Need to Reevaluate Your Relationship With Facebook? This Might Help.
If you followed along on Instagram at the time it was happening, then you already know I reevaluated my relationship with Facebook recently, but if you’re new here (hello!), I’m sharing the story—as well as the deliberate process I undertook—in this post, in case it proves helpful for you too.
I learned from the DMs and comments I received when sharing my process that many of us are in a place of needing or wanting to reevaluate our relationship with Facebook. (Or any social platform, really; it doesn’t have to be Facebook.) We’re trying to figure out what place we want these platforms to have in our lives. And so I’m sharing my process with you here—what I considered, what I found helpful, the questions I asked myself, and what I noticed and found interesting—in case it serves your own process of decision.
Before we dive in, you may find these two resources helpful as a starting point:
This IGTV video that shares some of my preliminary thoughts about why this is a complex topic and decision, especially when it comes to Facebook
This free PDF worksheet I created to help you work through your own layers of decision
Please know this: I see this as a highly personal decision dependent on factors unique to your life and your intentions. Know that through this post, I’m not prescribing what you should do with your online accounts or presence, nor am I assuming the factors I weigh will be the same factors you do. It is my hope that by making available my own threads of exploration and discovery with this, as well as this worksheet that can help you sift through your deeper truths related to this decision, you’ll find the answers you need for your own beautiful, important life.
So, here we go.
The first thing I want to share is that the process of evaluating our relationship with Facebook is way more nuanced than we give it credit for. We tend to experience this decision in two steps:
We notice a problem. This usually comes in the form of thoughts like this: I don’t like this platform. I get agitated every time I’m here. I wish I didn’t have to be here. Do I have to be here? I hardly come on here anymore anyway. But if I leave, X Y or Z might happen. What should I do?
We look for a solution. This usually comes in the form of the many options regularly discussed and presented for this, such as: Hiding all the people we disagree with or barely know. Installing a browser extension to filter our newsfeed based on our preferences. Bookmarking our personal profile so we only visit to post updates we want to share, thus avoiding the newsfeed. Bookmarking our favorite groups so we go directly there, thus bypassing the newsfeed another way. Installing a browser extension that eradicates the newsfeed completely. Unfriending everyone outside a carefully defined set of family and friends. Limiting our visits to certain days and times. Deactivating or deleting our account.
I cycled through these possibilities for months—and not for the first time, either. I’d deactivated my account one time previously, eventually returning so I could provide a Facebook presence for my company, Bookwifery, but I didn’t stay very present after I returned, mainly because I didn’t enjoy being on Facebook.
During this recent evaluation period, I brought more intention to the process than I had the previous time. That’s when I discovered the decision is way more nuanced than the “have a problem; look for a solution” approach we usually apply in these moments—or, at least, it can be more nuanced and it can take us deeper if we let it. (And I decided I really want to let it do that for me. Maybe you do too.)
So, let’s talk about the deeper level of invitation that’s available here. I think it’s about what we have the opportunity to notice when we pause and pay attention to what’s really going on for us with this.
So often our lack of contentment with Facebook swims around in the back of our mind or on the periphery, mainly coming up when we’re on the platform itself. But our thoughts are quick and fleeting there, leaving us with a vague sense of dissatisfaction afterward, and maybe even fear, but not often getting resolved.
I think these thoughts and questions rarely get resolved because of the quick and fleeting nature of them in the moment but also because of the ways fear can quickly shut them down. Rarely do we grab hold of all that’s running through our mind and body in those moments to actually look at what they’re saying and evaluate it.
But what if we did?
For example, let’s take one of the fleeting thoughts I shared above—the one that said, But if I leave, X Y or Z might happen. From experience, I can say those X, Y, and Z thoughts flashed through my mind in many tiny moments whenever I was on Facebook and felt frustrated by what I saw or experienced. I would think, I wish I could leave Facebook. But if I leave, X Y or Z might happen. And whatever I named as X, Y, or Z in that moment would prompt a jolt of fear that was enough for me to drop that train of thought like a hot potato. I’d put the whole thing down for yet another day, unexamined.
