What REALLY happens when you disable your Facebook account

“A year ago, I shut down my Facebook account.”

One of the things my clients often worry about, is that their story is not exciting enough to be told. They believe that, for anyone to want to keep reading or listening, there has to be HIGH DRAMA  – life-threatening illnesses, helicopter chases and/or bears.

My response is always: “When it comes to telling personal stories, narrative is almost the least important part. It’s all about making the person feel the way you felt in that moment. THAT is how you connect with them.”

“When it comes to telling personal stories, make the person feel the way you felt IN THAT MOMENT”


I also recommend to anyone who wants to get better at telling stories, that you should read and listen to incredible storytellers. Here, guest posting, is my favourite storyteller of all time – and my story coach – Sage Tyrtle (above, in the blue) telling the VERY compelling story of why she shutdown her Facebook account:

“When I was thirteen years old I would sail down the sidewalk on my bike, terrorizing the little old ladies of the neighbourhood by reading my book as I rode.

Riding my bike and looking where I was going was boring, but with a book I was never some kid on her way home from school. I was Ramona Quimby, I was Trixie Beldon, I was Harriet the Spy.

I read through all of my classes, my book hidden underneath my desk. Nothing stopped my voracious appetite for stories. Not Atari or school dances or love or motherhood.

It was Facebook.

Suddenly, in the middle of walking on Mars or swimming across a Thai lagoon an impatient sing-song of notes from the sky would alert me that SOMEONE HAD LIKED WHAT I’D SAID and I’d dive for my phone.

It was just too exciting to ignore, and my trips to the library tapered off so quietly I didn’t even notice when they stopped entirely.

I even tried scheduling Sustained Silent Reading for myself, the way my grade 4 teacher had done. No matter how hard I tried, the book was just a page with words printed on top. I couldn’t find my way in.

I missed the feel of the page under my fingers. I missed endless baths with nothing more urgent than finding out if Margaret Atwood’s heroine was going to escape the evil dystopian villains.

I missed stories. I was starving for stories.

And it wasn’t just books. I’d meet friends for dinner at fancy restaurants and would pretend I had to pee just so I could go into the washroom and check to see if I had any new LIKES.

At first, three Likes was a triumph. Then seven, then thirty. I started analyzing the status updates that garnered the most Likes and tailoring what I typed into the Facebook box and when I didn’t get any Likes I’d agonize over what I’d done wrong. The day I hit that elusive 150 mark I did a happy dance and hollered – SUCCESS!

A little part of me said, “Er… are you sure you’re comfortable basing your self worth on how many people hovered their mouse over a word and clicked the button?” but the bigger part of me said, “F–K RIGHT OFF,” and I kept on dancing.

I wish I could say that I realised I was completely bereft of free time because I was spending all of it listlessly scrolling through page after page of Facebook, but in reality it was the sudden knowledge that if I didn’t immediately start working as hard as I could on my solo show script I’d just be standing on a stage for an hour in front of fifty people eating marshmallows and making shadow puppets on the wall and pretending I’d discovered performance art.

At first, I decided to just cut down. I took Facebook off my phone, but I kept putting it back on because “just this once” I really needed it.

So I asked around for a dumb phone. The kind that just does telephone and text messages. A friend had one lying in a closet. I turned the data off my phone (saving $520 a year) and started using the dumb phone.

But I still had access to Facebook on my home computer. I wondered, could I go an entire hour without it? I changed my password to a long string of numbers and words and logged out. It was surprisingly easy to go sixty minutes, and I was pleased with how much I was able to get done.

So I tried three hours. A little harder, and I was really excited to see what I’d missed when I logged back in. Nothing interesting, but hell, it’d only been three hours. So I tried six. Six was torture.

How’s Jennifer’s trip to Mexico going? Did David make that apple pie yet? DO I HAVE ANY NEW LIKES?

As five hours fifty nine minutes ticked over into six I eagerly logged back in. Nothing interesting. I tried an entire day. The same. I tried a week. In a week, I assured myself, SOMETHING fascinating would have happened.


And I realised that I’d ALWAYS been thinking that way. Well, nothing interesting, but I just checked five minutes ago, or thirty minutes, or just the night before.

I shut down my account entirely, planning to reactivate it when my script was finished.

And the next day, the clock got to the end of the day and it just kept running. Running and running until a twenty four hour day had magically grown to forty eight hours. My fingers were scrambling to keep up with my racing brain as I worked feverishly on my solo show script.

When I went out with friends, my attention was fully engaged. I wasn’t half-waiting for a buzzing in my pocket or wondering if that funny family exchange I’d posted had made anybody laugh. It was 1986 all over again, except this time Ronald Reagan was dead and buried.

After a few weeks, people started to ask somberly, “So… how are you doing, really?” and then gradually to confide, “I don’t really even like it anymore. I’m not sure why I’m looking, but I look all the time.” We could have been talking about cigarettes.

And one day I picked up a book. And I found my way in. Effortlessly.

