Almost three years, I decided to deactivate my Facebook account. It wasn’t a rushed decision, but rather a gradual process that was inspired by my need to regain control of my affairs.
When I signed up for the experiment that went wrong, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect aside from the immediate euphoria of being able to reach out and touch familiar names and faces that situated in vastly different time zones.
I’m not going to downplay how good it felt to reconnect with long lost girlfriends from boarding school, who perfectly fit the definition of “friends” by social media standards. I was basically a zombie in high school for reasons that weren’t that clear then, but make a lot of sense now.
Being born in the States and then moving back to Nigeria at the age of eight, was a lot more complicated than it sounds. I never meshed well with my homeland, and the misery began in primary school, when I was relentlessly teased about my American accent. And my boarding school years weren’t all that better either — as I struggled to seamlessly fit in and foster the friendships that were meant too extend past graduation.
My weird accent eventually evolved into something less problematic, but my mannerisms that bordered on “too lady-like” or whatever it was that left a bullseye on my back, seemed to interfere with my ability to blend in without suspicion. It wasn’t that the girls disliked me, it was just an overall acknowledgment of how I was just too different to ever be popular or safely immune from the pile of semi-rejects.
I returned to America after boarding school, to pursue college, and it wasn’t until my late twenties, that I began to revisit my boarding school days through some re-activated connections. This was a decade away from Facebook or any of the other purposed connectors, and so that meant face-to-face meetings or phone calls.
The initial excitement always ended up dipping into the old familiarity of feeling slightly out of place — particularly since we were now adults with careers, and from my prospective, I was definitely the least accomplished of the group. My hopes of becoming a writer was still ions away from being furnished, while my old classmates had chosen more lucrative routes that had evidently served them well.
Eventually, the ability to stay in touch faded into long periods of non-communication, until there was nothing left but the memory of having tried to re-establish what wasn’t really there to begin with.
By the time I was in my early thirties, I had made peace with the fact that my closest girlfriends didn’t have to be of Nigerian descent because I had reached the point in my life where I knew who I was and how that was going to guide the people that would enter my life permanently.
Then Facebook happened, and suddenly there was a renewed desire to once again resurrect “friendships” with the assistance of an invention that made it seem so damn easy to dive right in, without caring about the deep or shallow side of the pool.
And almost immediately, family members surfaced, and the party got larger and louder, as the magic of technology effortlessly gave profound power to clicks, and how that simple action solidified reunions that were many years in the making.
At first, it was seductively empowering and cunningly convenient to be able to manage a roster that merged the past and the present with a level of ease, that convinces you of the falsehood of how many people care enough to maintain contact — even if they’re a world away.
It didn’t take long for the virus to spread, and include even more contenders from a time long ago, who were excited and eager to pick up right where we’d left off. In some cases the feeling was mutual, while others presented the challenge of feigning interest by being politely distant, which was hard to do, when your personal page is populated with albums that depict eventful gatherings that don’t include you.
There was also the re-connecting with boarding school mates, who all seemed to be friends in a way that didn’t match my involvement. There were a handful of connections that felt genuine, but for the most part, it was right back to the performative art of validating my presence and input, only this time it was on a wider scale.
I was also not psyched about limiting my engagement with cousins and distant family members based abroad, on the functionality of social media landscapes — because there was something steely about the notion that we could spend time with keyboards and screens, but never be motivated enough to pick up the phone to hear the voices we hadn’t heard in decades.
As Facebook evolved, its influence expectedly grew beyond reuniting with those who seemed so far away and were now only clicks away, as the next frontier included the automatic assumption that new entries would be folks that you worked with for six weeks during a short-term assignment, who wanted to “add” you to their impressive number of “friends.”
And then there were the maddening number of requests that were getting more bloated by the week, and after the false hope that covering my eyes would clean away the mess, it was finally time to face the faces that appeared in the unhygienic mix of “yeses,” “nos” and “hell nos!”
It was like being outed as an online hoarder, who needed a quick and effective intervention in order to be rescued from deeper peril.
The first step was to identify the problem, and I didn’t need an expert to point out that the culprit was actually the sole owner of the space, who had woefully failed to maintain law and order — which inadvertently led to a consequential coup that forced me to be the prisoner of my own domain.
Not long after, the verdict was read, and it was the harsh sentence of banishment.
Facebook had become unmanageable because it was no longer a dependable avenue to maintain connections that seemed to be wholly reliable on the level of activity that I was willing to invest.
Deep down, I knew that my abrupt absence wouldn’t be questioned nor would I be missed, especially by the former classmates who were nice enough, but the “connection” was surfacy at best.
Also, at least three of our mates that passed on after battling illnesses in private, had to weather public death announcements, that were jarring reminders of what the memorial page looks like when you’re gone.
The last thing I would ever want is to pass on, and have an active page filled with testimonies from people that really didn’t know me all that well, but feel obligated to leave monotonous messages — based on brief interludes.
