In zoology you can predict the mood and behavior patterns of any chimp by which five chimps they hang out with the most. So it pays to choose your five chimps carefully.
I deleted my Facebook account a few months ago. And I have to report that the quality of my life has improved greatly since then.
There are the obvious advantages, like less time suckage and not feeling like you are continually pressing your face to the glass of someone else's party. But I think the main one is I only hang out with a few nice chimps now.
At the risk of sounding like a rictus-grinning evangelical, here is my post-Facebook life:
1. I have become more productive.
This is not just because I have more time. It's because I don't have to notice whether people are booing or cheering. I think it's easier to foist your weird creations on the world if you are not looking for approval. I'm not sure Facebook is helpful for writers: The creative imagination requires a certain abandon and disregard for results (or likes) which often paradoxically generates the most useful outcomes. Like Thoreau said, one should beware the activity which produces applause: the great moves are usually greeted by yawns.
2. I have more energy.
I used to cut my toenails and consider it a hard day's work. But if you're not putting so much energy into managing your public persona, you have more to put into the things you really want to do, however inconsequential they are. An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.
3. I feel safer.
Hooray! No more social PTSD. When you're not online, it's easier to stay away from the kind of people who give ice in winter. Now, I don't have to continually guard myself against people who are harsh, judgmental or tormenting. I only have the occasional beating by the sadistic guards of my imagination to deal with. Even those have lessened, since they are not egged on by online shaming.
4. Strengthen your internal observer.
For all my life I think I was an expert at figuring out what was expected of me and giving other people what they wanted, but I didn't have the foggiest what I wanted. Getting offline seems to have helped with growing my internal observer. The need to belong to yourself is the deepest need of all but I'm not sure you can meet this need with online connection. Maybe you can have a different, more accepting relationship to yourself only when you stop seeing your life through someone else's eyes.
5. Bear more reality.
Under stress we all engage in magical thinking. When I was on Facebook I always seemed to be looking for some symbolic gesture, some sign from the universe, that yes, I see you, you exist, you are valuable, you are special. This was a fraught endeavour, destined to fail. The reality of Facebook offers a construct of our life which is heroic and glamorous and superhuman. When this apparatus of magical thinking is removed, it becomes easier to stay present in everyday reality. You discover ordinary life has its own cosy pleasures.
6. Monitor self-disclosure.
I am more careful about what I share. It is easier to stick with yourself and your own deepest, most powerful instincts of what feels right and wrong, your own goodness, when you are not having to consider the views of thousands of other people, most of whom you don't know and who seem to be engaged in building imaginary fortresses of certainty.
7. Tabula rasa.
Going off Facebook means shedding years of detritus and memories, and feels like a new beginning. Without a documented record of my life thus far I don't have to be reminded I used to be married, thinner or held some frankly shady views. It's not just because of Facebook, but I feel more free now to do things differently from the way I'd learned or the way I had been told was the only right one.
8. A quieter mind.
Facebook is not a happy place for highly sensitive people. Elaine Aron, who defined the construct of the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), recommends cultivating inner silence, a "brilliant darkness". She says that the deeper and more frequently HSPs go inside, the more we can give to everyone and everything around us, including, of course, ourselves.
It is much harder to get that state of quiet when you are continually getting interrupted by beeping notifications: "Bunny, Galahad and Bonzo liked your post".
So I have traded in the Facebook chimps. Because of course, the most important chimp to like hanging out with is this shaggy old ape, yourself.