Farewell, Facebook

I’ve decided to deactivate my Facebook profile.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a crusader against the evils of technology and social media. I haven’t suddenly turned into a crashing bore who pins unsuspecting people up against the wall and blasts them with my convictions: The net is stealing our brains! The web is ensnaring us all! Facebook anally probes you at night! (Got a bit carried away there. It’s the revolutionary in me.)

I think the internet can be a wonderful, exciting and useful tool. I do, however, believe we have to be mindful of why and how we use the internet, and we should be unafraid to question its value.

For a while now I have been feeling uneasy about how much Facebook can suck me in, wrap itself about me and keep me there. I’ll log on for a minute and suddenly I’ll look up and an hour has passed. And the thing is, it has truly been a wasted hour. I’ve been trawling through status updates, the occasional funny video, and endless comments and updates from groups I have joined. I did a quick analysis and concluded that about 5% of these things were either A. useful or B. interesting. And it got me thinking about the things with which I truly want to fill my time and my mind.

We are bombarded with information, all day, every day, from every possible source. Download the Facebook app to your smartphone (a contradiction in terms right there) and the bloody thing beeps every time anyone in cyber-world so much as farts. I had “Likes” and status updates and emails and notifications and god knows what else filling up every possible nook and cranny. And I started thinking about life in general and how we all seem desperate to fill every single part of our lives with noise. Perhaps we are afraid of just sitting with ourselves, our own still selves, and finding out what we think and feel and long for and fear.

Well folks, I want some silence, goddammit.

(I deleted the Facebook app. And another thing – I cleared out my email inbox and folders and unsubscribed from a pile of email newsletters that only served to make me feel anxious every time they pinged at me.)

Then I went through my list of Facebook friends, and I decided that the vast majority of these people were either A. people I barely knew, whom I had “friended” without really thinking, B. friends I already saw regularly anyway and with whom I wanted to have real interactions, not computerised ones, and C. people I had known years ago who had tracked me down on Facebook and from whom I had accepted friend requests, even though I wouldn’t stop to chat if I bumped into them on the street.

Those left were family, some friends around New Zealand and overseas with whom I did want to stay in touch, and a couple of famous people. (I had to just subtly drop that in there.)

The last thing I did was sit down and ask myself: What value, if any, is Facebook adding to my life? What is it giving me? Will I miss it if I don’t have it?

My answer: not much, f#!k all and Hell, no.

A few caveats: My profile has been useful in that I administer my Belllettres Facebook page from it (what do you mean, you haven’t “Liked” my page yet? Get over there right now and press that button), which I have no intention of closing down. I need it for my writing career. Also, it has been a joy to connect with friends in France and other countries and to have the occasional hilarious live chat with my sister (who lives in Wellington) and a few other people.

I have therefore decided not to deactivate my profile completely. I am deleting all photos, groups, likes etc. and altering the page settings in such a way that it will be inaccessible to almost everyone, and retaining only family and a few other friends. My Belllettres page (the one you have just “Liked”) will not change.

A couple of days ago I posted a status update on Facebook outlining my decision. (Ah, the gorgeous irony.) A number of my friends have congratulated me and are now wondering whether they should do the same.

It’s a personal choice, but it boils down to this: in the relationship between you and social media, who is the parent and who is the child? Who is in charge? Are you bamboozled by information overload, but feel powerless to do anything about it? Don’t believe the hype. You can take control. Your life will not end if you do not have a presence on Facebook or Twitter or other social media platforms. Remember: You are not your Gravatar.

Here is what I am freeing myself up for: more time to think, and to write. Time to sit with my own feelings a bit more. Space to let my creativity come forward. And opportunities to build real connections with the people who matter to me – not ones shaped and defined by a “Like” button.

Facebook’s home page says this: “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” Perhaps the page should also issue a Warning: “Facebook can help you disconnect from yourself.”

I’m going to reconnect. Care to join me? x

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4 Comments on “Farewell, Facebook”

  1. Scott C. May 20, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    Good. Facebook is a huge waste of time, not to mention it serves mostly as a way for people to stalk you who you don’t really know very well. Real friends and family already know what’s going on with you.

  2. Jayde-Ashe May 20, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    I am completely on your bandwagon, in that I jumped OFF the Facebook bandwagon about a month ago. A growing discontent with the banality of Facebook culminated in my birthday, where I found myself checking Facebook every 5 minutes to see who had posted ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. I was so disgusted with myself that I instantly gave myself a week long ban, then did what you did: deleted photos, deleted ‘friends’ who were not really friends, deleted groups and deleted the app off my phone. Like you I keep my page simply to keep in touch with my many friends overseas.
    Absolutely excellent post, I’m glad there are others like me out there!

  3. belllettres May 20, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    Sorry, meant to answer you more fully then pressed the wrong button. Bloody internet! Thanks for your comment, it made me laugh out loud. I have done exactly the same and finally confronted the lunacy of my behaviour. x

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