About a month ago I deactivated my Facebook page. I was an avid user. Every morning, I’d wake up and check Facebook on my phone. I had an app; it was easy. I started leaving my phone in bed during the day but every time I went up to get something, I’d seek it out and sit and look at status updates, sometimes for well over an hour.
The range of emotions I experienced in one Facebook sitting depended on many things – time of the month, how much work I’d managed to do, how much alcohol I’d consumed. I’d look through photos of people I know and love and photos of people I don’t. I’d mourn events I couldn’t make, feel sad that my ex-boyfriend was doing things we loved to do together, and get ridiculously angry that the latest independent film everyone was talking about wasn’t showing anywhere on the island where I live. Rather than make me feel connected, it made me feel disconnected. It raked through all my insecurities, rendered me in tears a few times and most of all made me hate myself for being so stupidly affected by a shop window of half-told lives.
If I tell people I’ve left Facebook, they always ask why and my stock answer is ‘because it was breaking me’. Sounds dramatic, I know. I’ve had lots of advice on how to tackle my inability to social network healthily. ‘Just use it professionally’, they say. ‘Stop looking at the bits that make you insecure’, ‘limit the time you spend on there,’ say others. One person told me to have a baby so I don’t have time for such self-indulgence. I told them to surf the social networking sea of baby pictures then come back to me with some helpful advice.
The thing is I’m having a bloody lovely time. I’ve been doing all sorts of nice things. Things that would make me very happy had I not a constant reminder of what else I could/should be doing. I enjoy myself for a bit, then force myself to dip into a world I’m not really part of. It’s like blowing up a lovely red balloon, admiring it for a while and then popping it on purpose.
The problem is, to really leave the social networking behind is hard. Everyone’s there, and as you move away from it, you start to feel isolated. You get withdrawal symptoms. Work you’re doing doesn’t seem as valid when you’re not telling everyone about it. Great times feel sort of empty without an Instagram tag. You’re in this sort of no-man’s land where you’re living but itching to tell someone about it. Someone you don’t know, who you’ve probably never seen, but who thinks you’re marvellous because you write nice stuff in 140 characters (yes, I know that’s twitter. Same sort of applies).
But beyond that, past the withdrawal symptoms and the no-man’s land, is ‘the moment’ I think. I remember it. It was good.
There will be people reading this who have self-control, confidence and gusto. Who can’t imagine social networking as anything but a great way to connect and progress. People who use the internet healthily and constructively in their lives. Lucky, lucky people. We’re all different I suppose.
And I’ll probably return to Facebook, by the way. If I’m honest, I miss that blue banner banter. Oh yeah, there were good times, don’t get me wrong. Like the time Mark Ravenhill hung his opening address to the Edinburgh Fringe on one of my status updates. Yeah, that was pretty cool.
ps apologies for the dramatic photos. Haha.