Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Turning off Facebook.

I want to give up Facebook. I think. Or maybe it is better to say I think it would be beneficial for me to give up using Facebook. So why don't I just stop using it? Today. Now. There are many reasons I like using it of course, many things I will miss about it.

Photographs... I like posting photos of my life, my son, my dinner. All those annoying things that people dislike about Facebook, I do them all. Yet I have an Instagram account and a Tumblr and various other places I can (and do) post my photographs. Hell, I don't really NEED to post them at all given that if I wanted to share them I could do it by email instead of to the world wide web. Or I could try that radical idea of printing them and putting them into folders and then inviting people round to my house to see them.

Keeping in touch with friends... I have lots of friends who are scattered over the country, the world in some cases. So why don't I write to them or pick up the phone? Facebook makes it easy to maintain friendships where there is distance or where time, work and family commitments mean you can't regularly meet up. On the other hand does my use of Facebook mean that I am less inclined to make and keep arrangements to physically spend time in other people's company?

Stalking people... Facebook allows me to look up people and see what is going on in their world. I don't actually have that many friends on my list (Compared to others) but I can see friends of friends and I can see into the lives of people on the periphery of their lives. I also know everything that my friends are doing so there's no need to talk to them about their lives face-to-face, right?

Communication and calendars... There's no getting away from it, Facebook is a very effective organisational tool and I use it to keep track of events and groups that I plan to attend. I also use it for group chats. However I am guessing that if people really wanted to contact me and keep me in the loop then they would just email or phone me.

Activism... I am a member of several groups including The everyday sexism group and a local feminist group. We may just be keyboard warriors to some but I have had my mind expanded and my eyes opened by some of the articles and discussions posted in these groups. I have even ventured out to attend demos and flash-mobs. So clearly Facebook can enhance a person's life and activism.  However, presumably I could still do these things by attending meetings or looking up information on the rest of the web?

On the other hand there are many reasons why I should stop using it. I spend far too many nights sitting on the sofa with my iPad propped against a cushion refreshing my news feed in the hope that something interesting will happen. I am seeking out enjoyment through an electronic device which renders me prone and immobile and wastes evening after evening when I could be dealing with all the things that make me feel depressed about my life. Like, for example, the seemingly immovable mountain of crap that fills up my house and which acts as a barrier to me ever inviting anyone around - something which just can't go on now I have a small Toddler who is making friends and asking me if they can come to play. And I am serious here... I DO sit for hours on end doing nothing but re-load my news feed as some awful BBC 3 program purrs in the background and then I take it upstairs and I lie in bed refreshing my feed until gone midnight in the hope that something interesting might happen and then when I wake up I grab my phone and refresh my feed just in case I missed something exciting - which I never have. There is nothing exciting about catching up on the witter of my insomniac friends - is there?

Here are some of the reasons why I should be giving up my Facebook...

Gossip... The reality is that in the main all I am doing is hunting for gossip, ear-wigging, snooping and generally expecting some kind of exciting news to appear. Not only that but I have been the subject of gossip as a result of my postings on more than one occasion. Indeed, I have recently had to restrict a large part of my friends list so they can only see part of what I post. Having family on your Facebook can cause discord and upset either as a result of what you post (Misinterpreted or not) or because of what they post (Passive aggressive or not). My marriage just can't stand the strain and having a Facebook account. When you are prone to write honest updates, like I am, it is not beneficial to a good relationship. I would like to know what life is like when people who's opinion I don't much care for are not party to every thing that goes on in my life. If I can't censor myself (believe me I have tried) then I need to deny myself the opportunity.

Mental Health... This is because I do think that broadcasting every little thought and experience means I no longer seek out meaningful conversations and meet-ups with people who are good for my mental health. I also obviously spend far too much time indoors planted on the sofa as described above. No Facebook = more activity = better mental health. Also there is a terrible navel gazing that goes on (At least for me there is) when you are able to compare your Facebook (Or real) life with the lives of everyone on your friends list.

Getting things done... I have a head full of ideas about what I want to do. Do the illustrations for a children's book, create some stud walls so my son can have his own room, declutter my house so my son can have friends round, learn to cook, get my sewing machine down from the roof so that I can make dolls (I have the pattern, I made one by hand - the plan was to make one for all the children I know by Christmas), tend my allotment, do a night class, do more exercise. Instead I sit like a lump and wonder why my house is depressing me so much, why I am so lumpy and how the hell we can ever have other small children to visit. If I wasn't on the Internet then perhaps I could achieve some of this list?

THE PLAN - I really don't think that it is going to be possible for me to just turn off Facebook and stick to it, I think I need a gradual withdrawal not least because I want to extract some of the information my Facebook holds - addresses, dates and so on. I also don't want to make a big dramatic 'I am leaving Facebook' announcement. I will gradually withdraw, start posting my photographs elsewhere and stop checking my phone, or even better stop logging into Facebook at work. Then perhaps a little bit before Christmas I can quietly leave. Do I set myself a time to stay off? A year, a month? As long as humanly possible? Perhaps I am just kidding myself and what I need to do is just turn the bloody thing off right now but I will start by resisting the habitual things like flopping onto the sofa when my son has gone to sleep. Instead I will set myself tasks, the first of which will be to measure the spare room and plan the partition. Then I can set about building my son a room which will force me to declutter and give me some interesting design things to think about and will hopefully lead to him moving into his old room, me having some more interesting things to talk about, better communication with my husband and a return to the old Pre-Facebook me.