If you fear that Facebook—or indeed any social media network—is messing with your mental health then this blog post is for you.
I wanted to start by saying I’m not trying to convince people to leave Facebook, there are people that love it and use it well and that is quite alright. I’m not here to tell you to leave if it’s working for you, I am however here to tell you my story in the hope that, if you relate to it in any way, it might help you to decide what you need to do.
Because your mental health is more important than how many likes your latest post is getting or how many followers you have.
It’s pretty common knowledge by now that tech addictions (like addiction to a social media network) trigger our brains in a similar way to substance abuse or gambling addictions.
This nugget of information makes me feel it’s pretty damn important that we recognise when we’re headed down addiction alley so as that we can do something about it.
Are You Addicted To Facebook?
How do you know? (If it’s not Facebook you’re worried about just replace the word with whatever social media network concerns you).
If you suspect there might be an issue here’s a little test for you to do.
- Continually check your profile after you’ve posted something waiting for the likes to roll in?
- Get upset (even mildly) when you don’t get many likes?
- Feel really happy when you get a ton of likes and comments?
- Scroll through your feed wishing your life was more like your Facebook friends?
- Scroll through your feed so absent-mindedly that you can’t even remember what you’ve read?
- Find you waste a lot of time looking at the lives of other people?
- Compare your own life to the fabulous lives of those on your feed?
- Take photos at social occasions thinking about all the likes and comments they’ll get?
If you answered yes to most, or all, of the above then Facebook probably isn’t working for you and it’s probably damaging your mental health whether you know it yet or not.
Why I Deleted Facebook
Back in 2017 I was able to tick all of these off easily. Photos were taken so I could share the fun with my hundreds of Facebook friends. So much time was wasted scrolling through a feed that I didn’t even really care about. I actually felt sad if a post only got a couple of likes and felt great when I shared something that lots of people loved.
On my down days I compared myself to others who looked like they were having such a wild time and wondered why I wasn’t able to have that every single day.
I knew, of course, that their lives weren’t always like this, I knew deep down that they had bad days too, but knowing that didn’t stop me from the comparison game, it didn’t stop me feeling even more crappy than I already did.
I’d check in on Facebook when I was out with friends. I’d upload photos to share what I was doing. I’d keep checking my phone and get a buzz when my notifications flashed up, I liked that buzz so I kept doing it.
By this point I’d had Facebook for over ten years, it was just what we did, right? It was just how life was.
But all the while I was deteriorating, my mental health was suffering, I was really not feeling my normal, happy self.
By the way, I’m not suggesting that Facebook was to blame for my blip, it absolutely was not, but it was one factor in a whole heap of factors and it was one, when I was honest with myself, that I could remedy easily.
So, in December 2017 I deleted the app from my phone as I made the realization—far later than I should have—that Facebook was affecting me negatively.
By now I was beginning to take steps to live life a little differently, I wanted to look after my mental health and I wanted to protect my wellbeing. I was heading down a slippery slope into a mindset that I did not like to be in and I recognised that Facebook was one of the things that was keeping me there.
Because I didn’t have the app on my phone I stopped checking my account regularly because I couldn’t be bothered to load the web version and sign in each time. Notifications didn’t distract me and I posted updates far less frequently.
I felt trepidatious about deleting my account entirely though, I mean, how else was I going to stay in touch with friends I’d met on my travels, old school friends, and uni mates?
After a couple of months passed I realized that I was feeling better, I had made other changes in my life (and big ones) so again I stress that removing Facebook was not the only answer to my problems but it was one piece in a puzzle that was really starting to come together.
I wasn’t comparing myself to other people anymore because I wasn’t looking at their posts. I didn’t have Facebook in the back of my mind at social events anymore because I wasn’t thinking about what to post, instead, I was just there, fully in the moment. I started spending my spare time reading blogs and articles to learn stuff instead of mindlessly scrolling through a feed that I didn’t actually care about. And I started to make more effort with family and friends; letter writing each month to my parents, messaging people directly instead of simply liking their updates (to prove, in the laziest of ways, that I was still involved in their lives), meeting people for coffee or dinner, or emailing friends who lived far away.
By May 2018 I was ready to delete my account for good. I’d come to terms with the fact that my true friends would stay in my life whether or not I had a Facebook account. So, on my 30th birthday, I said goodbye and I haven’t looked back since.
Here’s the harsh truth: most of your Facebook friends are not real friends and they won’t even notice when you’re gone.
There are times when I think about old friends; people I met while travelling, or at uni, or at school, people I genuinely loved and connected with, but the truth is however much we got on in the past, life moves on and you’ve got to move with it.
The people that matter now are the people that you’re really in touch with, the people that know you outside of your Facebook profile. The people you share the crap stuff with as well as the good. The people that excite you and inspire you and challenge you. The people that appreciate you.
I’m not completely against social media though, some of the people that challenge me and inspire me are people I only know through social media. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn and Twitter but that’s because they work for me rather than against me. I don’t waste too much time on them, I follow only people that interest me, I find clients for my business, I enjoy my interactions with the folks on there. But you see the difference don’t you? These accounts are not bringing me down, they’re helping me, they’re motivating me. And Facebook can do that too, for some people, it just didn’t work in that way for me.
Use social media wisely, use it for the advantages, but as soon as it starts to turn sour?
It doesn’t mean you can never go back. It doesn’t mean you’ll lose real friends. It doesn’t mean you’re going to miss out on life.
Ask yourself this: what’s more important to you? Your own wellbeing? Or how many “friends” you have?