I "permanently" deleted my Facebook account right before attending 2014 New Year's Eve party. A few minutes after, I realised I have had not written down the address of the venue and faced a sad reality: I delegated too much of my everyday life to one single actor. Unconsciously. Gradually. And a bit by denial.

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I precautiously write the term permanently because I have no idea what is kept and what is binned by Facebook when an account is deleted. And I mean it, deleted, not deactivated.

tl;dr

I wanted to permanently delete my Facebook account to experience pre-Facebook era friendships.

I do not think it negatively affected my life and rather helped me reduce noise consumption.

Why quitting?

I left France for London almost three years ago. I felt like Facebook was a necessity to keep in touch with my friends. A lot of them still live in my hometown. An increasing proportion of my friends also moved out elsewhere in France and throughout the world. So you know, seems like legit.

In parallel to my gradual settlement in Albion, I started noticing I obliged myself to like statuses and found it harder and harder to comment on them. The kind of feeling you experience when you are not truthful to yourself. I felt culprit of passive liking.

I think I was acting like this for two reasons:

  • I knew Facebook privileged surfacing activities of active users and reciprocally, surfaced my activities more with the people I interacted the most;
  • I did not want my less active friends to become out of sight if I was not interacting enough with them.

All this is self feeding: you encounter activities of people you interact with, forget a bit about the other ones — the ones with whom you interact less with — so they eventually end up appearing even less frequently in your stream etc.

So wait a minute: is my social life that much in the hands of a tool supposed to help keeping in touch with friends? — I do not even talk about growing friendships.

Even though I thought I was controlling my social life and friendships, I realised my social life and friendships were actually organised for me. This is exactly the *difference between easy and simple. It is easy to be on Facebook and carry on. A good friendship is often simple — although individuals can be complex.

I concluded it was a regression from what I used to like Facebook for. So I refused to carry on like this and decided to actively take over how I interacted with my friends.

Goals

By making the decision to leave Facebook through my account deletion, I actively formulated these statements towards myself:

I want to become more active in how I nurture my friendships.

This is because I consider each friendship as a story we write the two of us. Stories are interleaved. What matters is the bond. Which survives thanks to the highest and most genuine level of trust we can both imagine. And not via the quantity of interactions.

I want to reduce the noise and become more focused on what I do.

Not that I do not like interacting on Facebook (actually the experience of it was really good as far as I remember). But I would rather contact and think of a friend on my own rather than by delegating this action to a third party system. Whichever it is.

I want to experience — again — what friendships were prior to Facebook existence.

Because we used to be able to manage friendships anyway. And in 2015 we had a bunch of communication channels: phone messages, WhatsApp, email, snail mail, common friends relay.

Hypothesis

I think I have been reluctant to permanently delete my account for a couple of reasons. Mostly, fear. And Facebook is very good at making you feel guilty of deactivating or deleting your account.

So I had three hypothesis in mind prior to deleting my account.

Deleting a Facebook account does not change anything to my existing friendships.

If I already have genuine friends, why should the move affect how we appreciate each other?

Hunch: it would not affect negatively our friendships.

I lose — partly or entirely — a great discovery channel.

You know, randomly being aware of parties, interesting articles published on the Internets, new music and stumbling on great people.

Hunch: well, we will see.

Some friendships will be less active; our day to day interactions less frequent.

I was quite convinced this would definitely happen. By browsing Facebook every day, it is like gathering at the counter of your local (pub or café) to cheer at each other.

Except it is not really like being at your local. But it gives a feel like it is. And it is easier 'cause you can get your fingers dirty eating a massive bag of crisps at the same time.

Hunch: it does not matter (and we can still have a bag a crisps without dropping crumbs on the keyboard).

So tell me, what happened by the end of 2015?

I clearly remember the three two first feelings I experienced:

  1. being drunk (but hey, it was New Year's Eve, remember?);
  2. a pair of days of guilt and fear — how is it going to turn out?;
  3. a lighthearted sentiment of relief and freedom — extra free time and no unintended actions to subdue myself to, yay!

Small precision though: I generally do not feel a need to talk to plenty of people to feel alive. I also enjoy being and doing stuff on my own, as well as solitude. Social interactions are therefore rather on purpose and bring me a lot of joy.

