Facebook just isn't fun anymore, and you've thought about quitting. But the social media juggernaut can come in handy for people who write stories about people, and then want people to read them. Facebook can be a great vehicle for promoting yourself, and a tool for finding sources for articles. Here's why I bailed anyway.
When it's time to quit something, you just know. I wasn't spending all my time on Facebook; no intervention was at work. But the Facebook tab that was always open in my browser constantly wanted something from me, and I'm not the type to leave a notification unchecked. Most of the time, it was nothing: Lucky Slots requests from my friend's mom or some birthday calendar thing. My newsfeed had become a political propaganda vehicle for people who don't know anything about politics, and worse, a platform for butchered memes. Facebook was making me really, really annoyed. I thought about drastically culling my friends list and jacking up my privacy settings, but I knew that wouldn't work for me. It was time to go.
I worked through most of the reasons to stay with relative ease: all my best friends are on GChat, I'll put my travel photos somewhere else and use Instagram for snapshots, the good post-high school drama happened years ago, and if I really need to find somebody, I'll find them — I didn't work as an investigator for a year for nothing. What remained was an issue of self-promotion. It felt so good to post my work — as well as quick observations — and watch the likes pile up. So good, in fact, that it made me feel guilty. I was careful about only posting the stories I was especially proud of so as not to spam my friends. I knew that it was usually the same people, my core group of friends and supporters, that were liking my stuff. I also knew, from shortening URLs and checking their stats, that of my 475 friends, about ten were clicking. Often, more people clicked "like" than the link itself.
What I justified as an effort to promote myself as a writer was actually a repeated request for approval from friends whose approval I already have; friends I would feel comfortable sharing my articles with via email.
Still, taking the plunge was scary, so I sought input from a good friend who'd recently quit. What he told me was the nail in my Facebook account's coffin: "Wasn't it you that told me that by quitting Facebook, I would be motivated to promote myself seriously, e.g. submitting articles for publication, or dedicating yourself to a professional blog, rather that just writing humorous, one sentence status updates?"
Yes, I did say that, in an embarrassing testament to how easy it is to hand out sage advice without applying it to yourself. With its easily-obtained pats on the back, Facebook is a distraction from the real challenge: getting people you don't know to read what you write.
So it was settled, but there was still some housekeeping to attend to. I had six years of my life on there that I didn't want to lose. Thankfully, Facebook offers an option to download a .zip file of all your photos, status updates and messages. (You can find it under account settings.)
There was one more obstacle. At work, I run a Facebook fan page and there was no option to maintain it without an account. So, (and here's where the accusations of hypocrisy might come in) I went to a random name generator, set it to Esperanto, and created myself a friendless, all-business alter ego. With my secret account, I can still search for people who could be useful for a story, however with Facebook now charging $1 to message strangers, I'm better off finding other ways to contact sources. And, I confess, I've also been using the account to "like" everything I write, so I don't have to stare at a lonely zero on my articles.
It's been almost a week since I've been off the junk, and I have to say, I don't miss it. It was a long-held habit, and I still find myself thinking in status updates or wanting to upload a selfie from the airport. But when I remember that I can't, I'm relieved.