Home > Communication, Facebook, Safety > The shorthand of Facebook

The shorthand of Facebook

I deleted my Facebook account 35 weeks ago.

I know this not because I’ve been counting the days, but because a celebratory Instagram post from that day helpfully notes how long ago it was.

I’d deactivated my account more than a year prior, but hadn’t been ready to delete just yet.

Why did I delete? In short, because its algorithms and privacy settings suck. (Use the sidebar search function on my blog if you’re interested in lengthier reflections on my Facebook frustrations.)

There was another reason that was harder for me to articulate: I just didn’t like the conversations there.

Until this morning, I couldn’t pinpoint why.

This morning, reflecting on my yesterday post about safety, I realized:

Facebook felt unsafe.

No matter what I posted, someone was quick to point out–without acknowledging context or life’s complexity–what I’d done wrong, how I could have done it better, or how “that would never have happened if you’d only done [x]!”

These comments came even when I filtered down posts to groups of friends with whom I feel the safest. The same people who would have a whole, meaningful dialogue in person to help me reach conclusions were bypassing the dialogue part to simply deliver final conclusions way too simple, and abrupt, to do more than leave me asking, “And these are my friends?!”

(You are dumb. You are wrong. You are bad.)

This is not about any one individual. I trust each of my friends. I trust their loving hearts.

I do not trust their hearts to translate well into the shorthand of Facebook.

But I couldn’t have boiled my discomfiture down to “safety” until I wrote about nine predators on my blog last year and felt very unsafe. I almost deleted my entire blog, opting instead to move that single post elsewhere. (More on that later this month.)

That was when I realized I’d forgotten “unsafe” because I’ve built myself a pretty safe life.

Both my parents were abusive. Even after my mom stopped physically abusing my siblings and me, she was emotionally abusive in ways that undercut the safety she’d built around us in our tumultuous childhood home.

A predator tested me as potential prey; though I failed his test with outraged colors, I learned as a child that even my body did not fully belong to me.

Nothing was safe, a message I understood even more emphatically after my house was burglarized, with so many words and photos vanished with my computers … together with any vestiges that “safety” was anything more than a word.

But then, then I worked on building safety: with my husband, who is probably the safest place I have ever known (if you ask me when I’m not mad at him), at work, among friends who might not use the word “safety” but emanate it into the world all the same.

I had kids, and I felt safety in the ferocity of my intention to do everything possible to keep them safe … and understanding myself capable of working any harm to those who would hurt them.

So that celebratory feeling I felt when I finally deleted my Facebook account?

It was a victory: My bidding final adieu to a place that felt extremely unsafe, though I couldn’t then find the word, and affirming to myself that I–like my kids–am worth protecting.

Facebook is a platform. It doesn’t care if I’m there or not.

But my safety? That is an invaluable thing, one worth cultivating and cherishing.

Today, in this moment, I am as safe as one can ever be in this world.

I am safe.

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  1. January 4, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    I’m very sorry to hear about your difficult childhood. Those are challenging circumstances to overcome and I am sure you put in a lot of time and effort to do so.

    I’ve deleted my Facebook account a few times but brought it back. The first time was when I got divorced. I wasn’t ready to face how I felt about the situation and people’s comments. Since that time, I have mainly used Facebook as a way to keep up with some friends and family that live far away. But as a whole, I don’t find it useful. And it has became a forum where you either post a picture of your dog, your kids, how you feel about your faith or your political allegiance and that is it.

    We have to do what is best for each of us. I am sorry to hear about the trouble on your blog as well. It is disheartening that something we love can be ruined by a select few. There are certainly monsters and predators everywhere.

    Wishing you the best.

    • January 4, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful words, Jarrod. I’m very grateful that the blog trouble was very, very brief lived, and–appropriately–resolved by (1) warm, wise words from another blogger and (2) another blogger’s immediate, warm response. So something that felt horrible in the moment ended up being yet another affirmation that there are many intent on keeping safe those in their physical and virtual communities. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and understand you’re a part of, and a big part of why blogging continues to be something that keeps me going after all these years. While Facebook is fleeting, this … this is enduring community. Thank you again.