I wrote the solo show script and I rewrote it and I rewrote the rewrites and I scrapped half of it and then I scrapped half of what was left and I rehearsed a thousand times and I performed it to a sold out audience and got a standing ovation at the end.

And I thought, “You know what? I like my life better without Facebook.”

Today when I dive into a new creative adventure – sewing a t-shirt from scratch, for example – the only approval that matters is my own. Do I like how the t-shirt fits? Yes? Hooray. Ten million Likes to me.

And maybe Facebook works for you, and if it does, fantastic. But if you’re one of those people who doesn’t know what they’re doing there anymore, give it a try. Set the timer for an hour and see what happens.

I still find it boring to walk home. But my dataless dumb phone sits in my backpack as I sail down the sidewalk terrorizing little old ladies by reading a book as I walk. So when you see a blue haired woman heading down Bloor with a book in front of her face, you’ll know it’s me. Gobbling stories as fast as I possibly can.

October 2015 update

It’s been over a year. My only regret is not shutting down my Facebook account sooner.

And gradually, I’ve turned what I can back into 1986.

The laptop to write in has turned into a sketchbook and a pen. The smartphone is a flip-phone that’s mostly lost or out of batteries. The headphones are my two ears listening to the music of the city. The illustration software is now a desk in a sunny room, a pencil portrait half in progress. Facebook messaging is giggling over a worn wooden coffeeshop table listening to stories. Told live.

I am learning French. I am learning to draw.

But mostly, mostly I am remembering what it feels like to sit under a warm blanket near a window full of sky and wander the world by the simple act of reading one word, then the next, then the next.”  

– by Sage Tyrtle

Gripped, right?

(this story was originally posted on Sage’s INCREDIBLE Facebook page – updated by her partner. Before you, too, disable your account, you should like her page – and click “Get Notifications” like I have – here: www.facebook.com/StorytellerSageTyrtle1 marsha and sage and chris

If you’re in Toronto this weekend, Sage is doing her solo show, which I’ve seen before – and loved so much that I’m going to see it again. You can buy tickets for that show, here: tyrtle.com/boxes, and find out everything you need to know about Sage here: tyrtle.com

Thanks so much for reading! I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below – about making everyday stories exciting or about getting off Facebook. And if you know anyone who you think really needs to read this, you can share it with them (or with all your friends) using one of the round buttons below.

And, of course, if YOU would like some help telling your story – figuring out which bits are compelling and which bits aren’t, and discovering how to tell the whole thing in a compelling way, then I’d LOVE to help you. Have a look at yesyesmarsha.com/storycoaching for stage and screen, or yesyesmarsha.com/whystory for your site.

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha



PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:


  • Ruth Morris

    Reply Reply March 31, 2016

    I found this an intriguing read, and I found myself nodding in agreement as I read the article. I usually deactivate my account for a few weeks every year to have a ‘Facebook Holiday’. I’d highly recommend it to anyone. Unfortunately Facebook is my only way to contact so many people, so permanent deactivation would be like throwing away a huge part of my address book. I’m also managing a FB page for my business, so I’m more hooked than ever. Another way to do less Facebook is to just not read your newsfeed, read it only once a day or once a week, and limit the number of notifications to those that are most important to you.

  • Al

    Reply Reply March 31, 2016

    I’m currently in the middle of “slowing down”. Facebook is an amazing address book for international friends, though I completely agree with the sentiment of this article.

    Outside of work – I can’t remember the last time I used my laptop for anything outside of FB or hungry browsering – the odd recipe I suppose.

    An analogue life awaits, soon. I promise.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      I LONG for an analogue life, Al. But the fact that FB allows you and I to stay in each other’s lives is reason enough to stay on! xx

    • Sage Tyrtle

      Reply Reply April 1, 2016

      The analogue life is pretty great! I’ve ended up in this hilarious position of having to periodically tell my grandmother that I don’t have a webchat account and don’t want one and far prefer email. Meanwhile, she’s one of the most tech savvy people in my extended family.

  • Anne Flournoy

    Reply Reply April 4, 2016

    Loved the article the first time I read it. Now, second pass through, I’m drooling. Hmmmm. You’re gutsy and great. I live my analogue life wracked with guilt while ignoring social media as much as I dare (for business, I tell myself). Thanks for this inspiration. Will hope you have a show on next time I’m in TO.

  • Jeff Callahan

    Reply Reply May 5, 2016

    I unfollowed everything on Facebook, friends, pages, acquaintances, even my wife.


    I realized that in order to get more things done, and minimize my consumption so I could maximize the output…I needed to cut the cord.

    What I’ve noticed:

    1. I am a blank slate. When people ask me if I’ve heard about XYZ, I say “No! Please tell me.”
    2. I’m happier. I can write more, and play with my cat more.
    3. I didn’t miss it.

    Facebook is now simply messenger.


    PS. I totally still use that chrome extension…. Specifically to disable the trending news stories.

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