During this time of evaluation, I let myself sit with those jolts of fear instead—even name them out loud—and then examined them. I started with the question, Why am I struggling with the decision to leave Facebook, or at least to change the way I use it? In response, I wrote down:
I’m afraid of offending or hurting people.
I feel like other people have a right to own and control my decision more than I do, and they would want me to stay. (This was weird to name out loud! But also something I experience as deeply true.)
If I stop letting Facebook be the place where people in my life learn what’s going on with me, I’ll have to be responsible for maintaining real relationships instead. (That one hurt to name to myself!)
If I leave Facebook, I may not know people had babies, got married or divorced, moved across the country, or got different jobs.
I’m afraid that leaving Facebook could negatively impact my work and possible connections in the future.
Wowza! That’s a whole lot of truth and shadow work right there!
See how taking the time to really look at our fears and thoughts can reveal a lot we may not otherwise realize is controlling our decision or indecision? Now that I knew what was actually there, I could go a step further with all of it. I asked myself:
Do I want to let my fear of offending people keep me from making a decision that’s right for me?
Do I want to keep ceding ownership of my life to what I perceive other people want me to be and do?
What kind of person do I want to be in my relationships, really?
Do I need to know about every job change, change of relationship status, or move across the country? How important is this information to me?
Do I want to let a scarcity mindset rule the decisions I make for my business?
Decisions become easier when we’re looking at the truth and the questions the truth raises for us. That’s what the worksheet is meant to help you do: name your own truth and then assess what it raises for you.
TIME TO CLAIM IT
Now that we’re being honest with ourselves, I find it helpful to next determine how we use Facebook. Are we using it for personal reasons, in order to keep up with friends and family? For business purposes, in order to advance the work that’s ours to do in the world right now? For both?
I encourage you to let yourself answer this question before continuing on in your process because every other decision you make will flow from it.
On that note, I can tell you one big reason for my ongoing unhappiness at Facebook was that I’d been trying to use it for both (some personal and some business) without fully committing to either one. That went a long way toward explaining a lot of the fuzziness, angst, and ambivalence I’d been carrying around inside. What, really, was I doing there? What did I want to do there?
If I was going to stay, I needed to decide my reasons for being there and then go all in on those reasons.
And for me, in this season of my life, the only thing that could get my all in response in this context was the work I’m here to do in the world. Contrary to what used to be true for me, these days I’m not on social platforms to share my days in a free-flowing, informal way or to keep up with the free-flowing, informal days of the people I know. I’m there to share a message through the work that’s mine to do, and I’m there to connect with people who resonate with that work. I’m also there to connect with others who are doing beautiful, light-infused things with their lives.
Given all this, it seemed clear that if I was going to stay on Facebook, it would have to be for professional reasons more than personal ones. The question was: What might that look like?
When it came to using Facebook with intention, I thought I’d heard every option under the sun for making it work for you. But a couple months ago, I encountered a woman whose approach was totally new to me. She said she went “friendless” on Facebook years ago (which she sometimes referred to as going “scorched earth”) in order to use her account solely for business purposes, and she has never looked back. She zeroed out her friends list completely, shares and interacts only on her professional Facebook page and in groups she belongs to, and absolutely loves being on Facebook as a result.
One reason she loves it now, she says, is because her newsfeed is only posts from the groups she belongs to. (No friends = no newsfeed posts from people Facebook calls your friends.)
Another reason she loves it is because every time she visits Facebook, she knows she’s there for work. This infuses her time spent there with focus and purpose. Facebook is part of her work life, and that’s it. It’s a tool she uses for the work she does.
(The woman who shared this, by the way, is the showbiz coach Bonnie Gillespie. She’s written two posts to share her take on why she did this and how she did it. The more recent overview post is here. The older how-to post is here.)
LET’S DEFINE FRIENDSHIP
I sat with Bonnie’s approach for a long time, wondering if I wanted to do it too. It was one thing to stay on Facebook and commit to a professional presence. It was another thing to stay but completely delete my friends list. Considering Bonnie’s approach brought me straight to the door of friendship.
