I deleted Facebook… here’s what didn’t happen…

I deactivated my facebook account and the sky didn’t crash down around me.

Duh.

But wait, let’s back up and start this story at the beginning.

A few months ago I sat through a webinar about social media put on by one of my sponsors. I won’t mention what brand, because it doesn’t really matter, and if it’s a surprise to you that brands are using social media to market in increasingly insidious ways — well, did you sleep through 2018?

Most of the advice in this webinar sounded familiar. Post consistently. Interact with fans. Show your personality (but heaven forbid don’t be weird about it). Blah blah blah. Don’t buy followers or use sketchy services to grow your following, but by the way, we will be watching your monthly follower growth, so do make sure it’s growing.

The bottom line is that this company will be using an algorithm that calculates following, engagement, how many times you tag the brand, etc. to generate a number that tells them what an athlete is worth. It’s by no means a bad way of doing it, and if I were a marketing manager right now I would probably do something similar. I mean, honestly, I cannot IMAGINE having to wade through the sponsorship applications that this company gets. Helloooo nightmare. And in the interest of full disclosure, I will probably benefit from this system: my Instagram is usually pretty engaged and Macky and my Youtube channel has huge engagement and is growing organically.

But still, the timing was bad. It was hard to sit through this webinar only hours after Facebook was indicted over Cambridge Analytica, while privacy concerns were hitting a boiling point world-wide, while #deleteFacebook became a thing, hours after reading how Russian bots used Facebook to specifically target low income and minority communities and not have a moment of “ummm holy shit maybe I am way more complicit in this than I ever realized.”

Mind you, I’ve never had any delusions over my role as a sponsored athlete. I know that even though I have wonderful personal relationships with many of my sponsors, even though I really do only represent brands that I believe in and use on a regular basis, even though I really am as candid as possible on the internet, at the end of the day my value is a number in a column next to my name and that column is labeled ROI.

I want to be a good return on investment. I really do. And I don’t mind repping sponsored products on my social media, because, like I said, I make an effort to only work with companies who create products that are worth repping. But I want to be more than a return on investment. I want to be a good person who creates things (I cannot bring myself to call it “content”). And I want to wake up in the morning and do something other than check to see how many likes my latest Instagram post got. I’m really really sick of chasing numbers that are, essentially, meaningless.

My disenchantment with social media started about two years ago — November 2016 to be precise — when I sat on a plane to Arkansas crying my face off about the fate of the world and more specifically about a mean and ignorant post on facebook from a friend of friend’s uncle. And then I had this moment of “What the hell, Syd? You don’t even know this person. Why on earth do you care?” That was the day I deleted the facebook app from my phone. I thought I would reinstall it once the election fervor died down, but maybe it never did, or maybe I just realized how little I needed that particular IV drip of bull shit.

Around that time I had Macky install a desktop extension that limited me to ten minutes a day of Facebook on my computer. While I’ve been known to disable that on occasion (usually while up against a deadline and in dire need of procrastination), for the most part that limit has stayed. Ten minutes of Facebook a day was enough. Way, way, way more than enough, it turns out.

Throughout this period I still had a serious Instagram problem, partially because I was able to delude myself into thinking that growing my instagram following was part of my “job.” Interactions like the aforementioned webinar really drill this mindset in. Oh, I just spent three hours liking photos of people I don’t even know (whose photos I don’t even really “like” TBH), following people, unfollowing people to preserve that #ratio, etc. etc.? Well, it’s my job. I never purchased followers — because I guess I drew an imaginary line in the sand right around there — but I did, like pretty much everyone else with over 1000 followers who isn’t a Kardashian, try to game the system. And it worked. In a really, shallow artificial kind of way. And in a way that was detrimental to my overall mental health.

In December of 2017 I tried a social media detox. I took three weeks off social media completely, a project aided by the fact that I was in Thailand for the holidays with Macky’s family and going to the beach every day. (Avoiding Instagram is less hard when you can drink coconut water out of literal coconut and then go snorkeling with brightly colored fish. WHADAYAKNOW.) It was a good experiment for a few reasons, namely in that not much of anything happened. I lost a few followers but not enough to make a difference. My photos still got a reasonable amount of likes (define “reasonable” anyway) once I returned. The earth did not shatter. And when I came back to social media I pretty much stopped all best practices on Instagram. I no longer posted everyday. I no longer “interacted” (code for trying to game the system by liking an absurd amount of posts). My postings were random, unpolished and mainly cellphone photos. Since the beginning of 2018, I have lost about 500 followers, which is, frankly, a small price to pay for my sanity.