      • January 5, 2016 at 6:23 pm

        You are very welcome. Evil is everywhere and social media has just given it a new medium to rise out of.

        I am glad you had some kind souls deliver warm words to help with the situation. There are still a lot of good people out there. I am also glad it didn’t deter you from writing.

        Only cowards sit behind the wall of anonymity then have the “courage” to act like jerks when there are not repercussions.

  2. January 4, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    I recently took a short break from Facebook and have been pondering whether or not to suspend my account for a while. I had several reasons why, but I hadn’t thought of the word or the concept of “safe” until reading your very well written post. While my reasons are different, there are similarities. It might not seem like a big deal to delete a Facebook account, but in this day and age, I think it’s brave. And smart. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • January 4, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      First off, thank you. Second, thank you. Last but not least, I’d say that deactivating felt so much more freeing than I could begin to explain. Stepping away like that made the discomfort harder to ignore or pretend as insignificant. Even though I could act without putting words to the feeling, and felt the glow of it, it’s still a joyous thing to figure out that discomfort I couldn’t find the words for … and to see how I responded as part of a very affirming pattern. (And then, the comments to this post! I am part of a community, and it is a lovely one full of lovely, thoughtful people willing and prepared to spare those extra words.)

  3. January 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Oh, amen about the safety thing. One of the many reasons why I deleted my Facebook. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • January 4, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      Oooh! Awesome! I honestly posted this thinking, “Oh, people are going to go, ‘another Facebook post? Geez.'” So … to hear that this feeling extends beyond me has me sighing with relief. Hear, hear to acts affirming safety!

  4. January 4, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    I have never played FB. Some of the reasons you articulate here are also mine. I wonder why people feel free to put their ‘self-righteous hats’ on their totally perfect heads. Some do in the blogosphere too, but far fewer.
    Love your focus on safety. An imperative which doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

    • January 6, 2016 at 5:02 am

      “their totally perfect heads” — this made me chuckle.

      The Gift of Fear got me thinking about one kind of safety, and it’s been increasingly on my radar since. It’s interesting to see my comprehension of it growing and changing over the years, and helping me find a way to express things for which I previously had no words.

  5. Nikki
    January 4, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    I am about to delete my FB for the very same reason. It’s a complexity, to be sure. There are many moving parts to it. But what I find interesting as I ramp myself up to it’s ultimate demise, is how very caught up I am in the vortex of it’s cultural vaccuum. I’m without a spouse or a partner, so don’t have a singular place to lean on, so have this sense of unplugging and isolating and losing connection. I suspect, though, that what will happen is vastly different than any minor undercurrent or reservation I may feel. I might actually find a far richer collection of connection than I ever realized I had. Like, way back before social media decided it was the relational barometer for all things.

    I have blogged off and on for years, but am also at a clean slate here, as well. I wonder wherever it will take me?

    • January 6, 2016 at 5:20 am

      I love your final question! I was talking about risk with a friend yesterday. I was on one side of a chasm a couple months ago and am on the other side now. I tried explaining to her that what’s on this side of the chasm is amazing, but that she can’t see just how until on this side. It’s a leap of faith to get there, but … the things you can find when you take that uncertain step can lead you down so many amazing paths you couldn’t have imagined seeing only from the before!

      What you describe about “a far richer collection of connection” hits the spot exactly for me. I felt like I got volume of communication on Facebook without feeling much actual sense of connection. Stepping away freed up a little time for me to engage in ways that truly felt connecting, instead of somehow more isolating. There has been so much richness in my choice. I’ve lost out on a few event invitations, but gained additional time, peace, and absence of clutter. It’s marvelous.

      The spouse question is an interesting one. My husband’s actually encouraged me to write more fully about our relationship and its ups and downs. I’ve been historically reluctant to address darker discussions between me and my loved ones, so this is something toward which I’ll have to work, though I’m glad for Anthony’s encouragement to be a little freer. (In this world where we’re so intimidated by the thought of everything we write living forever and ever, it’s hard to be authentic and find authenticity. I’m trying to be more and more authentic as I reach out here, showing the clutter and the mess, and I believe this’ll be another step that direction.)

