Ryan Lindberg spent more than a decade building his social media network through Facebook. But the 36-year-old Minneapolis man was growing increasingly annoyed with the platform — the pointless updates from friends and family, the unending invitations to play online games, the inaccurate, late or distorted news shared on the site.
Following the Cambridge Analytica data breach, tens of thousands of Facebook users threatened on Twitter to #DeleteFacebook.
Lindberg actually did it.
When he tried to close his account, however, he discovered that disentangling his life from the social media behemoth was, well, complicated.
“Once the recent rash of news started, I figured that was a good tipping point. I moved to not just inactivate my account, but truly delete it altogether,” he said. “It was way harder than I wanted it to be. It took weeks.”
Lindberg had used his Facebook account to sign up for other services, like his favorite music and meditation apps. That meant he had to work with the customer service departments at Spotify and Headspace to untangle the services from one another.
Being on Facebook is easy, maybe too easy. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 68 percent of U.S. adults use it and three-quarters of them log in daily. But as we’ve become increasingly reliant on the pervasive platform, getting off Facebook isn’t easy at all.
When University of Minnesota marketing professor Kathleen Vohs conducted a large-scale study on self control, she found that people had a difficult time staying off social media, even when they knew they should be doing something else.
“Facebook can be somewhat addictive,” she said. “People had a harder time resisting the urge to get on social media applications like Facebook than they did [resisting] other things.”
Brooke Barker was one of those people. At least once an hour, she’d log into the app and mindlessly browse her news feed.
“Even though it was so addictive, it didn’t make me happy,” said Barker, 30. “My friends would post political things and I just felt terrible about the state of the world. So many people are at their ugliest on Facebook.”
Still, she was hesitant to give it up. Having moved to Amsterdam from Plymouth, the platform was the most efficient way for her to connect with her friends.
So, instead of going cold turkey, she started following car accounts — the most boring topic she could think of — and leaving comments on their pages until Facebook’s algorithm showed her only posts about cars. Now Barker finds it easy to limit her Facebook use, without having to deactivate her account.
“I feel happier,” Barker said. “I’m not being constantly assaulted with terrible news.”
For Jackie Jesse, leaving Facebook proved to be a mixed bag.
She left because of the data breach, which she calls “the final straw.” But soon after she shut down her account, she discovered she’d missed out on a wedding shower invitation. She also misses seeing updates from family members and watching their kids grow up in pictures.
Being off the media site, however, has made her more aware of how she spends her free time.
“I fill those moments with more purpose,” said Jesse, of St. Paul. “I already met with three friends face-to-face since quitting, and that didn’t happen as much before when I was connected with them on Facebook.”
Kurtis Scaletta also was motivated to quit Facebook in part because of the data breach. But the 49-year-old also wanted to funnel his creative energy into something more substantial than a status update. He hopes that being off the app will compel him to do more personal things, like send letters or meet friends for lunch.
Already, though, the Minneapolis man said he misses the usefulness of Facebook, like asking his network for advice and recommendations for everything from which movies to see and where to eat, as well as connecting with experts for writing projects.
“Social media is really useful for that kind of thing, when you’d rather have a personal connection than googling info or relying on Yelp,” Scaletta said. “But I’m not sure that’s worth the trade-off.”