Unfortunately the other part of the equation that didn’t change was the gross amount of time I was spending on Instagram, scrolling through my feed, mindlessly exploring hashtags (not with an intention to grow my following, but just to satisfy my perverse curiosity about random topics) and generally just wasting time. After these scroll sessions I would come up for air and and wonder where the time had gone. And so, in early December of 2018, I deleted Instagram off my phone. I would use it every few days on Macky’s phone, to post a photo, answer some comments, have a little scroll, whatever. This was supposed to be a short-term solution, but now it’s February and I still haven’t put Instagram back on my phone.

And then I found myself lying awake one night fantasizing about something really strange: completely deleting my facebook. Why was this so appealing? Honestly, I don’t know. But suddenly, I had to do it.

Naturally, Facebook doesn’t make this easy. The process was further complicated by the fact that I have to keep my FB business page (see above comments about sponsor webinar), so I had to create a shadow account, which was hard because Facebook kept being like “hey sure you don’t want to log in to your old account?” “won’t you miss your friends?” “how will you even cope!?!?!” (Seriously, if you’ve never tried to delete your facebook, go give it a go. It’s eye opening. They literally send you photos of your friends and say “WON”T YOU MISS THIS PERSON?” It’s super creepy and weird and I can’t believe it actually convinces anyone to stay.)

The next step was deactivating my facebook to see how many things were connected via that “log in with facebook” feature. Turns out, lots. My Strava account stopped working. The meditation app I use every morning went on the fritz. Out of sheer laziness (clicking that “log in with facebook” button instead of creating a new account) I had allowed Facebook to creep into many unrelated areas of my life. Finally I fixed all these issues, and deactivated Facebook. I figured I would leave it for a few weeks, and then log back on, download all of my data, and delete Facebook permanently. I probably will do this eventually, but somehow it’s February, and I haven’t gotten around to it, largely because I just have no interest in logging into my Facebook at all. It feels gross. At the moment it’s just another one of those tasks hanging over my head like organizing my email inbox or writing our monthly-ish newsletter. (Don’t get this highly procrastinated newsletter? Sign up here).

View this post on Instagram

I WANT YOUR INPUT!! I've been taking some time off social media recently to refocus for next year. While Instagram can be great (and thanks for following me BTW 🙋 ), I find this platform difficult, especially at this time of year, and with recent news about how social media can be used to manipulate the way we think/buy/etc. The more time I spend on Instagram, the less I seem to understand what I am trying to do with the this account. Last year around this time I stopped posting daily and trying to actively build this following because, I guess, the whole "game" of Instagram started to feel gross to me. But I think there is good to be found here. And I'm determined to do better. Please leave a comment and let me know what you would like to see on this space and I'll try to make it happen ⬇️⬇️ . Photo from @skipajarito in July. I was so psyched to hit this jump 😁😁

A post shared by Syd Schulz (@sydgschulz) on

I should be clear — my motivations for deleting Facebook are neither political nor motivated by privacy concerns, although both of those are completely legitimate reasons for throwing FB to the curb. But caring about FB’s privacy violations at this point would be a little silly, since I won’t be deleting instagram or WhatsApp and huge swaths of my life are documented on YouTube and this blog. And while I think Facebook created a platform for some really shitty, manipulative political actors, I’m under no illusion that me deleting my account will have any noticeable impact. So, it’s not a boycott.

Then what is the point of all this? I don’t know, exactly, but I do know that over the past two years I have slowly changed my relationship with social media. I am no longer willing to be a passive consumer. I still want to create, and share videos and writing and photos, and I want to be connected to other creative people, but I don’t want to be ruled by the technology. This has been a gradual process, and not the result of a single “detox” or social media diet – – and that process is ongoing. I’m sharing this because I think many other people are in the midst of a similar reckoning — how do we possibly use this technology wisely? And where do we draw the line?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Would you consider deleting Facebook and/or Instagram? Am I crazy? Or was I crazy to even use social media in the first place?

Syd Schulz

Pro mountain biker.

Average human.

I write about bikes and life and trying to get better at both.

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14 thoughts on “I deleted Facebook… here’s what didn’t happen…

  1. Hey Syd,
    I deleted my fb account some years ago, mostly because it annoyed the hell out of me how they manipulate the timeline. It was really scary to browse a completely unrelated website and then go on fb just to find said site in the page suggestions. I since make heavy use of browser add-ons that are supposed to keep the social media data snooping to a minimum.
    Also I found that staying in contact with person a really like to stay in contact with is no problem outside fb. There might be less shared photos, but then again phone calls are more meaningful, like in the “old days” when you actually had to tell people about your life’s events. So instead of leaving a quick like or less-than-five-words-comment I can easily talk about stuff with people for 30 minutes and more. And this will do much more for the relationship than any amount of likes.
    On the other hand, I don’t have to promote sponsors so that made it somewhat easier to quit fb cold turkey.

