I Quit Facebook and No One* Noticed
It all happened so fast. I saw the post and I debated on how to react. Should I give it an angry reaction? Should I comment? Do I call my friend out in public, or do I do it privately? Will he even understand? Will he try to understand?
I threw my phone down and screamed in frustration. I was exhausted at having this conversation and I just could not bring myself to do it again.
I picked up my phone, scrolled to settings on Facebook and deactivated my account. I was asked my reasons for quitting. Of the options Facebook gave me, I chose “I don’t feel safe on Facebook” because it seemed the most appropriate. After all, I was quitting because I grew tired of seeing things posted mostly out of ignorance, but always rooted in racism.
Since the murder of George Floyd, I made a decision to stop being the friend who made excuses for my white friends for both being ignorant to our race issues and for making comments that were not overtly racist, but still racist in nature. I figured that it would be easier to make loving and gentle corrections with my friends than random strangers on the Internet.
Save for a few, most of my friends were pretty receptive to what I had to say when I pointed out how certain actions or words were either outright racist or could be perceived as such. I even had a hard conversation with my white dad on why he couldn’t write “all lives matter” on the census postcards we were sending to predominately Black and Latino communities.
I had one friend that didn’t seem to get it at all. We had late night text exchanges that usually started with him asking a racist question and me responding with, “are you seriously saying this to me right now?” After a few months, I realized that he wasn’t even trying. The realization that one of my very best friends, one whom I spoke to daily, didn’t see anti-racism work worthy of his energy hurt me deeply.
So when he posted the story about Cannon Hinnant’s murder with the comment, “His life mattered too!” I absolutely lost it. After I unplugged my Facebook account, I went radio silent on him until I cooled off and figured out how to have the conversation in a way that wouldn’t make my head explode.
Prior to deactivating my account, I was actively posting on a near daily basis. I didn’t need anyone to notice my void and this certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve gone dark on social media without announcing my departure. My two favorite communities are now on Mighty Networks, so I didn’t even have a draw to log in and participate.
About two weeks went by and I got a text from a high school friend, one I haven’t really spoken to in a couple of years. “Yo…just realized you ditched Facebook. I tend to notice when my favorite people disappear. What’s up?” I was floored that someone had noticed my absence.
A few days after that, another friend dropped a text saying she missed “seeing my mug.” A week or so later a third friend poked me, asking if everything was ok.
It has been two months since I deleted my account and those are the only people who have mentioned that they noticed. Mostly, it’s been requests to share an event or a casual mention of big news included in a post on Facebook and me responding, “so, yeah…I quit Facebook.” Even the moderator of my weekly coaching group was surprised when she asked me to post my homework video to our Facebook group and I told her that I would find an alternate solution because I’d deleted my account. I still have other groups that I was actively involved in that haven’t said anything at all. And that’s fine — it’s pretty humbling to realize that you’re not as big a part of someone’s life as you think you are.
No matter how strong the benefits are for the handful of things I find useful about Facebook, I just cannot bring myself to willingly wade back into the toxic wasteland that it is. It is a social media platform that truly provides no benefit and has become a mental health drain for me. I’ve had no desire to go back and I’m actively working on ideas to promote myself without being tied to Facebook.
Maybe after the election, some of the hate and vitriol will die down and I can have real connection and productive conversations about race on Facebook again. Until then, I’ll be over here in my corner writing about all the things I’m noticing now that I have time to sit back and observe uninterrupted.