Facebook lowers your self-esteem and helps you get on everyone's nerves.
I've been on Facebook since 2007, joining originally to stay in touch with my sister in Sydney. Her response:
Hey Nic, glad you've joined Facebook! I normally hate this kind of shite but honestly this is great for finding people you haven't spoken to for a while. Love you loads, chat soon M xxx
Thus, a new affair had begun. 2007! That's seven whole years and, incidentally, the longest relationship I have ever been in to date. From day one of our kinship, I threw myself right in, got involved and gave it my all. I shared, I posted witty (read: annoying) statuses, I drunk-posted, I SHOUTED USING CAPITAL LETTERS, I over-shared, I collected in excess of 480 friends and reconnected with people I first met when I was just five years old. FB and I hooked up in the morning, over lunch, in the early hours after a night out with the girls and I told it (everyone) everything.
I thought it was the best thing ever, a game changer, and wow we've had some good times together. Facebook has helped me document my life in photos and declarations; capturing those heady party days in my twenties, sunny holidays, boozy weekends away and monumental gigs. It diarised my time living in Australia, tracked how I met my husband and records life-changing events such as - the happiest day of my life so far - my wedding. It helps me share this here blog and increase its reach and exposure. It cultivates my networks and allows me to stay in touch with friends and family, capturing these heady party days of my thirties (Tut. FB, stop judging. You're eleven years old and no spring chicken yourself, thank you very much!).
Looking back on old posts, especially from your formative FB years, is a hoot. You could easily waste half a day getting tangled up in the past. (I should imagine, I've not actually tried it. Ahem). You barely recognise your younger self; gadding about and never going to bed and adding something witty after 'Nicola is…', back in the day when we were restricted by third-person singular present tenses and the like.
Ah, the reckless posting without abandon. 'Nicola has just spotted 'News in Briefs' in The Sun being read by the man next to her and is astounded. I don't care what you think about Iran, YOU HAVE NO TOP ON.' and '...is experiencing the sort of hangover where even your teeth ache' and 'winter = disaster. After hitting head on a taxi door last night I now have mild concussion. No work and minimal reading/pc-screening. Ah'. It all feels so new and heady and exciting and where on earth did you get the energy to do that and the time to post, and add captions to things and categorise photo albums and what in the name of God are you wearing?! (Shut up grumpy 30-year old).
Things recently though have got a little tepid. Some of the shine has come off. It's not been seismic, more a gradual separation over the past few months and I think we're drifting apart. A quick iPhone check, the odd half-hearted status, that's all we've got left. I still love you, I'm just not in love with you. It's not you, it's me and I'm hoping we can work things out.
WAIT. No, actually it IS you! It's you. You used to be fun. Once it was all about sharing and poking and joining silly groups and nosing around at what your exes were up/not up to (haha, wanky profile photo!), saying nice things to each other and painstakingly arranging Events with a photo and everything. It was positive and collaborative and jolly.
Now it's all showy, and shouty and LOOK AT ME and egotistic. It's crammed full of superfluous adverts and saturated with selfies that once were groupies. It's got too big for its corporate boots. We're not connecting or sharing with people in our life, we've becoming virtual recluses and getting on each other's wick.
So, I'm taking a break from you and I think it's best for the both of us. I'm self-enrolling on a one month FB detox plan to purge you from my system. I've checked the small print and this plan comes with some unwanted side effects (niggling curiosity, withdrawal-shakiness, feelings of exclusion) but hopefully it'll be worth it.
1. It gives me the right hump
In fear of sounding like a jealous, resentful old moo, FB sometimes makes me feel a bit crap. Since teenage I've experienced what my Mum used to call 'Missing Out Syndrome' which has been rebranded for the Aughts as FOMO [Fear of Missing Out]. In an age where celebrities are visualising absolutely everything us mere mortals will never have, suddenly we're all at it. Sharing sunny holidays in exotic climes, flaunting bronzed tans, toting new huge designer bags, pointed freshly pedicured feet in soft sand, or simply taking Mondays off work with a big HA in your face!
Guilty as charged. I've done it too and once the momentary satisfaction eases, I often feel anxious and sick and worry that people will think I'm being a billy big bananas and so I consider hitting delete. Then forget (see point 2).
Who hasn't been there; work's draining the life out of you, modern life is rubbish and you're in on a Friday through sheer exhaustion and poorness. A quick swipe down the Newsfeed and it's all shiny new relationships, exciting jobs in far-flung places and Insta-filtered beach shots, selfies in full-face slap and falling out of the latest bar in Peckham. You sob into your pillow and think I'm utterly shit, and why oh why aren't I volunteering in Malawi right this minute, or sky diving or wearing limited edition Nike Air Max that cost a million squillion quid? Why?! Sob.
FOMO and the negative impact of the toxic digital world we live in is reportedly leading to depression, anxiety, lack of self-esteem and very tragically, even suicide. The thing is, very rarely will we say bad stuff on FB. It's embellished and magnified, not real life - most of us are actually lucky beyond belief if only we'd stop and look around us for a bit.
So, I'm stepping away in an attempt to try to feel better about myself and not compare. The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything. I'm going to talk to friends and find out what they're up to face to face and listen and smile. Because real friends are candid and funny and say what they really mean, and you get to hear the real stuff (like 'my new job is pretty cool so far, but the people are trendy-scary and yesterday I was too afraid to ask where the loo was so held it in all day') as well as the amazing.
