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getting off facebook

Giving up Facebook for at least a month

Today is my last day on Facebook for a while. I was inspired by Dan Blank’s recent blog post about the importance of ‘investing in white space’ in our lives: time for reflection, time to breathe. If you’ve ever craved more time for writing, reading and creating, it’s really worth a read.

I came relatively late to Facebook and have never taken to it in the way I did Twitter. And yet I find it takes me away from Twitter, because it sucks up more time. And when I open Twitter, I have a much more rounded, balanced, exciting and inspiring view of the world. There’s just something about Facebook that seems closed and self-regarding. But then I ask myself, why am I using it? Here’s my pros and cons list:

Positives
  1. I like seeing some of the photos people post – beautiful landscapes, quirky family snaps, cute animals – but not all
  2. I like watching some videos, but not those that make me feel I’ve just wasted two minutes of my life. Trouble is, you never know which it is to be
  3. I like video messaging with my granddaughter and with my stepdaughter who’s travelling in Australia
  4. I like suddenly seeing an update from someone I haven’t seen or heard from in ages
  5. I like telling Nick about the good things I’ve seen or read, as he doesn’t use FB at all
Negatives
  1. Time wasting (which is actually life wasting) – see point 2 above. I know I do my best creative work when I have plenty of ‘daydreaming’ time (something I always struggled to explain to past employers who perhaps didn’t see marketing as creative work). Instead of uploading photos to Facebook I could be blogging them, and if they’re not worth blogging they’re probably not worth posting.
  2. It’s become a mindless habit – always flicking through posts on my phone when I’m idle – on the train, bus, having a cup of tea etc – when I could actually be reading something, thinking about a poem in progress, calling up a friend to ask her over for a coffee, or even doing a Sudoku (which may or may not help ward off dementia – not sure Facebook has any claims to that!)
  3. I find the continual negotiation of the terms of Facebook ‘friendship’ an increasing psychological burden. People often behave differently online, and believe it or not it’s not usually deliberate. But it can be unsettling to see. I’ve had 20 years’ experience of dealing with life online – I recognise the many negative or unsocial behaviours, of individuals and crowds, and understand why much of it occurs. That doesn’t make it any easier to deal with – no matter how easily we brush things off, or laugh about what goes on – everything we see, read and do in a public online forum affects us. Interestingly, I don’t personally find Twitter anything like as stressful. I could explore the reasons, but that would be another university dissertation.

Getting off Facebook is a popular concern. Google it and you’ll see what I mean.  This WikiHow article gives a very good overview of how and why to do it.  I particularly liked this piece by a self-confessed procrastinator for whom Facebook had ‘the gravitational pull of the Death Star’.

However, leaving Facebook entirely takes some getting used to, so I’m quitting initially just for the month of January, to see how it goes. Habits take a while to break, and you need to help the process along. So I’m uninstalling FB from my phone, logging out and ‘forgetting’ my password. I’m going to encourage my rellies onto Skype, and rediscover the visual sites I love such as Pinterest and Houzz. I’ve never found Facebook interesting for news or debate, I get that from Twitter. But I’ll continue to skim the Guardian online and emails I subscribe to, such as The Brief Daily.

I mentioned in my last post that I want to create more face to face time with other writers, with friends and with family. Get out more, basically.

I’m not leaving social media altogether – I’ve been using Twitter for over ten years and although I’ve been a lazy participant of late I plan to rediscover all that I love about it, but without substituting my Facebook time with Twitter time. I can’t see that happening because I’ve always had an easy and healthy relationship with Twitter.

This isn’t about online vs ‘real life’. I still maintain that actual bona fide friendships can be made and maintained remotely – it used to happen via letters and written correspondence (remember pen friends?), it’s not a new thing. I’m giving myself time to blog, to read blogs and to connect with the people I love and respect and who inspire me online, just not on Facebook.

 

*cartoon by Nadia Farag

17 Comments on “Giving up Facebook for at least a month

  • Peter Kenny
    December 31, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Yes! I couldn’t agree more. There are lots of lovely people on Facebook, and it has its uses, but by crikey as you say, it is a thief of time. And I’ve begun to notice how I feel after a Facebook session, and it is often less cheery than I felt beforehand.

    All best wishes for the New Year Robin, and catch you in meatspace ere long.

    Reply
    • Robin Houghton
      December 31, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks Peter, and a Happy new Year to you too! x

      Reply
  • Paul Vaughan
    December 31, 2016 at 11:49 am

    I hear you. However, in Yorkshire at least FB is “the” place to advertise poetry events and book releases and it would be hard to keep abreast of what is going on without it. Also, with my online site Algebra of Owls it is the shares on FB which easily generate the most views and interest in the poems, much higher than on Twitter or native views directly on the site.

    Reply
    • Robin Houghton
      December 31, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Ah yes, it’s a slow process, and it’s never going to be easy. But as more people move away from FB other channels will take over. And most event organisers have multiple promo channels. I’m rediscovering the good ol’ emailing list! Also, see my reply to Josephine. Thanks for your comment, Paul, and happy New Year!

