My slow, difficult shift away from Facebook by Keidra Chaney

We met Keidra Chaney at our summer salon a few months ago and she is a total gem. While we spent the evening chatting about social media, how we utilize it for our business and our personal connections, we couldn’t help but feel that Keidra was ahead of the curve with her tips on how she tries to handle it all (her past career experiences may play a role). So when she mentioned that she’s begun to shift her focus away from Facebook, we were all ears. Read on to hear more about why this trailblazer is aiming to take meaningful relationships offline, phasing away from the dominant and sometimes overpowering social network and loosening the hold it has on us all.

My relationship with Facebook has been a constantly evolving, quite often frustrating one, much like being in a relationship with a really entertaining, but needy, intrusive and annoying person. I’ll cop to the fact that my perspective has been largely colored by having a mostly transactional connection to the social network, not long after I joined I was using it on a professional level, working as a web content manager, and then a social media community manager at a Chicago university.

Too old to be a part of the original cohort of Facebookers who created their first account as college undergrads or high school students, I was still mostly ahead of the curve. (At the time – roughly 2005 – one could only get a Facebook account with a verified college e-mail address.) Living a dual life on Facebook for so long has been a blessing and a curse. Facebook has reconnected me with old friends and former co-workers and it’s helped me maintain real-life friendships with people who have moved away. I’ve even met awesome new people thanks to Facebook (though Twitter’s been way more fruitful when it comes to making new real-life friends.)

But the new social order that FB has created has its own headaches– intrusive updates to the algorithm where you see posts from friends of friends that you don’t care about, getting ugly pictures at cocktail parties tagged, dumb political flame wars with crackpot exes, passive aggressive fights about party invitations. And when you work in social media marketing there’s more headaches – accidently posting a personal update to a business page, moderating other people’s dumb political flame wars during your day off, constantly using the word “engagement” for things that have absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s impending marriage.

Until very recently, I’ve had little experience with Facebook solely as a personal network. It’s long been such a necessary part of my career that I never really thought about what it would mean to choose to leave, for good. But now I can.

After several years of working as a social media community manager, I’ve recently shifted my career focus back to my original career goals of writing and editing, meaning for the first time in years, I have no Facebook business pages to update, no ads to buy. I’m able to leave Facebook at my own choosing without it majorly disrupting my work life.

And yet it’s not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. I’m hardly some Facebook social butterfly; I have 600 Facebook “friends” and I would say only a quarter of them are people I see in real life terribly often. Yet as I started to weed down my Facebook friends list, and plan a hiatus for myself, I found it was much more connected to my personal life than I gave it credit for. Casual friends and acquaintances that I primarily connect with on FB, will I be able to keep up with them? Those Facebook groups I moderate, who can I hand them over to? Where will I go for my daily updates about the Dillinger Escape Plan? What if I miss an awesome event because FB is the only way I’d hear about it? And it actually annoys me to admit that Facebook is so much a part of the meaningful connections of my daily life that I would actually miss it if I left. But I still want to loosen the networks hold over me. I want to eliminate a lot of noise and focus more intently on the real-life relationships that FB helps to maintain, and perhaps move FB away from being the nexus of those relationships.

BUT IT’S SO EASY TO STAY. I know that’s the appeal of FB and why even as other networks come and go, FB continues its dominance. I’m still figuring out how to change my relationship with FB and the people on it and how to redefine my relationship to social media now that community isn’t a part of my professional identity. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.