      Since Anthony’s encouraged it, I’ll expand a little here. Up until a couple of months ago, he was a qualified safe place for me. Now that’s unqualified in ways I couldn’t have dreamed of a few months ago. There’s been a lot of frustration and discussion which, while exhausting and sometimes disheartening, has led to this place of safety. It’s a great place to be, but, man, has it taken a lot of work and negotiation. There’ll surely be more colorful discussions ahead. I’d like to get him talking about his own safety preferences, for one, though he’d almost certainly never use those words!

      Prior to that new-won sense of safety in Anthony, I drew heavily on my sisters–via text and phone–for the sense I had metaphysical walls of love built around me in times of distress. I’d also think of my brother (a rock, in terms of stability and silence! ahem) as well as a couple of dear friends. I’m grateful to have my spouse and to be growing daily in my understanding of how much support he provides, and equally grateful for the safety builders who preceded and supplement him. Some of those people are friends online. The fact we don’t see each other in person often or ever doesn’t change that.

      If you haven’t checked out Stories That Must Not Die, I’d highly recommend it, as well as the member bloggers listed in sidebar on its About page. There’s community and safety even here, out beyond the Fortress of Facebook.

      • Nikki
        January 6, 2016 at 5:52 pm

        Thank you for the link to ‘Stories That Must Not Die.’ One of my endeavors is also to build a safe place (Mama’s Sanctuary) online that will also spill out into the tangible world in the form of a real house…a real sanctuary…for healing. ๐Ÿ™‚ One baby step at a time. First I just need to quit Facebook. haha ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. January 4, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    I completely understand why you would delete your account over there.
    I was dismayed last night when I wanted to deactivate but learned I couldn’t maintain my “pages” without a personal account.
    I rarely post over there and since I cut back on how often I check my feed the better I feel.

    • January 6, 2016 at 5:24 am

      That requirement frustrates me, too! I made Anthony a TMiYC page admin so that I could retain the page, with the many warm and wonderful conversations it reflects. (How, I ask you, was there less unpleasantness on a page of 9,500 likers than on a profile with a couple hundred friend connections?!) It lives on unpublished for now … though I can hardly imagine republishing it, since, like you, I feel better the less I’m there.

  7. January 4, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    I am so glad to have read this post and all your comments. I deactivated my Facebook account a year ago for the same reason. I felt unsafe, under sustained and vicious attack from trolls. Friends were, I found, few and far between. It was as if people turned their attention away.

    For some reason deleting the account made me feel like I was coping outโ€“I was somehow a failure. I thought perhaps I was just being too sensitive. I was addicted to the cultural vacuum Nikki describes. So, I just suspended it.
    I recently revisited my account and felt and almost visceral reaction to what I saw. I couldnโ€™t get away quick enough.

    There are some areas of social media that are great. I love Twitter, because I can use it to communicate and receive information and I can screen what I choose to see. WordPress blogs are brilliant. People are careful and thoughtful about what they say. Similarly, LinkedIn tends to have careful, thoughtful comments as well. But Facebook sits in a space in between, where people suspend their own codes about what is civil and appropriate.

    Today, I have deleted Facebook, never to return.

    • January 9, 2016 at 4:46 am

      Hurrah for deleting it! How do you feel now, a few days out?

      So, I just suspended it. I recently revisited my account and felt and almost visceral reaction to what I saw. I couldnโ€™t get away quick enough.

      I experienced exactly what you describe! It was strange being away at first, but coming back after stepping away highlights the unease that only seems like background noise when you’ve never been without it. For me, the sensation of being away juxtaposed with the sensation of being back underscored that “being away” was absolutely the best thing for me … even if I never did find the words to explain how, or why.

      As you write, blogs are the opposite for me for exactly the reason you write. Exceptions to the “careful and thoughtful” have been blessedly rare in my experience. This space–the blogosphere, well beyond the borders of this individual blog–has enhanced my sense of safety. Twitter is neutral from me. I don’t spend much time there, but like it as a place to occasionally share moving blogs and articles. (I’m not sure how the character limit change will impact my usage, if it all!)

  8. January 4, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Good for you. There is something suffocating about Facebook, with the inability to really share what you want to share, sound off on what you want to sound off on, without opening yourself up to attacks, and then the inevitable taking of sides. I keep it up for updates on the kids and other minor things, but rarely post about anything that matters (beliefs wise) to avoid conflict.

