What keeps people on Facebook?
I dumped Facebook in May 2020, after fifteen years (I was a grad student at one of the early-FB colleges when it began so I joined in 2005). I honestly think it was one of the best decisions I've made as an adult.
I was in several groups made up of people from my small, intense women's college (one for parents! one or work! one for food! one for travel!" and on and on) and that involvement ultimately led to me hating my college and many of my friends. I used to think that the great thing about Facebook groups was being able to gather myself and put forth unemotional responses -- but what ultimately seemed to be the currency in those groups was pretentious, preening communication masquerading as the unemotional.
I held on a long time because "how will I keep up with my childhood friends / cousins / old coworkers?" Then I realized that I ... don't miss knowing their lives through the FB lens. Now I control when I hear about someone's amazing new job instead of being bombarded when I am doomscrolling at the end of a terrible day.
I left Facebook in 2011 - it was a time when it felt like default permissions were changing constantly and I couldn't keep up with them/operate them properly. Due to that, a coworker learned about something I would have preferred to keep private and it caused me a lot of trouble at work.
I have never been back to Facebook because I basically can't forgive the company for that and I hear about so many other types of harm that I don't feel bad about the decision.
That said, I absolutely feel like I have paid a price for not being on the platform, professionally and personally. I feel like it disconnected me from friend groups I was loosely tied to, made me unaware of important events at my college or church, etc, caused people to sometimes feel I was rude because they expected me to know stuff that was posted there. I also have paid a professional price for not being on social media (I eventually quit my job after that Facebook incident and used the moment to get off all social media). I work in a career where there is pressure about that, and I avoid the subject/pretend I forgot to share whatever post/etc, but there are people who notice. I also feel like I miss out on professional networking opportunities.
I'm 1000% sure that not using social media is better for my mental health. I have had all the problems with anxiously scrolling hours longer than I mean to, feeling weird things about the nice stuff other people post, being scared of what people can find out about me through my posts, learning stuff I'd rather not know about family members' beliefs, etc. Overall, I'm not sorry to have paid the price of not being there. I sometimes have people tell me I overreacted and should get back on the social media horse, so to speak, because of those other costs, but I've never been able to bring myself to do it.
I do use Discord and I like spaces like this, so I'm still good with that definition of social media. I've been happy to see that it seems like the feeling that you absolutely have to be on Facebook or something is wrong with you/you have something to hide/whatever seems to be fading.
Love the original post and the thoughtful way the subject was explored and framed.
Here's why we haven't cut FB: ANY news from school or school PTA for my 6-year-old's school is centered on Facebook. That is where the announce events, fundraisers, special "days" at school, note if there are early dismissal days or when report cards will be on the school portal, etc. It's a parents-at-the-school-only PTA-run FB page, but if you aren't a part of it you end up out of the loop (true story: I only realized there was an early dismissal a few months back because it was posted to the PTA FB page and after a week of not checking FB I happened to log in and see it an hour before he needed to be picked up - and I had to drop everything and race the hour (I commute) back to his school. Why this wasn't emailed to parents or sent via the Remind/Class Dojo apps I can't say, but it was distressing). We hate that almost all events and the school world is organized around it. My husband refuses to join it or be a part of it and it makes him, and many others like us, so mad that this is the major way the school and PTA communicates with parents. But I don't see how to leave until my kid is out of the school system in our suburban community.
I deleted Facebook in 2016 and miss seeing updates from exchange student friends all around the world. But as the parent of a child with a rare genetic disorder, the associated Facebook group was usually more scary than helpful (so much bad medical advice, so many scared new parents and everyone else reliving their trauma of diagnosis, etc.). I haven’t found a way to connect with other families outside of Facebook, which is both lonely and a sort of relief. I tried to connect locally through my state’s newly-established rare disease council, but they didn’t know what to do with a random parent not connected to an advocacy group/non-profit, and I never heard from them again.
Somehow my Instagram feed just shows me photos of gardens and native plants, and not necessarily my friends’ posts(which I would like to see). But native plant/prairie restoration Instagram is quite possibly the least toxic social media I’ve ever seen, so I’ll take it! I’ve also turned Reddit into gardening Reddit - highly recommend.
Way back in The Before Times, the thing that kept me on Facebook was the "events" feature-- the easiest (and sometimes only) way to invite friends to a party or outing if I didn't have their emails and didn't feel like texting all of them individually. I also enjoyed that it was a passive way to keep up with old friends-- I didn't have to reach out to people or keep track of their big life events, because Facebook facilitated that connection. In hindsight, I'm not sure that made me a particularly good friend, and I think it might have just made it easier to fall out of touch with people whose friendship I used to really value.