I started to ask myself, What does it mean for Facebook to identify someone as my friend? And what do I mean by friendship?
To address these questions, I made a list of the different categories of people I was connected with on Facebook—people the platform considered my “friends.” Here’s what went on the list:
People I serve now
People I used to serve
Family members included my family of origin, aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws. (Since my husband isn’t on social media and we don’t have children, this category didn’t include immediate family for me.)
Old friends were people I knew in elementary school, high school, or college, as well as people I knew when I lived in different places, belonged to other churches, or held different jobs.
Current friends were people I was in active relationship with now, either in real life or online.
Professional colleagues were people I’d met as a result of my work as a small business owner, some of whom I considered friends, some acquaintances, and some mentors or sources of inspiration.
Fringes were people I didn’t really know. When they showed up in my feed, I didn’t know who they were. Maybe they friended me because of a mutual friend we shared in common. Maybe they followed my work at Bookwifery but I’d never interacted with them directly. Maybe we belonged to the same Facebook group and they friended me outside the group, even though we’d not interacted much.
People I used to serve mainly included those I met and served through my work at Still Forming.
I found this list so helpful. Now I could see what I would miss if I zeroed out my friends list to follow Bonnie’s example or left Facebook altogether. It invited me to consider: Who were the people I’d miss seeing the most if I did either of those things? And were there other ways I could stay connected to those people that would satisfy me just as much, if not more?
One of the first things I noticed was that many of the folks I enjoyed connecting with most on Facebook were also active on Instagram. If I wanted to stay connected to them, I could, since Instagram is my favorite social channel and I have zero plans to leave it.
Those who weren’t on Instagram, though, whose connection I would miss if I left Facebook or shifted to a purely professional use of it forced me to reckon with this statement: Let’s define friendship. It forced me to ask: What does friendship mean to me? What place do I want friendship to have in my life right now? Who gets to be considered a friend, and in what ways am I willing to show up for my friends in real ways, outside Facebook?
Here again I had to acknowledge that, in some places of my life, I was using Facebook as a passive stand-in for relationship. Was I willing to change that for the people who mattered to me?
(For the record, I decided I was.)
WHAT DID I WANT FROM FACEBOOK?
Having decided I was okay losing my “friends” list in favor of a solely professional presence on Facebook, I now had to ask if I actually wanted to stay on Facebook for purely professional reasons. If I did, what would that look like?
Which led to more questions, like: Given that my professional endeavors right now include Bookwifery but also go beyond it, would this mean creating and maintaining separate Facebook pages for each individual project? Slimming it all down to one professional page under my own name? What would be my reason for doing any of these options? And what kinds of things would I want to do in those places?
I figured the “how many Facebook pages” question and the larger “do I want to stay here” question depended on what I’d use my Facebook presence to do if I stayed, so it was time to make another list.
This time I asked, “Why would I want to stay?”
I got really honest with myself and listed reasons that came from pure desire and reasons that came from fear and the “maybe someday” place—in other words, the answers I listed were not created equal, nor were they equal in virtue. But here’s what went on the list:
Sharing links and thoughts
Sharing others’ work
Running ads. This fell under the category of “maybe someday.” Maybe someday I’ll want to run ads for Bookwifery on Facebook or Instagram. A professional Facebook page is required to do either of those things.
But then I had to ask: How long was I willing to go on saying “maybe someday” (I’d already been saying it for several years) while in the meantime continuing to host a business page I rarely used that, despite my rarely using it, continued to take up psychic energy in my life? I felt less and less willing to let this “maybe someday” thinking play a role in my decision. It wasn’t a strong enough reason, by itself, to keep a professional Facebook page.
Sharing links and thoughts. This fell under the “desire” category because it’s what I’d most loved about using Facebook over the years. In years past, Facebook had always been a great place for me to write and share thoughts that weren’t quite at the level of blog posts but went beyond brief updates and observations. Additionally, I enjoyed finding and passing along articles and other items of interest I found online that I thought others would also enjoy. I noticed my willingness to share the kind of thoughts and observations on Facebook that I did, in addition to those pass-along finds, tended to foster meaningful conversations and connections. People often told me when they met me in person that they loved following my Facebook updates because of the depth and thoughtfulness of things I shared.
