Editorial In less than a decade, Facebook has morphed from Mark Zuckerberg's dorm room project into a global phenomenon where member activity and trends make the evening news.
I joined the site in 2005 when "the new MySpace" required an academic email address and was mostly populated by fellow techies. Initially I resisted the urge to sign up since I already had a profile at the rival social network, but I eventually caved to the peer pressure on campus; it was the new cool thing and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
The early days of Facebook were much different from now. The site layout and profile pages were very basic, and the young and reckless didn't have to worry about family members or employers stumbling across their questionable photos.
As the site loosened membership requirements, I initially perceived the expansion as a good thing. I reconnected with childhood friends and high school classmates, and as a budding photographer, I loved sharing photos and receiving feedback from those on my friends list.
But as Facebook closes in on one billion active users, its overwhelming success is mostly why I've decided to end my long-standing relationship with the social network. Seven years is a long time to maintain any online account, much less one that demands almost daily attention.
Contrary to what some of my friends think, there wasn't one single event that "set me off" so to speak; the decision had been building for a while. I knew there was a problem when I'd wake up each morning and instinctively reached for my phone to check the latest overnight developments posted to my news feed.
More often than not, whatever I found would put me in a foul mood even before crawling out of bed. Many things annoyed me, but the short list includes political rants, religious preaching, relationship drama and grammar that would disappoint a first-grade teacher.
When I told friends my plan to leave the social network, some suggested that I purge my contact list to eliminate some of the nonsense, but after deleting over 300 people a few months earlier, I knew this wasn't the solution. After all, the fact that I even had over 600 "friends" is comical. Others recommended to hide feeds from people that frequently annoyed me, but again, that would only mask the true issue: I had grown tired of Facebook.
The social network has been commercialized and ruined by its own fame. The lure of rekindling old friendships has long since passed. I've always hung out with a close-knit group, so I knew those people would still be around even if my profile wasn't.
I pulled the plug on my account a few weeks ago and following a brief sense of liberation, I quickly faced the consequences of my decision.
I didn't remember that Spotify required Facebook and despite being a paid subscriber, I was instantly locked out of my account. I had grown fond of the streaming music service and wasn't thrilled with the idea of losing the playlist I had built over the past year.
I also quickly realized that I would no longer be able to watch some MMA fights on Facebook. The UFC streams select preliminary matches live on Facebook before the main card airs through various television outlets. Facebook is the only way to watch these fights so once again, I was missing out on other forms of entertainment simply because I didn't want a Facebook account.
It seemed my only options were to cancel my Spotify membership and forego watching UFC prelims or create a dummy Facebook account without a public profile -- I chose the latter.
I linked Spotify to my dummy Facebook account but I lost access to the coveted playlist from my old account. I emailed Spotify's tech support but as anticipated, they didn't reply. It was only after I reached out using my press credentials that I received assistance.
Spotify managed to transfer my playlist from my old account to the new dummy account and the service supplied me with a one-month premium membership code since I just paid for a full month's service before disabling my Facebook account.
I've been "off grid" so to speak for a few weeks now and it's possibly one of the best decisions I've made in a long time. Not having to deal with all the riff raff that comes with Facebook is refreshing. A couple of minutes checking Facebook every few hours really add up over the course of a day -- or seven years.
I don't feel like I've missed out on anything worthwhile since closing my account. Outside of a few close friends and family members, I doubt most of the 300+ people on my friends list will even notice I'm gone. It shows how disconnected we all are in such a connected world.
As with any addiction, it can take some time to break the habit. I've found myself mindlessly navigating my bookmarks before snapping back to reality and realizing Facebook is no longer there. I also instinctively reached for my phone after waking up the first few days to check my news feed, getting as far as the "social" folder before realizing it was all for naught.
If you've been on the fence about dropping your Facebook account, I'd urge you to give it a try and see if you can live without it. After all, it's like financial advisor Dave Ramsey says: if you don't like being out of debt, you can always go right back into debt tomorrow. The same holds true for Facebook.