An hour or so after I deleted my Facebook account, I got an email explaining that in fact my account had only been deactivated but it would “be permanently deleted within 14 days.” Which means it wasn’t deleted at all. If I logged in during those fourteen days, the delete request would be canceled. I’d have to cancel all over again and wait another two weeks. I was in Limbo.
I knew I wouldn’t make it. I quit in the first place because I have no self-control. I was compulsively checking FB fifty times a day. When I wasn’t on it, I was thinking about it — which photo I’d post, or which inane article I’d share, not to mention all the outrage I drummed up responding to everyone else’s outrage. I wouldn’t be able to stay away for fourteen days. And why fourteen days ? Why not twenty-one days ? Why not seven ? It wasn’t arbitrary. Nothing on Facebook is arbitrary.
To Facebook, each of us is a gold nugget of data. No, that’s not right. A nugget of gold is useful only once, when you sell it. But a radioactive gold nugget is different. Facebook has figured out a way to enrich us like uranium so we sizzle and radiate away our half-life into the ether day after day. A radioactive nugget is a life-long goldmine, and no way is Facebook going to make it easy for that goldmine to disappear. I had been active on Facebook (a gross understatement) for almost seven years. None of my likes and posts and shares and quizzes and comments were useful to anybody even a few hours after I made them, but to Facebook they were isotopic everlasting golden gobstoppers, which is why they’re saved in perpetuity. I’m sure Facebook’s social engineers, or Fascistineers for short, burned through months of data, cash, and guinea pigs to figure out that twenty-one days would make people think something’s fishy — nothing takes twenty-one days to delete ; seven days would be too fast for most people to have second thoughts and change their minds. Fourteen days must have been scientifically determined to be the sweet spot, and I didn’t stand a chance.
But it turns out I did. After a couple days, the compulsion faded. After a few more days, I stopped thinking about Facebook entirely. When someone told me about something they read on Facebook, I had a sort of mental gag reflex. I didn’t care and I didn’t want to hear about it. The fourteen days came and went four days ago, and I’m realizing it only this morning.
I miss my friends on Facebook. I met a lot of new people there from around the world who I’d never get the chance to meet otherwise, and I stayed in touch with family and old friends too. All that is gone, and that’s hard. I live a pretty quiet life, and I don’t take friends lightly. I used to say I might be alone but I’m not lonely, but I feel lonely now. I also think it’s okay to feel lonely. It’s okay to feel bad. Now maybe I’ll do something about it — seek out friends close to home, get out of the house, etc.
But on the other hand, I feel like I’ve gained at least two hours a day. It was unsettling at first because I didn’t realize what was happening. It felt like the clocks were running slow. But now I’m loving the extra time in the day to work. Beyond that, my mind has started to calm down. If the mind is like a car’s engine, my idle speed was way too high. I was burning fuel and and wearing myself down for no reason, revving hot and fast all the time. It feels like my mind has settled into a calmer, quieter natural state. These days I’m in the middle of a very stressful and unhappy divorce, and recently I’ve fallen out with a good friend I love ; yet even with all the anxiety and exhaustion and sadness, I’ve been calmer and less scattered than I can remember being in years.
But did Facebook really delete my account ? I’ll never know. If I check, there’s a very good chance I’ll be right back where I was 3 weeks ago. Limbo is the very edge of Hell where sinners must wait for the possibility of salvation, but it’s also a super goofy dance.