By Margaret McNellis
I first joined Facebook right after the site was made available outside of Harvard. Users still needed a valid school email to register, but I was an undergrad student at Southern Connecticut State University at the time, so joining was easy. For the most part, I connected with classmates and we griped about which teachers we didn’t like.
Then it was opened to the general public. Cue the kitten videos! They were enjoyable for a while, but now I feel like I’ve seen them all. I’ve seen the one with the cat jumping and landing on its feet (hint: I knew it would do that) and I’ve seen the one where the cat gives its owner a do-you-dare-me glance before pushing a glass off the counter (hint: I knew it would do that). Basically, cat videos are cute but plot wise, they’re pretty predictable.
Then came the “Share this if you love Jesus” posts. My personal beliefs aside, I had trouble picturing Jesus in heaven on Facebook checking to see how many people liked and shared posts about him. So I left Facebook.
That lasted about four days. One of my friends got me hooked on Candy Crush. I returned to Facebook, sheepish but eager to prove I could “win” Candy Crush without spending a dime. I played for a whole summer and got to level one-hundred-something. I broke up with Candy Crush when I realized just how much time it ate up. Shortly after, I broke up with Facebook again.
Wouldn’t you know it, a game lured me back in! Words with Friends. I convinced myself that because it’s like Scrabble, it’s intellectual, so it was okay to get hooked. I bet you can see where this is going. The whole cycle repeated with Trivia Crack. Yes, I know there are apps for these, but sometimes I was at work at a 9-5 that left me feeling like my brains were about to ooze out of my ears. The distraction on a PC when I couldn’t take out my phone was helpful.
Eventually, I stopped playing freemium games and games like Words with Friends. The truth is, I’d much rather sit down and play some Scrabble, in the same room as friends. I don’t need those games to last for weeks and I enjoy the human-to-human element of real board games. So, bored with predictable cat videos and done forever with Facebook games, what was left to hold my interest?
Groups. I participated in and/or ran over forty groups on Facebook, some more successful than others. However, something happened in mid-April. I read an article about Mark Zuckerberg that turned me off to both Facebook and Instagram. I downloaded my activity—because I don’t want to lose that picture where my friend and I are making funny faces with fake glowing crowns on our heads in a Facebook video chat—and I sent a message to my Facebook friends whose offsite contact information I didn’t already have.
I shut down my Facebook on April 13, 2018. I don’t miss the cat videos. I don’t miss the games. I do miss the groups, but they required so much time that I felt stressed trying to freelance part-time, TA, and write for my MFA submissions. I made time for those things, but at the expense of extra reading time or sleep.
Life without Facebook is way less stressful, and after Zuckerberg announced that he’s launching a Facebook dating service, I feel like I jumped ship at the right moment.
Incidentally, since closing my Facebook account, I’ve stopped watching as much television. I’ve started playing piano again and writing short stories again. Facebook sucked me in almost 13 years ago, but this time, I’ve come up for more than one breath of fresh air and I know I’ve kicked it for good. I’d rather write stories than updates any day.
Margaret McNellis is a current degree candidate at The Mountainview Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.