Ultimately, my fiesta with Twitter and Instagram proved to be more my speed in terms of online engagement and the payback that rejuvenates my loyalty and consistent use. It seemed excessive to spread myself thin if it wasn’t warranted, especially when the experience with Facebook had become increasingly unpleasant.
There was also getting older, and needing to mentally and physically clean house.
I had matured out of wanting to stay in touch “just because,” and the assignment of keeping up appearances had become stressfully exhausting. There was also entanglements with certain family members who had discovered my writing and were using the divulged intimate details as a tool for weaponizing.
It was all much too much, and in the end, I was ready to forfeit the “friend anniversaries,” “generically generated birthday wishes,” “weirdly compiled video albums” and the algorithm-driven “year in review” that includes the shit that nobody ever wants to relieve, even when they have to.
And so I took the necessary steps to deactivate my page, which turned out to be a complete joke, since all that you accomplish is privately abandoning a page that operates without you. You’re still feted in the same way you would be if you were logged on, and that means when you decide to take a peak after a long hiatus, you will be met with even more shit — and a drastic increase in your anxiety levels.
But at the time, my deactivation status was enough incentive for me to boldly declare that I had left Facebook for good, even if it was a lie.
I actually didn’t end things until almost two weeks ago, and that was motivated by a venomous note delivered from Facebook Messenger, via a former friend. We had agreed to part ways in 2010, since our friendship was no longer mutually beneficial, but somehow I had missed the part that states how anyone can reach you on Messenger — both friend and foe.
That episode was upsetting, and so were the other controversial bullet points that illustrated the tyranny of greedy techies who manufacture the tools of our content that end up becoming the agents of our discontent.
Perhaps the reality of being armed with god complex, that compels us to get readily sucked into well-implemented traps, that are secure enough to quietly rob us of more than we’re ever aware of or able to recoup — is the price to pay for making such infinite betrayal — upsettingly simple.
The first step to leaving Facebook, was figuring out how to fucking leave.
The initial research directed me to tackle severing ties with Messenger, which was relatively straightforward, since it’s a separate entity. But Facebook itself turned out to be a challenging endeavor, due to the fact that there’s really no direct path to unearthing that information.
Googling it will display the steps for “deactivation,” which is just a temporary fix that still keeps you active in the eyes of the “friends” you’re trying to discard.
After multiple attempts, that inspired the impatience that forced me to stay deactivated until whenever, I finally decided that enough was enough and honed in on how to escape the clutches of my hell.
I maneuvered my way onto a page on Facebook that had instructions on how to initiate deletion, and once I clicked the link, the application was within my grasp.
There were serious warnings of how “final” my decision would be, as well as threats of what I was recklessly walking away from, and that part of it was hilariously re-affirming, considering the platter of “friends” that represented the main reason why I was jumping ship.
The process of the final parting takes 14 days to complete, and if you dare log in within that time period, you essentially void out your application, which means that you have to re-start the process if you’re still adamant about deleting your page.
The waiting period has been interesting, as I’ve been treated to nuggets of coercion as deletion day draws dangerously closer.
I found it interesting that just merely days away from my hard-fought freedom, I stumbled upon this when I searched my name against Facebook and Medium, and again when I just Googled my name.
Interesting because it’s been about two years since my “Noteworthy” mention from Medium, and as the months accumulated into a year and beyond, my highest honor ever, was nowhere to be found when my name was searched — until now.
Now that my disengagement with Facebook is almost complete, it appears that my “Noteworthy” status has been activated, and of course the shock of seeing it on the list of items that showed up after clicking the “search” button, instinctively made me want to click on it.
But my acute desperation to leave the torture chamber, swiftly overpowered — just in time to gratifyingly dodge that bullet.
And then the very next day, I visited another platform that is on the list for termination — my hotmail inbox. And surprisingly clicked on this gem:
I don’t know who this person is, and so I checked and while impressed with the credentials, I am apologetically exposing this user to enhance the argument of how Facebook is comically whoring itself — in order to prevent the inevitable.
If I were to “accept the invitation” as a way to investigate who this potential “friend” could be — I lose my place on the deletion list as punishment for my avid curiosity.
But to be honest, they lost me with the frightening notice that confirms that more strangers have tried in vain to be “friends,” and the only way to assess the messier mess is to accept the “invitation” from someone who most likely didn’t even make that first move in the first place.
Facebook is definitely a cult that is thriving from the preliminary big win, that sealed the wirings of addiction in a revolutionary way that won’t be thwarted.
Luckily for me, my obsessive-compulsive nature is regulated to pleasure sensors that I systematically shit out — literally.
My protectiveness towards my privacy as well as being able to manage relations that are fulfilling and based on real life interactions — overthrew the need to stay “connected” to a landscape of dysfunction that was infuriatingly operating without my input.
I suspect that the end is gratifyingly near, and this is no solemn parting, but rather a celebration of the audacity to choose the option of living in the present with the humans who will be distraught at my absence — and won’t have to turn to the comments section to express their grief.
It’s about Facing down the Book of lies by making my final exit with dignity and grace.
And now WhatsApp?