    • Yeah, that’s the worst, when you’re like, I WAS JUST THINKING ABOUT THIS THING AND NOW IT’S IN MY FEED IS FB INSIDE MY HEAD HELP??? I’m going to look into these browser extensions because really instagram is just as bad. And I completely agree about the phone calls. I need to get better at that. Hopefully not having facebook will motivate that. :)

  2. I unfriended everyone on FB after sending them email explaining why I was doing it. But I only had “real” friends or acquaintances there so it was doable.

    But I keep the account. I do occasionally use FB Messenger to check in with people and I *don’t* want some asshole taking my FB ID and then pretending to be me to my friends.

    And who knows – perhaps for a tiny subset of people I have trouble keeping in touch with I’ll re-friend them on FB. Or not. My stomach just clenched up in response to even thinking about that..

  3. I LOVE this blog!!! I wish I could delete all my social media accounts. (Except maybe instagram, because it’s all happy posts that do with bikes and traveling lol) But I have a small business that has a fb account and if I still needed to be on for that I figure what’s the point of deleting mine, I don’t know. I think about it ALOT. I would love more time and less staring at a screen, I want to be a good example to my kid. I make him put his electronics up at a certain time so we have time to read before bed, he’s in high school but I’m hoping he’ll stick with it for life :) I know I won’t miss my “friends” it’s just the thing I do when I’m not engrossed with something else. We’ve become a society of needy people. We need constant stimulation. Anywho… those are my thoughts and as much as I enjoy seeing your Instagram posts I understand not wanting to do it all the time. :)

    • I can’t emphasize how great it is not to be dealing with FB. As Syd mentioned the pre-2016 election fervor turned everyone into a unlikeable person. Even if my actual friends (I only “friended” people on FB that I actually knew) were civil about the US election (most of them not living here) *their* friends we often not. And so the sewage leaked into the pipe that way.

      Unfriend all your FB “friends” – especially if you won’t miss them anyway – and dig some books out of the stack that you’ve been promising yourself you’ll read “when you have time”.

      And if you’ve got 15 minutes, check out this video:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E7hkPZ-HTk

      • Great video! He’s absolutely right. Several years ago I didn’t even have a cell phone. It was glorious. The more I think about it the more I want to delete it all!! Except YouTube, I have to have my bike videos to watch, it’s dumping snow right now in Colorado and I’d go crazy without them lol. Thanks for the share.

        • Ha! I live just east of Boulder and it was +11C and sunny today. I moved to the Boulder area from Ottawa to escape winter. So far so good. No real winter here in all the years I’ve lived here… :)

    • I understand the small business dilemma. To keep my athlete page I basically created a shadow account (blank account with my name but with no friends, interests anything) and made that an admin. It was kind of a pain because FB is smart and sneaky and doesn’t want you to to do that.

      I think it’s awesome that you’re working with your son to limit screentime… must be really hard for that generation having grown up soooo surrounded by social media/screens/etc. AIM and myspace were bad enough back in 2005 — can’t imagine carrying that around with you constantly like kids do now. (I didn’t get a smart phone until my senior year of college in 2013).

  4. I totally get where you are coming from with being more aware of your social media interactions. Being a teacher, I can’t use social media with my students, so I don’t have the stress of it impacting my career. Your blog opened my eyes to the stress and pressures of a social media presence for those of you who depend on support from others to do what you do. What a balancing act! During the recent government shutdown I started having heart flutters, and was having episodes 20-30 times a day. As well as seeing a doctor, I deleted FB on my phone, started listening to new podcasts, and quit obsessively reading the news on my NPR app. What a difference that made! The heart flutters stopped, and I still haven’t reinstalled the apps. I didn’t realize how much time I was wasting and the stress it caused. I now am working on staying educated and aware with boundaries that protect my health. Keep up the amazing videos and do what is best for your brain!

  5. Deleting social media is the best thing you can do for your mental health. I killed my facebook a couple of years ago and don’t miss it!

    Loving the blog and youtube channel, keep up the good work!

  6. (Reposting comment as it did not go through the first time, in case i post twice)

    Hi Syd

    Deleting facebook is the best thing you can do for your mental health! I killed mine a couple of years ago and don’t miss it.

    I love the blog and youtube channel, keep up the good work!

    • Hey Gerhard, I have comment moderation turned on because I get a ton of spam comments, but now that I’ve approved you once, your comment should go through right away on future posts :) Thanks for the comment!! And yes, I agree, huge mental health boost almost instantly. Crazy!

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