But then I had to ask: Was Facebook the only place I could share those things? I’d just made the decision to return to blogging; I could certainly share those deeper thoughts and interesting finds there. Additionally, I host a valuable community for Bookwifery called the Bookwifery Collective and am in the process of creating another beautiful community called the Light House right now. Wouldn’t I much rather share any in-depth reflections and helpful or interesting finds with the people in those communities? I started to realize this didn’t have to happen on Facebook. (This was a hugely helpful realization for me.)
Greater reach. Here’s a place where the fear piped up. The fear said that if I go off Facebook, I’ll lose access to a place where literally billions of people hang out regularly, no small amount of whom are likely to be in my target audience for Bookwifery and the Light House. Additionally, the “share” feature on Facebook is powerful. If you offer valuable content on Facebook, people often share it, which creates greater reach for your work. But if you’re not there to put your ideas and work in front of people, they may not share it, which means your work isn’t as likely to reach as many people.
But then I had to ask: Did I want to let the fear of lesser reach motivate my decision to stay? And was my own Facebook presence really required for people to share something of value they found in what I did? Probably not. (I was greatly helped in my thinking on this by this article by Jason Zook.)
Sharing others’ work. Lastly, when I thought of things I would truly enjoy doing on Facebook if I stayed, sharing others’ work made the list. This goes back to what I shared above about how I enjoy sharing cool or interesting or thoughtful or inspiring things I find on the internet. When I think about my tagline and mission statement for this space, exhibiting light, the same enthusiasm runs through it. If I stayed on Facebook, it could be fun to showcase amazing people and the beautiful, creative things they’re doing in the world.
But then I had to ask, yet again: Was Facebook the only place this could happen? I could do this same kind of showcasing on Instagram. I could also do it on this blog. I could do it inside the Bookwifery Collective and the Light House too. (Not to mention that the Bear the Light podcast is coming to life for this specific purpose!)
After all of this naming of what I’d do if I stayed, I found it interesting to notice that none of my reasons for staying on Facebook had anything to do with cultivating real connection and relationship with people in the spaces I would be hosting on Facebook. I think that’s because I’d not experienced my Facebook page to be a place that easily fostered relationship and depth of connection. This felt easier and more natural to do on Instagram the last couple years.
Could that change if I tried to change it? Maybe. But all the items listed above and how I’d begun to analyze them were tipping me in the direction of leaving Facebook entirely.
FINALLY, TIME AND FOCUS
The thing that cinched my decision to leave Facebook, as I shared in the IGTV video, was the reality of time and focus. I’ve given a lot of myself to Instagram in the last two years. I’ve built relationships there. I know the kinds of things I like to share. I feel a sense of community. Also, on the more technical side, I’ve learned what my voice sounds like. I know my aesthetic. I’ve figured out how I like to use Instagram Stories. And I’ve learned how this tool fits into my work and my life.
Not to mention that, overall, I just really like it.
Bringing that same level of focus and the same amount of time it has required to a second platform in order for it to thrive too—and for a platform I don’t enjoy that much? I just couldn’t imagine doing that.
This is what led, quickly, to a hard no for me. It was time to say goodbye to Facebook.
And so I did.
I deactivated my personal account and unpublished my business page on Facebook a few weeks ago. So far, besides the few times early on when I had the impulse to check the app (only to remember it was no longer on my phone) when I found myself in a bored moment, I haven’t missed it—not that my impulse to scroll Facebook while in a bored moment constitutes actually missing it!
I’ve given myself permission to change my mind at some point in the future, as I hope you feel the same freedom and permission to do with any decision you make, should your circumstances change and an old decision no longer proves to be the right and best thing for you anymore.
For now, this is what’s right and best for me.
What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’d like to message me here or on IG! And if you’d like to use the free worksheet to process your own decision related to this, I pray you find it a useful tool.