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:
- I like seeing some of the photos people post – beautiful landscapes, quirky family snaps, cute animals – but not all
- 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
- I like video messaging with my granddaughter and with my stepdaughter who’s travelling in Australia
- I like suddenly seeing an update from someone I haven’t seen or heard from in ages
- I like telling Nick about the good things I’ve seen or read, as he doesn’t use FB at all
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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