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facebookFacebook took a prominent place in my life, as it undoubtedly does in many lives. It acted for me as a kind of gateway to the world, and allowed me to feel connected to the world, or at least it gave me that feeling. True, Facebook also reunited me with long lost friends, people I sometimes thought about and wondered what had become of them. And Facebook acted like an important outlet for my thoughts, worries and frustrations.

But over the years Facebook started to worry me. It made me think about the system behind Facebook. And it made me realize more and more, as the rules were regularly modified, that Facebook was not free, but I was the product sold.

Some people irritated me, like some guy fulminating on the ‘wall’ of an American ‘friend’ of mine about the immigrants flooding the United States, his words covered in a light sauce of ‘white supremacy’ and a hint of Christian crusaders’ spirit. I just replied that he was right: all immigrants should leave the States at once! He seemed quite happy about that. But when my next comment was asking him when he would pack up and go, because he was no less an immigrant on the territory of the Natives, he disappointingly was no friend of mine no more 😊 His reply was meant as a threat, which I shall not reproduce her for the vile language, but in short he wanted me to leave the States immediately for I was a traitor and an anti-Christ and some other despicable denunciations. Until my Facebook ‘friend’ wrote that I was not living in the States… It sounds silly, but he made me laugh so hard at his narrow-mindedness. Probably he imagined Facebook to be an exclusive all-American community, preferably just for white Christians?

“Facebook, please use this for your publicity” – Sharon ©yannbastiaans

But yes, I got irritated quite often by posts of people on Facebook. Probably people got irritated at my posts too. Gradually Facebook started to take a central place in my life, and I lost more on more time on it busy doing.. nothing really. And I started to feel ‘being followed’. Not in a psychotic way (I hope so 😝), but the knowledge that Facebook used my posts and especially my ‘likes’ to make an accurate profile of me gave me the creeps. When I discovered later that Facebook also tracks me on internet such as my visits to other websites, even when logged out of Facebook, that freaked me out.

Slowly I started to contemplate the idea of leaving Facebook. Honestly, the idea made me feel insecure. When Facebook announced they claimed the right to use all images posted on their system for commercial purposes, without needing explicit permission, without notice, and without any remuneration, that was a step too far for me. Frantically I cleared my work as photographer from my profile, and put some back online but with a text trough them. Stating silly stuff like: “Please Facebook, invade my privacy!”, or “Yes, use my image Facebook!”, supposedly making it impossible for them to use my images for their commerce.

Then I announced with a message to all my ‘friends’ I would leave Facebook by the end of January 2015, to avoid the new ‘terms of usage’ Facebook imposed on its users. The replies I got were dual in content. Some pleaded with me to stay, some others admitted they were thinking about leaving too. But as the day came closer I grew more anxious, and it felt like I had announced to the world the day I would die.

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“Yes, please Facebook, invade my privacy” – self portrait with model ©yannbastiaans

When the 30th of January woke me up with beautiful sunrays, it could not cheer me up. I felt a bit depressed. A bit stubborn I set myself to the task of emptying my profile: saving pictures others had posted and tagged me in, noting mail addresses of people I might be interested to keep in touch with, and slowly clearing my whole profile. It really felt like dying at that time! Knowing I would lose so many contacts I had made over the years (at my pinnacle I had almost 2000 ‘friends’, mainly contacts because of my photography), especially the long lost friends I found via Facebook, made me feel so sad. I encouraged myself by the mantra: ‘there is a real world outside Facebook’, which I kept repeating to myself for the past weeks before my Facebook-death.

After my account was terminated I felt deprived. Whenever something funny happened I wanted to post it on my profile. Whenever politicians and their rubbish talk angered me I wanted to write about their stupid views. Whenever I wanted some contact with a friend I wanted to log in. But I knew Facebook does not ‘terminate’ your account right away, even if you decide to do just that. They keep your profile intact for the next two weeks, and whenever you log in, even by mistake, your profile is activated again. They seem to count on it that departing users will have regrets and will come back to them.

Slowly my life adjusted to a universe without Facebook. And gradually I started to realize I had become more balanced. No irritations, no longing to check my profile, no dependency on this system where I was used as a product. Yes, my life has become quieter, my mood has become more enlightened, and I seem to appreciate the world outside even more, maybe because I have more time to wander and wonder.

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Me flying in the sunset in Mexico – photographer: Marko Hrgetić

So on the final question if I do miss Facebook, I can answer from the deepest of my heart: NO! I do not miss Facebook. Yes, I do sometimes miss some friends and the ease I could contact them, and being kept up-to-date about their lives, which on the other hand also brought some stress to me when I still was a friend of Facebook and kept myself informed. But I remember not having Facebook in my youth, and was I unhappy then? Of course not, just as I am not unhappy now, on the contrary. I am proud of myself I unfriended Facebook, and nothing or no one can convince me again to join a company designated as a ‘social media’, but being all but a social media. I feel free! 😃

There is a real world outside Facebook….

Love, Yann ❤️