I made a big change today.
Are you ready?
I just left Facebook.
Today I'll share from my heart openly with you, and my goal is to communicate both the decisions I have made and why I made them.
Maybe my words will even inspire you to make some changes that you know in your heart that you need to make. Maybe the decision you’re struggling with isn’t about Facebook or social media, but it’s about a relationship or habit or even a career that no longer serves you. Just because we have a lot of time invested in a relationship, or a habit, or even a career, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck there forever once you see that it’s time to do something different.
Why in the world would I leave Facebook entirely? It’s a long story.
Much of this story is a love story: I have loved *much more* about my time on Facebook than I have *not* loved. Facebook has been a large part of my life for so long, and it has even become my identity for these most recent years. But, like many love stories, sometimes there is a dark side that no one sees but you, playing out behind closed doors.
Let’s start at the beginning: the day I joined Facebook, which FB tells me was November of 2008. That means I have spent almost THIRTEEN YEARS of my life checking in to Facebook on a daily basis.
In the beginning it was a little weird. Remember how we wrote everything in the third person?
“Gin is…cooking dinner for the family!”
“Gin is…sick with the flu.”
“Gin is…tired of talking in the third person about her daily activities.”
Facebook evolved over time, of course, and I recorded my life there, just like you probably did. I can check my Facebook memories and see that on this day in 2009, I loved my new coffeemaker. In 2010, my cat got lost in the attic and wouldn’t come back down. In 2016 we were trying to trap a raccoon who we realized had been coming into our house through the cat door to eat cat food every night while we were sleeping.
After being a casual Facebook user from 2008-2015, I started my first Facebook group in August of 2015 and everything started to change. I had recently lost 75 pounds through intermittent fasting, so I created the One Meal a Day IF Lifestyle support group as a place where I could both give and receive support, connecting with others following a similar path. That first week we had about 35 members, and I knew all of them personally. I remember early conversations such as “Hey, what deodorant do you like?” because it was just a group of friends who happened to all follow intermittent fasting.
Over time, that group grew. People started wandering in off of the Facebook street, which felt weird, but because I LOVE intermittent fasting, and I am a teacher at my core, we welcomed them into the group and they became part of the family. Everyone wanted to know how to get started, but there wasn’t a book that had all of the most updated information all in one place-- so I wrote one. That was the birth of Delay, Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle, which I self-published in 2016.
As the years went on, I started new Facebook groups and they grew and grew…by the end of 2020, we had a combined membership of about half-a-million people from all over the world.
Yep. You read that correctly. From 35 people that I knew personally to almost 500K.
I managed the groups completely by myself from 2015 until 2018, when I brought on the first moderators to help out behind the scenes. Before that time, I was trying to manage the groups in between my work as an elementary teacher. I want you to imagine this scene: I would be teaching away, and then Facebook notifications would start to go off on my phone because there was some kind of kerfuffle going on in the groups that needed my attention. Maybe someone posted a meme that other people didn’t find to be funny, or something equally as dramatic. These were the days before post approval was a thing, so sometimes it was like the Wild West in there.
I remember one day when there was some kind of blowup that made everyone mad, and one guy said, “I can’t believe Gin would allow this conversation. I am leaving and I will never follow her again or read another of her books.” I hadn’t been a part of the conversation or even seen it, because I was at work doing my job, but that day it all got really REAL, because I understood all of a sudden at that moment: people were holding me responsible for what went on even when I wasn’t there. That added a layer of pressure that hadn’t been there before. Suddenly, it wasn’t quite as much fun as it had been. That’s the day Facebook became my job rather than just a passion project.
Bringing on moderators in 2018 helped a lot. I breathed a sigh of relief, and it was amazing to have a team that was committed to helping others within the groups. I could wake up each morning knowing that eyes from Asia, Australia, Egypt, and the UK had been on the groups while I slept.
I have formed lifelong friendships with this strong group of women (and a few men), and one of the best weeks of my life was when ten of them came to my house for a moderator retreat that was supposed to happen at Myrtle Beach, but Hurricane Dorian got in the way. Chad and I had just moved into our new house the week before and boxes were everywhere, but we pivoted, everyone changed their travel plans and came to Augusta instead of Myrtle Beach, and we had what feels like a combination of the world’s best housewarming party and a week-long slumber party.
See? I told you…this is very much a love story. I have fierce love for the moderator team, and we have formed some of the strongest and most genuine friendships of my life. I have never known a more generous group of people. Well, that’s not true. I was a teacher for 28 years, and I knew a lot of generous-hearted teachers and school support staff over the years. The moderators have the same selfless and generous nature that you find among teachers, health care workers, and other “helpers.” I’m sure you know what I mean.
I also have that same kind of fierce love for the Facebook group members…all 500K of them. We have celebrated health and weight loss victories, cheered successes, and cried together when members experienced personal tragedies that they shared with us. We helped members troubleshoot and we sent virtual hugs when they were down. And, we celebrated food and the freedom of living an intermittent fasting lifestyle.
But it wasn’t all like that.
My work on Facebook was always shiny on the outside, but it could be a completely different story behind closed doors. I remember the shock I got one day when I woke up to a message from a group member who wasn’t happy with the way the group had been managed so she was lashing out at me. She said: “I am going to haunt you from ghost accounts until the day I die.” That was shocking to read and also terrifying.