    • January 9, 2016 at 4:56 am

      Thanks!

      I didn’t post too much about beliefs, particularly political ones, but it’s almost as if people are so amped up for the political posts that they’re looking for the attackable beliefs behind even the apolitical. The exchange that inspired my final deactivation was a small, closer-friends post about how terrible I was finding getting good medical care during my second pregnancy but how I’d finally, finally gotten it sorted out.

      One of my friends posted that I wouldn’t be having these problem if I’d gone with midwives instead. Several other friends immediately liked and weighed in. So there, in the deepest of second pregnancy exhaustion, trying to address how I’d finally resolved a sticky situation in between overwhelming exhaustion of working, commuting, and tending to one child while my husband worked long show biz hours, I’d breathed a sigh of very personal relief and got … victim-blaming. I was done, done, done-zo then and there, ’cause a platform that involves “opening yourself up to attacks, and then the inevitable taking of sides” among friends is not a platform that needs to be in my life.

      And, phew! Life felt better for deactivating, and better still for deleting: a surefire sign of doing the right thing for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. January 5, 2016 at 4:40 am

    I’m not a Facebook guy (Twitter’s my jam), but I understand your concerns, Deborah.
    Stay safe, my dear friend.

  10. January 5, 2016 at 5:29 am

    So interesting to read about your reasons for discomfort with facebook, and how freeing it is to opt out altogether. I have had a weird year- I haven’t kept up with reading or writing blogs and have of late, realized facebook honestly does nothing positive for me at all. So I am at the “avoidance” stage rather than delete. A few years ago, when I started to write, I think I thought it was freeing and brave to share my thoughts publicly, whether it

  11. January 5, 2016 at 5:31 am

    whoops, don’t know how that entered before finishing–anyway, now I’m going the other way–with privacy–whether it’s facebook, wordpress…sometimes we need to take our life back. Good for you, your bravery to delete and tell us about it…may help us all take the plunge…

    • January 9, 2016 at 5:00 am

      Your comment about “does nothing positive for me at all” nails it. I had all this discomfort about being there, but it wasn’t countered by any sense of corresponding positive to balance it out. When facing a cost benefit analysis that shows all cost, little benefit … well, walking away’s easier! It just took me a while to look at it in that light.

      Once, when Facebook algorithms didn’t constantly revise what actually makes it into your feed, it was useful for tracking life events. When I started chatting with friends and realizing they’d been posting about all kinds of life events that hadn’t ever made it into my feed, the benefit of “actually keeping up with my friends” was off the table.

  12. Holly
    January 5, 2016 at 8:57 am

    I’ve cut waaaaay back on my FB use and have gotten stricter about who I allow on there again (sorry, bloggers I haven’t met in person or known for a while), If I could convince my friends to use WhatsApp or Hangouts more often, I would kick it entirely but they insist on using that chat function. :/

    • January 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      I’ve occasionally toyed with returning and having a friends list of a dozen people, but I’m pretty sure it would devolve quickly. I feel certain I made the right choice for me.

      I did republish my blog’s page last weekend, as a test run. Oddly enough, I did it to post the first/preceding-this blog about safety. Funny that I should re-enable FB to share something why FB felt like a not-great place to be! (Unsurprisingly, my link didn’t get too much interaction.)

      It’s so weird to me that that the blog’s page feels safer than my private profile did the last year or two. The best I can figure is that, though I try to be truly me anywhere I’m posting, I shift slightly toward work mode–and work armor–when I’m posting as my blog. In addition to that, the page has attracted a lot of people of like mind and similar experience, so that the folks who’re part of the community would never dream of using some of the shorthand now commonplace on private profiles.

