Without a Wall: Why I left Facebook

September 25, 2017 · Words by William Dib
Photo by Carlos PX

Do you sometimes feel that you're not okay even though everything around you is? Not in an obvious, somebody-just-stabbed me way; I mean in a subtle, I'm-not-sure-why-I-feel-down kind of way. Like a thin veil has been slowly pulled across your chest and, unbeknownst to you, you now live in its shadow. Have you ever wondered what's going on? How it is possible that you feel that way when we live at a time in human history that is unparalleled in its opportunities, technology, and abundance?

There are many possible explanations: you may be experiencing chocolate withdrawal symptoms (I know I could) or be craving to scratch your consumerist itch by indulging in a shopping spree (I'm guilty of these, too). Or maybe — just maybe — social media got the best of you. This is the story of why I rescued myself from Facebook before the thin veil became a heavy cloud of depression that could have, in extreme cases, required medical attention (and lots of chocolate).

I share it with you lest you find yourself in the same boat.

Losing focus one beep at a time

Not everyone feels the same way that I do about Facebook — and that's okay. We don't all have to like apples. I certainly didn't have a problem with this apple at first. Even at the height of my engagement with Facebook, I could probably be only described as a moderate user. The years flew by and, as incredulous as I may be to write this, a whole decade later my experience started to deteriorate quite sharply. As Facebook cluttered its layout, added Messenger (its instant messaging service), and opened the flood gates to all sorts of advertisements and other sponsored and irrelevant noise, the spacious compartments of my psyche started to get cramped and congested. I felt like Neo from the Matrix: hooked up to a system. In this case, the system was draining the life out of me and preventing me from doing anything complex and meaningful in my life. I was reduced to a machine that swipes, taps, and likes, and the joys of deep and focused work had become a thing of the past.

But I didn't think anything of it, until one day as I sat at the office my phone beeped. I peeked: it was Messenger. There wasn't anything special about this particular beep; Messenger, after all, always beeped. This time, however, I felt a small fuse snap in the warm-blooded circuitry of my Mediterranean brain. Enough was enough. I was anxious. In fact, I realised in that moment that I had been anxious for a long time. I never thought I could be, but I was. Slowly but surely, an inexorable hum of anxiety had developed inside of me because I had voluntarily enslaved myself to the incessant distractions of meaningless events that were supposed to keep me connected with others. In reality, all these distractions achieved was to keep me glued to an engineering marvel of semiconductor technology while alienating me from the very people with whom they were supposed to keep me engaged.

I was in trouble and something had to be done.

The farewell

So I took to my wall (or Timeline as it was later called) one final time to announce my resignation from the social network. Here is an abridged version of my post:

"Dear Facebook family,

My journey on the social network has come to an end, and so I will be permanently deleting my account on April 30th, 2016. I'd love to keep in touch with all of you and I hope that the feeling is mutual. If we haven't spoken in a long time because I, you, or both suck at keeping in touch (admitting is the first step to healing) and you feel it's “um.. like.. super awkward and weird” to be in touch now then rest assured that there will be no judgement.

Let's make a comeback.

Send me your contact info and I shall reply with mine. I hope you're all well wherever you are in this big, wide world.



Predictably, the post was initially met with mild, well-intentioned mockery. “You'll come back!” some confidently exclaimed. Rather unpredictably, however, a stream of private messages slowly began arriving in my inbox. They were filled with expressions of solidarity and encouragement. So heartfelt were these messages that they felt like confessions; more about the sender's reality than mine. I realised that, for once, it wasn't just me. There were many people out there aching for a release from the shackles of beeps, notifications, and distractions. My decision to leave provided them a brief, vicarious thrill to enjoy a future of which they dreamt, and so they wrote to me to congratulate me like I had just had a baby. “I have been on this site forever and I wish I had the courage to do the same as you” one person wrote.

If this weren't a cry for help, I don't know what is.

Silence after the storm

I woke up to witness the effects of addiction first-hand, in my life as well as in the lives of those around me. We all have the liberty and power to free ourselves from digital oppression but we voluntarily choose not to do it. I suppose the frequent hits of dopamine, however momentary, are addictive enough to cloud our better judgement. If this does not apply to you — fair enough. I'm not trying to spoil social media for you. However, if you recognise that this applies to you, know that you're not alone and that you wield the power. You do not need a multi-billion tech giant with an army of employees and thousands of servers to improve your quality of life. On the contrary, the giant needs you for its quality of life. Make a comeback. Say hello to the person next to you, I guarantee you will “like” it more than any digital post you will ever find.

Almost a year and a half later, I am happy to report that I have never been more serene and calmer without Facebook. Not for a fleeting moment did I regret my decision to leave it. Today, I use social media carefully and with clear purpose. Notifications are strictly prohibited. Admittedly, and this is no secret, I do maintain a Facebook page for professional purposes (and I wouldn't have created it if I didn't really need it) but the point remains: my use of social media is very different than it ever was before. I'm no longer a consumer of algorithm vomit. I spend more time in the real world, working, creating, and interacting with people.

It's best kind of connection I have found in this lifetime.