I Deleted 90% of my Facebook Connections for my Mental Health
I’m an old-timer on Facebook. I remember being a sophomore when Facebook first opened up to my college in 2004. Yes, I’m “Back in the day, you needed to have an .edu email account to get FB” old. There wasn’t much to the site back then other than a bunch of disconnected profiles that you could randomly friend and then “poke” (don’t ask….). There also was no such thing as a newsfeed, or a Facebook wall. Fast forward seventeen years and Facebook is a behemoth of a site with over 2.7 BILLION active uses a month.
People share everything on Facebook. Like… ever-y-thing. And I get it. Facebook, and social media in general is addicting as hell. In fact, it’s purposefully built that way. Former execs from Facebook have fully admitted to doing everything they can to make their platform addicting. Every like, share, comment, retweet etc. is a dopamine hit to your system. Not familiar with dopamine? It’s the same chemical reaction that happens when someone takes a substance like cocaine. Essentially, it is a chemical that is associated with pleasure-seeking behavior which makes it at risk for addiction and abuse. Ie… you can become addicted to Facebook (or social media in general)
My Addiction to Facebook
It sounds like such a strange thing to admit to, but I was addicted to Facebook. Over the span of 17 years, I changed and evolved right alongside the platform, adding more pictures and stories about myself, adding more and more people to my friend list, and scrolling an endless newsfeed filled with everything under the sun. This year, everything came to a head though. Everyone I’d added over the past 17 years was getting to be a bit much.
It started with finding a conspiracy theory, posted by a co-worker from a restaurant job I’d had in college. Then it was a mask vs. anti-mask post made by a cousin twice removed. When I see stuff that is flat out wrong, or harmful, I’m going to jump in. That then led to me getting into debates with people I didn’t know who also happened to be friends with my cousin’s boyfriend’s neighbor’s friend (ok, not really, but a lot of my FB connections are so old and random, it might as well have been). I’d drop my “truth bomb” on the thread of a Facebook friend I’d met once at a networking event and then I’d close my phone and go back to work. Five minutes later, my fingers would start itching for my phone because I HAD to see what cousin’s boyfriend’s sister’s nanny (or whatever) said back to me. I was getting in literal debates with strangers and it was causing me anxiety AND taking time away from work, time with my family, Still I Run, etc. I was missing what was going on outside because my nose was always in my phone.
In 2020, my Facebook feed became a friggen landmine. Every other story on my feed was about social injustice, COVID, or the Presidential election. Inevitably, there would be something about those topics that I vehemently disagreed with and I just HAD to chime in. This then led to fights with actual friends and family. It was making me an angry person not just online, but to my family in real life. So at the beginning of October, I deactivated Facebook.
Deactivation Wasn’t Working
I deactivated Facebook for two weeks and it was NICE. I felt way more carefree and happy. The deactivation wasn’t working for me though and it wasn’t because I missed Facebook. It was because I rely on Facebook to manage Still I Run’s Facebook page, group, and ads. I’m also a part of several Facebook groups for non-profits and I rely on those groups for best practices and advice. With Facebook deactivated, I couldn’t access any of that. There was also the issue of family. Facebook has been a fantastic way to quickly share photos of my growing kiddos. So what was I to do? Deactivation wasn’t an option, but going back to the way things were wasn’t an option either.
I finally came to the conclusion that I could better control my experience on Facebook. Facebook is for ME, right? Why not cater it to how I want it to be? Just because Joe Smith was a partner on a project for a convention I went to in 2010, didn’t mean I still needed to be “friends” with Joe on Facebook.
A Facebook Dump was the Key
So I did a mass dump of Facebook connections. ( And I say “dump of Facebook connections” because I really hate the term “defriend”. That shouldn’t even be a term!) Knowing that I wanted to use Facebook for Still I Run purposes and also to share family photos and news with family, I literally went from 1250 friends to 80. Everyone that I’m connected to now is either a SIR ambassador/volunteer, SIR resource, family member, current colleague I admire, or a close friend.
I also went through and “unfollowed” every Facebook friend connection I have in Facebook. That means, even though I’m connected to 80 people, I never see what they post unless I go directly to their page. Today, my newsfeed is filled with posts from Still I Run, running brands, mental health pages/groups, non-profit resources, and a few other random brands (I mean where else am I going to learn about awesome loungewear if I don’t follow Wantable).
Now, when I visit Facebook, I got there for the explicit purpose of Still I Run work or sharing baby photos with family members. Even though I’m itching to share the latest article about equality or the Presidential election on my Facebook profile, I don’t. I only post about Still I Run. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to control my social media experience and use it for the purpose of GOOD.
The One Downside
There is one downside to drastically cutting down your Facebook list and that’s when people who you were previously connected with reach out. They always ask what they did wrong and/or ask what it was that they said that offended me. I so wish that wasn’t the immediate go-to because I feel bad that for even one second, I made them think they did something wrong. It’s nothing anyone did wrong. To me, it’s just the collective culture of social media as a whole. We’ve gone so far over into the “I’m-going-to-shout-my-opinion-at-the-masses” and the “I’m-going-to-make-a-rude-comment-because-I’m-behind-a-keyboard” zone that I personally cannot take it right now.
My mental health comes first in this world and that’s not selfish of me. I have always been of the belief that we can’t take care of others if we don’t put on our oxygen mask on first. My passion in life (aside from my family and running), is growing Still I Run and defeating the mental health stigma. If I don’t take care of myself first though, I can’t help others. So for me, deleting 90% of my Facebook friends wasn’t bad; it was me putting on my oxygen mask.