2012 Sara City Workout California Mania Convention
Facebook and Klout

How disengaging from the world's largest social network made me more social

On February 22, 2012, I embarked on a new way of life: I deactivated my facebook account.  Deactivation is defined as follows by Facebook:

How do I deactivate my account?

When you deactivate your account, your profile (timeline) and all information associated with it disappears from the Facebook service immediately. People on Facebook will not be able to search for you or view any of your information.

If you’d like to come back to Facebook anytime after you’ve deactivated your account, you can reactivate your account by logging in with your email and password. Your profile (timeline) will be restored in its entirety (friends, photos, interests, etc.). Remember that you will need to have access to the login email address for your account in order to reactivate it.

You are probably wondering what motivated me to undertake such drastic measures.  As a long-time and daily dedicated Facebook user, why would I want to severe my ties?  Facebook also serves as the number one referral source for this blog.  Well, my action was based on an emergence of timing and events.  Years ago, I recall a friend who had given up Facebook for the 40 days of Lent.  I was looking for something to give up for Lent this year and Facebook did seem more appealing in that area as compared to giving up Starbucks or chocolate. 

In addition and probably more compelling...so many of my friends and connections on Facebook are involving in the training and triathlon world.  Given my recent skiing injury, I really had no interest in being confronted with all of the activities I could no longer do.  It was just too painful.  Most people who found out when they saw me (either at work @ Zuora or at PAC) were very supportive.  But there are a few people who tend to make things worse with comments such as "Wow, that must totally suck for you" and "You were so active, that is so horrible." Of course, they weren't trying to be mean-spirited but those sentiments don't exactly help you get out of the unhappy mental place I was in.  The idea of being on Facebook and getting this mass sympathy wave due to the injury was extremely unappealing to me.  Therefore, I deactivated the account and removed the app from my iPhone.  I intended to keep this up until the end of Lent and then reassess the situation.

Something (actually a lot of things) happened for me during the ensuing weeks. But specifically to the lack of Facebook in my life, I found that I actually became a more social person. Shocking, I know. I had assumed that being "disconnected" from Facebook would be so isolating and cause me to miss out on so many things within my "social network."  But it really caused the opposite phenomena.  Not being on Facebook motivated me to reach out directly and personally to my friends and social network via more traditional means: email, text and phone (gasp, so shocking).  I really discovered what amazing and supportive friends I have in my life.  Making time to catch up with people directly instead of relying on their "status" updates really provides you with a better sense of how valued the relationship is in your life. 

I also realized how disruptive, annoying and disengaging from the real world having the Facebook app on your mobile device.  Prior to the world ruled by the cell phone, when people were out in public alone, they would have to either just be alone, read something or converse with a stranger.  Today, if you go anywhere and look around, you will just see almost all people staring into their phones instead of engaging in their surroundings.  Waiting in lines is probably the best example. I would do this all of the time.  While waiting, I would check work email, then personal email and then Facebook if no actions were required in the first two.  It's like anything was better than appearing to look like you have nothing to do but wait.

Even worse than disengaging while in public alone is the amount of disengagement when you are actually WITH your friends, family or significant other.  While dining at any restaurant, just look around and check out how many people are more involved in their cell phone than with their present company.  Everyone knows about the multiple studies that show the importance of the sit-down family dinner.  While waiting for Madison to finish her dinner one weeknight a couple weeks ago, I became particularly irritated when John brought out his cell phone and was checking Facebook.  If he been reviewing work email, that would have been more acceptable but Facebook, really - Are the random Facebook updates more important than speaking with your wife and daughter?  NOOOOOO!! :-)

This entire "anti-Facebook" time has been an eye-opening experience for me.  There were some unintended negative consequences of my experiment such as the plummeting of my Klout score from 45 to a mere 13 and leaving John as essentially 'spouseless' in the social media without any photo albums from the past 6 years, since they were all under my account. 

In summary, I do plan on returning to Facebook but I hope to carry my experiences forward and always remember what is truly means to be socially engaged in the world.