I think over the year 2015, I ended up:

  • sending more SMS/WhatsApp messages for day to day communications;
  • organising more frequently group activities: week-ends, nights out for a movie, outdoor walks;
  • writing more emails and postcards — I have a big crush for this line;
  • asking more often how people were feeling — it definitely replaced the action of liking a Facebook status;
  • increasing the time needed to reply to messages — from days to months;
  • feeling improved friendships both in London and in France;
  • losing sight of some Facebook non-active friends — especially with those whom I did not have their email addresses;
  • attended less Meetups/conferences/events;
  • not missing out what happened on Facebook — in the end, I do not know what's going on there so I have no way to know what I missed;
  • being happier to see, read and write to friends.

Even though I was less aware of some friends' lives, overall I feel it was rather beneficial than sacrificial. It took a few hours/days/weeks for people to notice I was not on Facebook anymore — I did not warn anybody ahead of time.

A tiny tiny fraction thought I did it against them, that I still had my account but removed them from my friends. They fully understood and felt relieved by knowing I rather deleted my account. Most of them did not care much and either tried to find my email or contact me through other means.

In the end, even if email protocols are probably less secure than messenging each other on Facebook, the communication feels way more intimate via emails or any other one-to-one communication channel. At least that's how I feel about it.

Quick note on the Meetups/conferences/events. It looks like I was tired of less genuine physical gatherings too. I was less interested in engaging with people solely to be polite. I was less interested in events praising complicated and unnecessary tools. If what they provide is not obviously helping me, this is then not something I need.

Maybe we can call it consumption fatigue. Tired of being harangued to try something new, to adopt something which I am told it is better/faster/stronger, to listen to what I have to do to live a better life. I felt it was like entering a Tesco for a discounted minute-ready meal which would make my life easier.

I definitely want a simple life. Not an easy one.

And none of the aforementioned incentives intend to ease up a simple life.

Moar, moar, moar!

I would like to make an emphasis on the time saved by not having to browse Facebook. A time I could dedicate to something else. And the noise I did not have to face to filter out a never ending stream of content.

I wrote about my downscaling process and I somewhat found an extent to it during the midst of 2015.

So in addition of deleting the Facebook app on my phone, I did the following as well:

  • removing all apps I do not use at least weekly;
  • downgrading my mobile phone plan from unlimited to 500MB per month — also because I refused the 33% price increase of the data plan;
  • as a result, switching mobile data on/off to save up on phone bandwidth — plain phone/texts = urgent, rest is asynchronous and not urgent;
  • removing any kind of notifications — I kept Twitter DM because they are not that frequent;
  • deleting my LinkedIn account — oh Gosh, way less spam from terrible recruiters!;
  • deleting my Google+ account;
  • deleting my Flickr account — *in progress though, there is no easy way to backup its content
  • cancelling Spotify subscription — rather switched to podcasts synced over Wi-Fi;
  • cancelling the monthly Oyster payment — rather paying for a weekly travel card if I feel there will be a lot of commute;
  • buying a bike and therefore cycling to work — £50 a month for a bike you own instead of £140 monthly travel card you will never see again, what do you choose?;
  • moving to a quieter location in London — I love my quirky neighbourhood and peaceful walk by the River Lea;
  • binning my Tesco loyalty card.

I cannot say how much I prefer living like this. Not that I was a huge consumer of apps nor notifications but having even less of them feels way better.

I maintained a few number of automatic renewals and subscriptions :

  • GitHub account — I use it enough to pay for it even if I do not need private repos;
  • Tate membership;
  • Charity donations;
  • Website hosting and SSL certificate — no need to say it is needed otherwise you could not read this blog post ;-)

The rest: cancelled. I want to feel the pain of the money transaction and not being lazy about it — even though it is quite tempting to be.

Time is {my,your} most precious resource

You might know I now only work four days a week instead of five. As a result I also earn 20% money less than before. More importantly, I got back 20% additional free time.

In 2015, I earned more time. From work. From off work. It makes every penny I earn more important. I have to spend them differently, more meaningfully. Isn't it José (thanks David for the link :-))?

Conclusion

In December 2015, I did not go to a New Year's Eve party because I wanted to enjoy a peaceful and qualitative time in nature.

In December 2015, I actively shaped the New Year's Eve the way I felt it was right and genuine for me: in a quiet environment, surrounded by nature, rocked by the constant melody of the ocean whilst sharing it with a special person.

I switched off a bunch of social noise. And I am happy with it. Because this is really the only thing I have lost, noise.