In years past, I used to spend many an evening curled up with a book. These days however, I spend that same time on Facebook clicking away on ‘interesting’ links or heading down many a rabbit hole as I follow various online dramas.
And recently, it’s occurred to me that perhaps this is not an ideal state-of-play.
My initial awakening came, irony of ironies, after reading this post on Flying Solo’s Facebook – it gives a name to people like me who have bedsides piled high with unread books. In my particular case, books were gathering dust not because of lack of time to read them, but because of my habitual use of Facebook.
Another alarm bell came later that week courtesy of my girlfriend when she told me that on her 40th birthday she deleted her Facebook account. “I got what I needed from it,” she said. “So I said thank you and goodbye.” I was full of admiration yet utterly aghast at how nervous the thought of deleting my account made me.
Digging deeper into that unease, I realised that what I’d thought was merely an idle habit could in fact be an addiction. I know lots of people who enjoy using Facebook but can essentially take or leave it. Me? I’m someone who’s on the site or app several times a day.
This new awareness caused me to question my motives for using it and on closer examination, it appears my time on there isn’t fulfilling any more. Sure there’s great learning and connection to be had, but there’s a lot of dross too.
Increasingly I’ll feel unfulfilled and a bit guilty after using Facebook (in the same way you’d feel after eating too much junk food). So you’d think that would mean I’d spend less time using it, wouldn’t you?
But I don’t.
Which is a fairly strong indicator of addiction isn’t it?
But hang about. Shouldn’t I at least try to defend the way I’ve spent many of my evenings in the last year? As a writer it’s healthy to rebuff research like this or at least try to.
Naturally it took little effort to come up with the positives I derive from the platform. But I also found it astonishingly easy to counter each of them.
1. The sense of connection
Facebook’s bread and butter, surely. But in my immediate circle of friends, family and colleagues, I’m one of the only people who actively uses it.
Ditching Facebook would mean I’d need to find a way to renegotiate relations with second tier friends. And really, I could live with that – I’d simply ask those I want to correspond with to keep in touch via email, Skype or text.
2. How I consume news, stories and ideas
The quality of publications I follow were, I thought, quite high. But last week I felt quite queasy (post-junk-food-remorse-queasy) when TIME magazine ran a story, and for good measure ran it again, 12 hours later, about a toddler having a meltdown. TIME magazine, people! My dad, who started his own TV industry journal in the 1960s, would be turning in his grave.
Still, like many dedicated Facebook users, I know a little about a lot and can expertly regurgitate the information I’ve gleaned from 800 word articles. The neglected books on my bedside could prove the perfect antidote for this (although I’ll need to exercise my long distance reading skills having spent so long on reading sprints).
3. Personal favourites
There are a few blogs and publications I really enjoy, and use Facebook to follow.
Take Facebook out of the equation and all I’d need to do is bookmark them or use another aggregator. Interestingly, the thought of actively choosing who I want to visit, rather than having it spoon fed amongst a sea of mediocrity, makes me feel light and happy.
It’s amazing to me that the process of waking up, then thinking about a topic deeply enough to write a short article can lead to such a transparent and obvious solution: getting rid of my account.
“What are you writing your article on this month?” John-Paul asked.
“Giving up Facebook.” I said.
“You said you were going to do that last year.”
So there you have it. I have to. Don’t I?
Share your thoughts about breaking up with Facebook.