I received an email from a reader asking me to republish an article I wrote about how to delete a Facebook account. The only problem is that I never wrote or posted an article on the subject. However, the request intrigued me, and I decided to take up the challenge and write an article.
My angle will be different from those that take Facebook users through the many steps needed to purge their digital footprints. I cannot compete with these experts who explain the technical process of getting off. However, I believe that much more important than deleting the virtual account is eliminating the desire for connectivity that has turned the smartphone into a tool to feed obsessions. I will focus on this aspect of the Facebook disconnect that most people do not consider.
The task is a bit complicated by the fact that I am not on Facebook. I belong to that unconnected portion of the population that has never been “friended” or “unfriended” by virtual strangers. However, I am on other social media and am certain that the psychological disconnecting procedure is very much the same.
A Two Part Process
Of course, I am assuming you really want to get off Facebook and you have made a definitive decision to leave for one reason or another. My only focus will be how to get off Facebook, not the reasons why you should.
Once you decide you do want to get off Facebook, leaving it is a two-part process. The first and easiest part consists of deleting your Facebook account. Just leave Facebook in one fell swoop. Search the Internet for instructions to make the move and follow them exactly. Celebrate your liberation—perhaps with one final post before hitting the delete button.
The second part of the process is much harder and consists of three not-so-easy steps. These steps will help prevent relapses back to Facebook or using other social media to take its place. It cuts to the core by deleting the driving impulses that make the Facebook account so attractive.
The problem with social media is something I call the frenetic intemperance of our times. It is that constant desire that permeates all fields and causes one to crave everything, instantly and effortless, regardless of the consequences. This frenetic intemperance is tearing our country and its economy apart. It affects family and spiritual life.
Step #1: Reject Imaginary Worlds
In the case of Facebook, frenetic intemperance consists of that incessant urge to be connected, check notifications and instantly feel validated by others. Social media tend to create imaginary worlds of followers and friends or shares and likes that take on an importance much greater than what they really are. There is also the tendency of self-aggrandizement by which people seek to imagine and present themselves as more than they actually are to impress followers in these imaginary worlds.
Thus, the first step consists of not giving importance to these false metrics. The connectivity you sense is often a false connectivity since a good number of your now-former Facebook friends really don’t know who you are, and probably will not miss you when you leave their world. When the urge comes to reconnect with Facebook, tell yourself that it is much better to have two real friends than two thousand Facebook “friends.” It is much better to receive expressions of approval and affection from a real person than to receive a thousand “likes” from virtual friends you hardly know. It is much more enjoyable to view magnificent scenes through one’s own eyes than through the frenetic selfie lens of trying to impress friends on the Facebook wall.
When the temptation comes to start using other social media, spend some time away from them to experience just how unimportant these imaginary worlds can be. Put social media in context and take control of your life.
Step #2: Limit Connectivity
The second step in eliminating Facebook urges is to limit connectivity to social media and the Internet in general. Facebook feeds off the desire of eternal connectivity. It continually sends notifications to assure you that you are important. It incites you to answer instantly and thus interrupt what you are doing which ends up taking up so much precious time.
To overcome the connectivity urge, take measures to limit your connections with cyberspace. Take time out from connections during parts of the day or weekends. Do not sleep next to a connection or go to bed with an iPhone in your hand (as a surprising number of people do). Make it difficult to connect during selected times by using programs that schedule access. Dumb down your smartphones with apps that limit use or embarrass you by telling you how many [hundreds of] times you have connected on a given day.
In short, take back control of your life by spending less time connected. Above all, realize that connectivity is often neither urgent nor necessary. You are not the center of the world. The world will survive quite well when unconnected to you. You will also feel much less burdened when you cut the ties to virtual worlds and strengthen those in the real one.
Step #3: Fill the Void with Something Else
The final step is to fill the Facebook void. Obviously, we spend enormous amounts of time on Facebook because we think it fills a need in our hurried postmodern world.
This is not unreasonable since we are social beings that crave interaction with others. Personal contacts serve to provide that human touch that is often suffocated by the frenetic intemperance of our times. Our problem is that we often substitute this needed personal interaction with contacts with so many faceless Facebook friends. We come to prefer a rapid fire of short cold, vacuous postings to the rich personal experience of a conversation full of nuance and context.
The way to overcome the Facebook void is to fill it with real interaction and development. Such alternatives might involve the art of conversation and reading. Of course, high on the list of replacement is screenless time with family and friends. Filling the void can find expression in art and music. Above all, it should involve in connecting with God and your relationship with Him. We need to slow down, think, reflect … and pray. Everyone has a unique personality with God-given talents that can be developed and brought to bloom. Take the time wasted on social media to let your light shine upon those around you.
Doing Those Things That Really Matter
This is how you can delete your Facebook account and the impulses associated with it. It is not easy, but it can improve the quality of your life and open up time to do those important things that matter.
To those who prefer to remain on Facebook, the same three not-so-easy steps can also be applied. By taking these measures, you can control your usage and not be enslaved in imaginary virtual worlds. However, the moderate use of social media involves constant restraint since the urges toward instant connectivity will always seek to make you want more and more.
The important thing is to have the courage to face up to Facebook and other social media that become obsessive. Technology exists to serve us, much as a horse serves its rider. If we are serving technology, then we are not riding the horse but being dragged along with foot in the stirrup behind it. We need to take steps to get back in the saddle.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.