I got a lot of harsh messages from group members over the years, in fact. After reading them, I would get shaky and it always felt like an attack, but I shook it off, because I loved the work I was doing in the groups and drew strength from that.
Looking back on those few-but-impactful dark moments, and now looking forward to a Facebook-free life, I feel in some ways that I’ve gotten out of an abusive relationship, which sounds extreme but it’s my genuine emotion today.
The good FAR outweighed the bad, and that’s important for me to emphasize. I am grateful for every lesson that I have learned. Even those scary moments: they taught me strength and resilience.
In the fall of 2020, like many of you, I watched the documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix, and it got the wheels turning, forcing me to re-examine what I was doing on Facebook and thinking about what a monstrous part of the day it consumes for some of us. Suddenly, I knew I needed to make a change, but I had no idea what to do about it. I had built something huge, and it felt a bit like the Hotel California: I could never leave.
Here’s what I know: I’ve been on Facebook all day, every day, from the minute my eyes open to the minute my eyes close, Facebooking in between every activity of my day. For YEARS.
Wake up. Facebook before my feet hit the floor. Shower. Facebook in the shower because my phone is water resistant. Coffee. Facebook while it’s brewing. Record a podcast. Check Facebook WHILE RECORDING. On and on and on until the end of the day. Check Facebook. Go to sleep. Dream about Facebook. (I wish I was kidding.)
When I think about it, I realize that I haven’t been fully present in my own life since 2015. The business of Facebook never closes, not on weekends, or Christmas Day, or Thanksgiving Day, and not even when I go on vacation. Facebook never sleeps. It’s 365 and 24/7.
Based on my self-reflection, I realized that leaving Facebook and forging a new path is the right thing for me to do. It’s the healthiest thing I can do for myself.
I’m grateful for the connections I have made on Facebook and know that Facebook has been a large and meaningful part of my path. I am grateful for every positive moment Facebook has brought into my life, most of them through the intermittent fasting support groups. I am also grateful for all of the positive moments that these groups have brought to group members. I am humbled by the love and support I have seen group members give one another over the years. It's been a beautiful thing to be a part of.
So, what happens to the Facebook support groups if I am no longer on Facebook? Thanks to the amazing Delay, Don’t Deny community moderators, we are not closing the main Delay, Don’t Deny Intermittent Fasting support group, found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/DelayDontDeny. There, the team will continue to provide moderator support for intermittent fasting in the daily “ask a moderator” thread within that group. I won’t be there, but the moderators that our community already know and love will be.
Where will I be?
You will always be able to find me on my podcasts. Listen to The Intermittent Fasting Podcast with cohost Melanie Avalon to hear us answer listener questions. Find inspiration by listening to me chat with other intermittent fasters on the Intermittent Fasting Stories podcast. You can even hear me talk about other parts of life on the Life Lessons podcast with cohost Sheri Bullock.
I’ll also be writing more books. My latest is in the works now, and it isn’t about intermittent fasting. What? You’ll see. I’m pretty proud of this one. Coming in early 2022, from St. Martin’s Press.
If you ever want to plug back in with me in an entirely new way, I’ve moved the Delay, Don’t Deny community to a new platform that’s completely off of Facebook. Go to ginstephens.com/community to find out more. It gives us many meaningful ways to connect, though in a different format than Facebook offers. There’s a learning curve because it is different and new to us, but it already feels like home to me.
Also, and most importantly: it won’t be a place you are visiting every 10 minutes. You go once (or maybe twice) a day to catch up, get inspired, or find support.
In between, you live your life. ❤️
I’m visiting the DDD Community on my laptop rather than on my phone (well, most of the time...), because that keeps me from feeling the need to check it while cooking dinner, taking a shower, or having a conversation with my husband. This forces me to be more intentional when it comes to my usage rather than checking in hundreds (thousands?) of times a day.
Within the DDD Community, you’ll be able to ask me questions personally in the Ask Gin group and I am mentoring new IFers in the 28-Day FAST Start group and in the 1st Year group. That feels like home to me.
The new DDD Community is very much about connection and community, which is the most important thing in the world to me. We can be real and vulnerable, yet also laugh together, while enjoying an added layer of privacy that is absent on Facebook. We have location-based groups where you can meet other IFers close to you, or even connect with other members when you are traveling.
I did not make the decision to leave Facebook lightly, and I understand that readers who may have been in the Facebook groups for years will feel a sense of sadness that the DDD community is changing. I feel it, too. Facebook has been MY home-base for all of these years.
Will I ever come back to Facebook? Never say never, right? For now, though, this feels right in my heart and soul. Maybe I just need a break. But maybe, just maybe, this is forever.
Gin Stephens lives in Augusta, Georgia, where she has been following an intermittent fasting lifestyle since 2014. In addition to writing the #1 Amazon best-seller Delay, Don't Deny and the follow-up book Feast Without Fear, Gin is host of the Intermittent Fasting Stories podcast and co-host of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, along with fellow intermittent faster and author, Melanie Avalon. Check out www.intermittentfastingstories.com and www.ifpodcast.com or search for the podcasts through your favorite podcast app.