      Reply
  • Josephine Corcoran
    December 31, 2016 at 11:57 am

    This is really interesting, Robin, and thank you for the Dan Blank link – I too like the idea of investing in white space and finding ways to be less distracted to create more time. For quite a while now I’ve been withdrawing from Facebook and mainly using it to share links to And Other Poems and to my personal blog/website. I have noticed that Facebook has been useful for getting a response to local events I’m involved in, however, and I think this is because not that many of my Wiltshire contacts are on Twitter – I’ve been trying to find more local Twitter contacts by using #Wiltshire hashtags, etc. I read the Wikihow a while ago and haven’t had fb on my phone for a while but I have missed a few messages this way, so I need to be clearer about the best ways to contact me. Best wishes with your ‘trial’ fb free life! May it bring many rewards. – J 🙂

    Reply
    • Robin Houghton
      December 31, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Josephine, yes, the Facebook tentacles reach into all sorts of places… I may still need to access Facebook for work reasons/ a client, and Telltale uses FB to post up events. I think my strategy will be to separate out the ‘business’ side of it and just not use my personal profile or read any updates. I’ve turned off all notifications. I know this is tricky when you’re trying to establish something new, and FB has its uses as a broadcast channel. As for getting news of events myself, I usually hear about things in multiple ways anyway, so I don’t think I’ll miss out. (I think FOMO is one of the more insidious ways FB can ‘get’ people).

      Reply
      • Josephine Corcoran
        December 31, 2016 at 4:51 pm

        Yes, I think this is really good advice and SO TRUE about the fomo! I am rediscovering the benefits of emailing – but perhaps need to learn to make them more personal.

        Reply
  • Diana Brighouse
    December 31, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    I agree with all you say, especially the difference between Facebook & Twitter. I returned to fb through a uni group, and have unwittingly got sucked in. You have given me the impetus I needed to follow your example. Thank you for a good start to 2017!

    Reply
    • Robin Houghton
      December 31, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Diana, and glad it has given you an impetus!

      Reply
  • Alison Mac
    December 31, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Hi Robin. I will miss you on FB as I’ve never got into Twitter apart from for work. I will make a note of your blog. Perhaps I need to learn more about Twitter!

    I find FB useful for events and for some political, society and community stuff all of which led me to get involved in a face to face way i.e. demos, trying to get a meeting with our MP etc, going to concerts, exhibitions etc

    However I deliberately don’t have FB on my phone. One offspring doesn’t use it at all and the other rarely. Telling I think.

    I hate all the “targeted” advertising.

    We can always meet for coffee!

    Happy New Year

    Alison

    Reply
    • Robin Houghton
      December 31, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Alison… yes, as I said in reply to Josephine, I realise FB is used a lot for event promo. But quite often the events are also advertised in other ways such as via an email list, at related events, meetings etc, and word of mouth. I think it’s a slow weaning off and finding alternative sources of the same info. Good for you not to have it on your phone! And YES we are only down the road from each other!! Happy new year! x

      Reply
  • Rebecca Gethin
    December 31, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    What a great idea. I like your line of argument but I have never used twitter and don’t think I want to move across. But I do think I will devise some weaning off method myself…. you are completely right about Facebook and I recognise how I use it to while away a little time…and then have to go back and check what someone else may or may not have said and I may do this several times! Life-wasting! I could be reading or writing a poem or day-dreaming or making a cake!

    Reply
    • Robin Houghton
      January 1, 2017 at 3:48 pm

      Ha ha! a cake – indeed! Good luck with the weaning off, and Happy New Year! x

      Reply
  • Louise Ordish
    December 31, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    …good idea Robin. I’ve taken a slightly different tack and taken Facebook off my phone, because it was taking up a stupid amount of time and also physical (i.e. storage) space. So i catch up on Facebook when at home using my desktop, but NOT when i’m out and about and find myself reaching for my phone as a default “twiddle” action. Actually, i think a global boycott of Facebook for a month would be a wonderful thing.

    Reply
    • Robin Houghton
      January 1, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      Yes, getting it off your phone is a good idea, and clearly some folks have wisely not put it there in the first place! I think the ‘twiddle action’ is a very good place to start 🙂 Happy New Year…x

      Reply
  • Jill Fricker
    January 1, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Really interesting Robin! I have an FB account for the odd time I need to check an opening time, event date etc . . . but otherwise, I’m a bit self-confessed snooty about the cats/kids/holidays/likes/banal comments FB stuff. And just HOW many ‘friends’ can one person have??

    However, one of my resolutions is spend a bit less time on Twitter, and more on books! There’s great stuff on Twitter – like you, I’m signed up to The Guardian and other really interesting accounts, and some of the Twitter wags are very smart, very drily humorous – but I can’t possibly read it all! I stopped buying a newspaper because I would just amass a pile of articles to read ‘sometime later’, but now find the temptation to read endless info via Twitter equally invasive into my ‘free time’. A quick look at my laptop history also reveals how I generally underestimate how much time I’ve spent online. So print/online balance is my goal for 2017 (including writing time of course!)

    Reply
    • Robin Houghton
      January 1, 2017 at 3:52 pm

      Hi Jill, that’s a good goal, and something similar to what I’m trying to do. I love books and magazines but print newspapers now can be a bit overwhelming and as you say, they pile up. Thanks, and Happy New Year! x

      Reply
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