On an unrelated note: want to pass along a huge thank you to AHP for the hard-and-fast "no TERFs" policy. I've had to deal with an out-of-the-blue tsunami of TERF shit at work the past couple of months (don't worry-- I'm actively searching for a new job) and it's been awful. So thank you for drawing a hard line. It matters.
I left FB years ago now and am glad I did. I found it a place where conversations lacked depth, to be honest, and even what seemed like simple topics would devolve into other topics that just spun me up emotionally in ways I did not need. Researching more about the company of FB was a big contributing factor as well. I considered re-joining recently as a friend of mine suggested I would enjoy a group on a musician we mutually like. I considered it for a day or so then decided against it. There is a lot that could be said on this topic, that is for sure. I do think that ultimately it is really up to each person to make a decision on whether to stay there or leave, go somewhere else, or just go back to the 1980s (which is alienating, I know). I did try micro.blog (a twitter like service) for a bit and it was OK. I met one person that I am in touch with still. Ultimately though I realize I just do not have the time to do this stuff anymore. Or I am choosing to not put the time I have in those places . . . . great topic today! Thanks!
I'm seriously ill, and Facebook is an absolutely lifeline for dealing with my illnesses.
The conversations we're having in patient groups are prepping us for doctor's appointments, warning us away from bad care, directing us to resources. My illness is rare, but I have thousands of fellow sufferers at my fingertips to ask about how to get my insurance to approve meds, or what to do when I react to said meds.
Facebook has also given me true friends of the sort who can understand my predicament, another rarity. While there are some dedicated groups and forums for my illness off FB, they're just clunkier and harder to use. And there's no way to translate some people from purposeful to personal contacts.
Finally, a lot of us are totally housebound. Social media is our window into the world. It's sad and inadequate, but it has kept me from feeling totally isolated in a world where most people live so differently from me.
I did finally delete Facebook but it took me SO long. And yes, there was one group connected to a podcast I love and then the general fact that I’d uploaded all my wedding photos to it. Lol. That was keeping me on. But I deleted it about a year ago and oooooh it feels so good.
I also had to get really specific about how and why I use other platforms. So I don’t hate them or wish I could quit them in the same way as I did Facebook, because I know why I use them and why I don’t.
Instagram: friend updates and (more importantly) following reactive dog trainers to help my own dog
Twitter: screenwriting community
Reddit: reactive dog subreddit (don’t check frequently)
And none of them are for extended family. To each their own, but at the first whiff of an aunt angrily posting about trump on my 2016 election night picture of me wearing a blazer (didn’t have a full pantsuit), and I just blocked and unfollowed all parents, aunts, uncles, etc. happy to engage with them on political issues in person, but not on social media.
I just quit FB a few months ago. I noticed it was making me less and less happy and more sad and angry over the years. I do miss Messenger sometimes, and am fairly sure I've missed a few invites to things because of it. I had to give up an Oculus account (although I've heard you can decouple them now but I think I need to start over). I missed the "Memories" posts, I'd check those daily, I really do still miss those, although I did download the content to a zip file. I miss snooping on people! But that part kind of made me feel gross. I also quit Instagram at the same time, as well as WhatsApp (basically nuked my FB account, which was unsurprisingly super hard to do, hello dark patterns). I loved Instagram because at first, unlike FB, I was seeing content I truly wanted to, but it got worse and more obviously an ad over time. I think that's about all I miss. I think this year might be the first year I sent out a honest-to-goodness paper Christmas card with a newsletter in it, since far away family members might like to see us?
Despite my hatred of its tech supremacist attitude, I still read Hacker News multiple times a day for its links to interesting tech and internet news, and the occasional highly-informed comment. There are some alternatives including lobste.rs but they don't have the same level of traffic and commenting as HN; plus they aren't blessed by some of the richest and most influential VCs in the world. I wish there were more spaces, but I get good conversation from private Slacks and Discords these days.
A big barrier in starting somewhere new is that it takes a lot of work, and preferably some money! I would personally not start a new community on a platform-owned space like Facebook or Reddit because then your community doesn't really have control over its future. But then you need money to pay for hosting (e.g. a Discourse forum) and you need to put a lot of legwork in to get people to join, since it won't be as easy for them as joining a new subreddit.