  13. January 5, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    I deleted my FB account a few years ago for the same reason: I never felt safe there. I’ve been preaching the “leave FB idea” ever since, so it’s nice to find someone who has come to the same decision. I don’t miss knowing what all those “so-called” friends are doing and have developed deeper, more meaningful relationships with those few ppl who still bother with me. Less is more. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • January 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Even before my second deactivation, I went through another year-plus deactivation that should’ve informed me better than it did! I was so loathe to give up what I then perceived as the pros of the place. Of course, while I wish wisdom (what was right for me) would’ve come faster, I’m glad it came at all. I so heartily endorse your final thought. Less is more! I’m trying to find ways to make sure that the “less” really do remain in my life, no matter how busy the weekdays are these days. I’d like to dive deeper with a handful than shallow with dozens, apart, of course, from blogging. That’s its own kind of magic after twenty years in my life. ♥

  14. January 5, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    I absolutely detest Facebook. Agitation and disagreement generate more clicks and comments than consensus and unity. There’s just something about the format that breeds negativity.

  15. January 5, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Very well written.. and I could totally connect to your post. I had deactivated my FB account for almost a year, the reasons were many, safety being the most obvious one. Another thing that I don’t like about how this FB platform is used is, people here just love to open up their life… I am yes, I understand the urge of expressing emotions at times, but these guys just want to buy sympathy… I hate status like “Not Well” which will be followed by 100 comments like… what happened, oh so sorry… see the doc.. blah blah blah.. Your post infact gave me an inspiration to write something similar.. hoping to pen it down quickly and post it on my blog here. Keep writing…!!!

    • January 14, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      Oh, my gosh. I’d like to take this opportunity to say again how very, very much I don’t miss those statuses. I do miss keeping up with friends fighting some enduring hardships, as well as some of my friends’ kids pics, but … not nearly enough to endure the rest.

      Thank you, also, for your kind words!

  16. January 6, 2016 at 4:45 am

    Would you mind if I shared your blog on my blog over the weekend? I’m starting a new theme for my blog over the weekend to share my favorite read from the past week and I really like what you have to say in this post. Let me know. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. January 6, 2016 at 4:50 am

    I recently got back on FB after a self imposed hiatus. As someone who enjoyed posting inspirational quotes and music, it was very disheartening to see the “thoughts” of persons who I thought were open minded and intelligent. I definitely am not talking about the trash talking moments when we got caught up in sports ๐Ÿ™‚ There was so much negativity and so I took a break, now I enjoy using the unfollow button. I’m sure you’re getting much better feedback on WP for your blog so you’re not missing out.

    • January 14, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      That was actually one of the surprising highlights of exiting Facebook: Finding much deeper, more thoughtful connections here. I know some recommend establishing yourself far and wide on all kinds of media, but really, WordPress and Instagram (with dashes of LinkedIn and Twitter) suit me just fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. January 6, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    So glad you found corners of safetyโ€”in your husband, online and wherever else you make them.

  19. January 6, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    So, these “blogger predators” that you speak of, did you write a blog on them that I can reference explaining more??????

    I’ve often thought about deleting my FB account, as well, but so enjoy keeping up with my out of town friends and relatives who post pictures of their families, etc. I’m just “careful” about what I write and post on it and I keep my FB “friends” VERY, VERY limited…I’m glad that “you’re safe”…even if it’s as you say, “for the moment” (((Hugs))) Lucie

  20. January 7, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    I feel like deleting my account every once in a while too – mostly because I feel like I use it too much and it’s “falseness” contributes to my feelings of sadness and inability. Good for you for getting up the courage to do something like that and stick with it!

  21. January 7, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    FB is a strange world, I have figured out how to live there and still maintain my anonymity to a great degree. In this way I keep up with those I enjoy, play in spaces I enjoy and yet avoid the drama. I do understand your reasoning, agree with you entirely.

  22. January 8, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    When I told someone in December “I haven’t been on Facebook since my birthday (September),” this person audibly gasped. Everyone has their own social media faves–or none at all–and FB is really just for my Author Page there. I ignore the “group messages, notifications, status updates” and even “messages.” You want to reach me? Call me, text me, email me. Don’t let me find out that your father died because I happened to be on FB at some random day.

    I’m a rare person in that I Friend actual friends, people I know and trust. I don’t Friend coworkers, acquaintances I meet in coffeeshops, or others that aren’t relevant to my life. “Safety” never seemed an issue; “clutter” and “nonsense” come first to mind. I am comfy keeping my account, but it is nice to give myself permission to ignore it.

  1. January 9, 2016 at 4:12 am
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