessly wonderful humans. And as much as I hope to get to know everyone on the deepest level in the next life, I’m afraid I subscribe to the concept of Dunbar’s Number (i.e. we’re capable of managing relationships—staying in contact at least once per year and knowing how friends relate to others—with roughly 150 people). That sad reality of there being more fabulous folks out there than opportunity and ample time to nurture relationships with them suggests the need for intentionality with friendships and relationships (“slow ripening fruit,” as Aristotle characterizes it; at odds, perhaps, with the FB concept of “friending”). But survey data suggests people are losing their close friends, particularly we men6.

Not intending to become a hermit

The last thing I want is to discourage interaction; just want to do it on my/our own terms—not those of $FB.

I’ve already been running my own personal experiment for some time now to see if I can abstain from Facebook/Instagram for the purpose of personal wellness and all of the other ills enumerated above, and I’ve been broadly successful, I think (logging in only occasionally, deleting apps from my phone, etc.), so I think I’m good on the self-discipline front. But having active profiles gives the impression one’s still available but just (annoyingly) unresponsive to posts, messenger pings, etc. So it’s time to throw the steering wheel out the window and commit to other media…

Still reachable by pigeon post

So please do still be in touch; and here’s how:

Updating the rolodex 📇

Another sticky aspect of Facebook is its fine ability to serve as a mega-rolodex. I’ve got a pretty good one going in Google Contacts; it just requires me to obtain and stay up-to-date on your info, s’il vous plaît:

Anyway, that’s all. Hopefully this doesn’t come across as supercilious, and I’m not trying to dunk on FB/Instagram (or my dear buds who work there); this is simply my attempt to articulate my why and how of disconnecting in case others are looking for an off-ramp.

Adieu, Friends IRL 👋! I have too grieved a heart to take a tedious leave.

— ᴘ. ᴍ. ʙ.

  1. I remember my friend Meera observing the strangeness of this after a college reunion, noting how bizarre it was that everyone was up to date on everyone else’s news and all the gossip—of acquaintances, mind you; not close buds—before the reunion had even begun. (It’s hard to remember how odd this was at the time…before it was normalized.) 

  2. Makes body image issues worse in one in three teen girls when they perceive everyone else to be “living their best lives”. As a fella with young nieces and a daughter on the way, no me gusta. Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show 

  3. A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel 

  4. One political party’s team shifted their content from 50% negative to 80% negative because 2018 algorithm changes rewarded outrage. Political parties told Facebook its News Feed pushed them into ‘more extreme positions’ 

  5. Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart 

  6. The number of American men who view themselves as having “no close friends” quintupled over the last 30 years, increasing from 3 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2021. (Survey Center on American Life) 

  7. To the unending chagrin of my mother…🤘🤘 

  8. I still have Twitter, which is maybe hypocritical, though I’d argue it’s less toxic and has greater utility. (But who knows, maybe I’ll take Balaji Srinivasan’s advice and eventually exit Twitter, too.) 

  9. Mastodon and the fediverse should be the answer to social media’s ills, but…network externalities ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

  10. As newsletters/blogs are becoming more prevalent maybe this old-school, user-controlled technology is the answer (and then antidote to the monolithic social media-controlled feeds). I’m trying to migrate my content to it (via Feedly). 

First published: 2021-09-29

← back to all posts