By checking out I'm also abstaining from Checking In. I'm choosing to savour the moment in real-time, rather than grabbing my phone and telling the Facebook world where I am and what I am eating and wearing and feeling the moment my husband / friend go to the loo, then putting it away furtively when they return.
2. It drains my brain
Hello, my name is Nicola and I'm a social media addict. I wake up and spring out of bed to check my email / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter and Whatsapp. All before 6.30am. All before I've tackled the commute. All before I've had a hard day at work.
Yesterday I couldn't even remember the name of - oh God what was it? Important facts and details disappear, gone. Names on the tip of my tongue escape me. My brain races. I wonder why I find it hard to concentrate on one single thing at time, why I have such a terrible short-term memory.
I've realised that hitting the big blue F icon on my iPhone and sucking up all the random incessant news hurts my head. A lot. It makes me irritable and unnecessarily exhausted and irrationally feeling like I have lots to do. A red number on the Notifications globe used to make me smile, now it makes me panic. When will I have time to reply? Will they think I'm rude? Is a one-word answer arrogant? I only left one kiss, they left two! Facebook anxiety at its worst. (Fanxiety?).
Yesterday's ES reports gloomily that symptoms of tablet addiction include a loss of interest in other activities, lack of control, deception, furtiveness and irritability. Weight gain and RSI are also on the list. Yikes! So I hope that withdrawing from FB will lighten the load, air out my brain a bit. Like opening a window and letting all the dust out and fresh air in.
I intend to measure the impact of my detox to see what I can achieve instead. Like reading a pile of books I'm eager to get through (incidentally one is called Get Things Done). Looking outside at the sky, the grass, the stars and the sea. Freeing up my head space and tapping into my creative side to allow writing and writing and more writing. I've neglected those things quite badly so hopefully I'm back on the path to non-digital enlightenment.
My head will be grateful for it I'm sure, and my health.
3. Advertising overload
There I am happily looking at that-girl-who-never-talked-to-me-at-school's photos of her Auntie's dog when BAM, in my face is a random advert for William K Gray sunglasses, purveyors of the worst cheap Ray-Bans ever. It's a Suggested Post or a Suggested App or something, recommending that I might like it or may want to click on the link and part with my hard-earned money. Err, no I won't and I don't. I don't like it at all. Stop trampling all over my page, you are trespassing. Get off my land!
Another one of my pet hates is unintentionally ridiculous corporate Facebook pages. LIke Wickes (the trusted name in home improvement and the building trade). 109 people are talking about Wickes and I am curious to know what on earth they are discussing. Blinds? Tiles? The advantages of paint brushes versus paint rollers?
Tonight I learned that 2, 933, 597 people have joined the Colgate Facebook Community. Erm, I'm sorry, did you say Colgate Facebook Community? IT'S TOOTHPASTE. IT CLEANS YOUR TEETH.
I know all too well that businesses need a boost but really, the world's gone mad. This wasn't what I signed up for.
4. Women get a raw deal
Back in 2013 the Guardian reported on Facebook's big misogyny problem. It's 2014 and in my (dry and tired) eyes that problem still exists.
LIke the repulsive Women Who Eat On Tubes, which thankfully is now a private group only. Yuck. Its creator Tony Burke, hit with a widespread backlash, has bottled it and says 'his decision to focus on women was based on his own personal observation that more women eat on the tube than men and that it was not intended to be sexist'. Twit. I still found it a revolting intrusion of privacy and a sneering, sarcastic pop at women who were probably working 5-9 and eating at the only opportunity they had between meetings, sleep-deprived busy mums or someone who felt a bit peckish and unwittingly became the victim of harassment via that load of old nonsense. High art it is not, you utter morons.
Then there's the more sinister stuff that I'd rather not go into too much detail about on this post, like the representation of rape and domestic violence which is too awful for words. I still don't understand why Facebook continues to allow this kind of content to be published. Not cool, Mark, not cool. I do not intend to be on the same platform as these vile beings (not human) and they can stick freedom of expression where the sun doesn't shine.
Sheryl Sandberg may be Leaning In but I'm clearing off until it's sorted out.
Facebook, I've thought about this carefully and it hasn't been an easy decision to make. I'll miss you and all the nice stuff. Admittedly, you've helped me launch my blog and for that I am very grateful. That is why, despite my main page being inactive for one month from today, Material Whirl's Facebook page will be hanging around - solely for the purpose of sharing my blog posts as most of my friends are yet to embrace the Twittersphere. Think of it as my naughty, toxic side if you like, drinking wine and falling out of bars at the witching hour while I sip wheatgrass and perfect my downward facing dog.
For now, I have new digital buddies to hang out every now and then with to help me boost my blog pages, albeit on a minimal and controlled basis - Instagram and Twitter Much more importantly, though I shall associate myself with fresh air and books and real people and writing. In abundance.
So, my one month trial starts from here. My account will be suspended, my status will read 'From 16 April 2014, I am Facebook Detoxing for 1 Month. See you on the other side (or on Twitter).
I'll let you know how I get on. Wish me luck.
Oh, hello life...