I've done it a couple of times, for the Metafilter wiki and for a forum about Mars exploration, it's pretty tiring and almost totally thankless, but also quite rewarding!
I have homeschooled my kids for about 8 years, and I have often wished there was a place like FB just for sharing homeschool groups and events. It’s so important for our family to have a homeschool community, but because we aren’t church-goers (like the VAST majority of homeschoolers in our area), FB is the best way to connect with more like-minded homeschool families. I actually quit FB in 2020 because we weren’t participating in any of the groups/events & I feel like it was such a beautiful time for my mental health. But my kids suffered during that time and I eventually decided to start my own homeschool group for families that are excluded from/don’t feel comfortable in the other local homeschool groups. So now I feel completely trapped by FB—I don’t want to be there, but I DO want to provide an alternative group for other homeschooling families to find. I did recently learn about the FB Feed Exterminator (or something like that) from Jenny Odell, so I think I’ll at least be trying that until some better space for building community comes along.
I have spent every iteration of the internet trying to do one thing: share photos with friends and family. I have tried and failed with so many websites to essentially create what Instagram is that I have no idea how I’ll ever get off of it or what the next thing could possibly be. I like keeping up with friends, sharing parts of my life and funny stories, and IG saves me from having to text a million different friend groups the same exact thing. I do not follow any celebrity/influencer/business accounts, and my test for followers is “do you deserve to see pictures of my kids?” Non-IRL friends or long ago friends who don’t keep in touch need not apply.
As for FB, I quit cold turkey in 2010 when the lines between personal and professional felt too difficult to navigate. Having joined early when you needed a .edu email address, I could not reconcile how to use the platform once my bosses or clients started to friend request me.
I keep Facebook because I have a private group on there - a group that started in 1998!! on a site called Parent Soup and has since PS's demise migrated to various other spots that didn’t work out for whatever reason. There are about 15 of us from all over the world (it was called Windows on the World at PS and still is.) We have watched each others' kids grow up, comforted each other through divorces, the deaths of parents and, tragically, two of those kids, some of us have met IRL, and it is the most wonderful thing. If I had not had these people comforting me when our son died mid-pandemic and we were so isolated by restrictions that we didn’t see a single other family member, including our other son, it would have been so much more horrible than it actually was. The rest of FB I have curated so heavily that I only see things from very close friends and relatives, which is honestly kind of pointless since I hear from them IRL anyway. I wouldn't keep it if not for my group.
I do use Facebook daily, even though I don’t like it and I think the algorithm sucks. I’ve lived in several countries and I find it invaluable for easily keeping in touch with people with whom I’ve shared some great moments but would have just slipped out of mind otherwise. I can’t see myself leaving it for this reason alone. I use Insta a lot but like everyone else it’s a super curated version of my life and there are definitely some things I’m interested in that I don’t care to put on Insta or see amidst my other stuff (and yes, what I wouldn’t give for a chronological feed) because I just want to keep some stuff private. About 18 months ago, I started a tumblr account. I had a massive crush on an actor and just wanted to obsess in peace with people who shared the same lust. I read the fan fiction, I gaze at the gifs, I’m completely anonymous and I bloody love it. I know tumblr is dying and a pain to use but I’ve found my little niche group and I’m very happy there.
I guess my take away is because of how I use it FB is a history of my life, and I can’t give that up easily. I know that people say the real friends will keep in touch but honestly, they wouldn’t. I wouldn’t/haven’t! And I just have too many experiences I recall via FB. And I guess now I have tumblr for some experiences I’m definitely happy keeping to myself haha.
I haven’t actively checked Facebook in years and don’t miss it, but I struggle to fully disengage from Instagram. There are a lot of creators there who I find really inspiring/hilarious/informative and genuinely look forward to hearing from (ex: The Nap Ministry, Plant Kween) but there are SO. MANY. ADS. and many of them are wildly problematic. Even after heavily curating the list of accounts that I follow I still feel gross whenever I use the app. I wish there were a platform where I could be made aware of new content from all the creators I enjoy without also being sold shapewear and sports betting apps against my will (hypothetically this is Twitter, but that platform has its own problems).
My pre-COVID opinion was that FB was the easiest space to organize events, but since the number of events I go to has been radically reduced, it feels less and less necessary.
Now, it’s really largely for work—FB requires you to have a personal account to do ANYTHING for business (I’m in marketing) which is such a nuisance. I have an IG account that’s purely for getting access to things for work, and my personal FB usage has dwindled similarly. But I can’t cut the cord completely as long as I write FB ads for a living.