Two Young Digital Designers Quit Facebook For a Month (Now They Wonder Why Go Back)
What would you do without Facebook? The social network has carved its way so deep through all aspects of our modern existence that many can’t even fathom life without it. The recent backlash of the company's handling of private data has led to the #DeleteFacebook movement. Yet, the tech giant still boasts over 2 billion active users. But Michael and Maria had other motives to quit it for a month.
You’ve probably heard of Dry January – when people give up booze following the usual excessive winter holidays. It’s a clean slate to start a new year in shape. But at the beginning of 2019, it wasn’t drinking that two of our students vowed to ban for a month. Instead, they kept away from Facebook. They went as far as deleting the app and messenger and even blocking it on their web-browser.
It’s probably something you wouldn’t expect from a generation raised on social media, and, especially, from two designers working in the digital world.
In this blogpost, they share their motivations and findings.
Maria: “I don’t really miss Facebook in my life”
I think I started Facebook in 2007 or 2008. In the beginning I was using it quite a lot. I wasn’t just following others but I was also posting a few things of my own. But most recently, I would check it once a day, scrolled through it, but wasn’t sharing anything. It was mostly for events. The student dorm where I live makes announcements there, so it’s handy to check it out once in a while. And it’s also quite useful for birthdays.
However, I did use the messenger service to keep in touch with three friends of mine who live abroad.
Facebook has become so huge and there is basically no competition, so they have a lot of power. Still, despite my concerns, I continued using it.
Lately, I have become more concerned about my privacy and how my data is used. Especially after the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. It makes you think; it makes you worry. Facebook has become so huge and there is basically no competition, so they have a lot of power. Still, despite my concerns, I continued using it.
When Michael said he was doing no Facebook during January, I decided to join him as part of an experiment. I wanted to know what was it that I would miss from it. I’m not talking about F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out), but which features from the app would I actually miss using in my life.
I still haven’t decided if I’m quitting it for good.
So, before January, I noted down all the birthdays for the month ahead and asked the three friends I communicated with through messenger to move to Whatsapp - which is also owned by Facebook, so I don’t know how much sense that makes if you want to step away from Facebook as a company. For my ‘January’ it was only about Facebook as a network.
But theoretically, now I could get rid of my account. January is long due and I still haven’t gone back. Perhaps I have missed something important from my student dorm or maybe a friend posted something really interesting and I don’t know anything about it because I haven’t gone back. Other than that, I don’t really miss Facebook in my life.
But I still haven’t decided if I’m quitting it for good. It’s difficult. Facebook and companies that are related to it, like Whatsapp and Instagram, don’t have so many competitors. You also need the people around you to use the same social networks, so that makes it difficult not to be present in these big ones. I would like there to be more variety in the services we’d like to use.
Michael: “I wanted to find some Kairos time”
I don’t use many social networks in general. I don’t have an Instagram account, neither do I use Twitter. I only use Facebook, to be honest, and some inspiring social networks like Pinterest and Behance to aid my design process.
I use Facebook mostly for events and stuff that has to do with school and work. People’s status or notifications of companies or ads, that’s not really of interest to me.
So to start with, I don’t think I’m a heavy consumer. Yet, I found myself lost in a lifeless state of mind, scrolling through my Facebook timeline everyday while on the train or even when I went to the loo.
To be honest, it wasn’t hard to resist the urge to log into Facebook and scroll through.
In November, I was at a Design Ethics Conference, where I did a workshop with Amber Case. She talked about Chronos and Kairos time. Basically, Chronos time is our everyday time; a concept of time that is not relative to us but something humanity defined and collectively accepted to be able to communicate with each other, the clock on the wall. Kairos time is relative to you and it’s a kind of time when you don’t pay attention to the future or past; it’s always in the present and you’re just experiencing what’s there.
I had recently started out with meditation, in a quest for managing stress and reviving a healthy lifestyle. I discovered how I had completely banned all of my potential Kairos time over the last few years. So, I set a new personal challenge – finding Kairos time - and shutting down Facebook for a month was part of that. And, to be honest, it wasn’t hard to resist the urge to log into Facebook and scroll through.
I felt like an old lady looking to establish a connection with strangers.
Since January, I take five to ten minutes to just observe people on the train. It’s quite funny because everyone is on their phones for the whole trip. It felt a bit uncomfortable sometimes, being the only one who’s not part of that culture. I felt like an old lady looking to establish a connection with strangers. They’re used to talking to strangers – and I believe there are good things to take from these kinds of conversations - and they’re not used to isolate themselves with technology. But it’s very hard to reach out to someone who is in their own world all the time. Of course, I respect that too because I also like my own time. Still, as young as I am, I found myself longing for a more offline social culture, like in the old days. When I finally went back on Facebook, there were 35 notifications and only one of them was important – even that is subjective because it was about a concert of a band I really like and I missed the ticket sale. But other than that, there were only ads and notifications like ‘a friend of a friend likes something,’ which I don’t care about at all. It made me realize that it is perfectly fine to stop for a month and actually to delete my account if I would want to.
I’m not deleting it though, because of two things: I have a band page and bandmates are counting on me to use it to reach out to our fans or to get us booked. The other reason is because I have some friends around the world and I can only contact them through Facebook. There is, of course, the option to message them and ask for their phone number, but I’m not a fan of having a huge contact list on my phone and not knowing who this person is in five years.
For me the challenge has always been to find some Kairos time and not scrolling through my Facebook timeline was part of that. This challenge has done its part but it’s just small bits of getting there. So is meditation and other things that might come up in the future. I very much enjoyed this challenge and I’d definitely like to challenge myself again sometime.