When I joined Facebook back in 2011, I thought it was pretty wonderful. As a stay-at-home Mum with little chance to socialise, it provided an opportunity to ‘chat’ with other adults, look at photos of peoples’ holidays and keep up to date with the latest goings-ons of friends and relatives in far-flung destinations. I was a moderate to frequent user, posting updates and photos perhaps 4 or 5 times a week – more often than some people I knew, less often than others – but I did spend quite a lot of time liking and commenting on other peoples’ posts. Facebook was my go-to coffee break distraction, a little treat to myself amongst the daily cycles of cooking, tidying, and general little-people rearing. It filled the place of the office conversation I’ll admit I did miss sometimes after I gave up working. Checking Facebook became a regular part of my daily life and I loved it.
Until I didn’t.
You see, over the last couple of years my relationship with Facebook has changed. I no longer look forward to my coffee date, and although most days I do still take a quick look over my news feed, I can also go for days without checking it – without the slightest hint of any what-am-I-missing pangs. I no longer have the Facebook app on my phone, and these days people probably need to tag me if they want to ensure I’ll see something on my next visit. A far cry from my days of liking 100 updates a day and never missing that long lost acquaintance’s birthday. So what happened? Well, I think I can pin it down to 5 things:
The sheer amount of information on Facebook, (and no doubt several other social media platforms), seems to be becoming increasingly mind boggling, and it’s not unusual to hop between updates about world politics, the latest health craze, one of those videos EVERYONE is watching, and pictures of someone’s cat doing yoga when you really only wanted to enjoy five minutes of down time with your skinny latte. Try as you might you can’t seem to stop yourself clicking onto a series of associated links during your ‘me time’, and before you know it your mind is racing in a hundred different directions and you’re left feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted. Sound familiar? For me, what began as a relaxing way to spend the odd five (okay, fifteen) minutes, became a mental assault course in information processing agility, and somewhere along the line my little brain just said ENOUGH. So these days I pop on and off when the mood takes me, and if I feel myself getting overloaded, I just hit the close button and say goodbye to Facebook until another day.
Linked to the above, being honest, Facebook can be a bit of a time drain. As with anywhere on the Internet, 5 minutes can quickly turn into 15, 15 into 30, and before you know it, oops, there’s half the day gone. For people like me with a strong sense of obligation, there can be other productivity pitfalls too – ‘what will such-and-such think if I don’t like or comment on their photo/wish them a happy birthday/share the link they’ve posted’ and then there’s the never ending stream of nominations, quizzes, petitions to sign and Just Giving links to add to your to-do list. It can all make you feel a little overwhelmed, and sometimes (in the case of the last two) just a bit useless if you’re not in a position to help with every issue. So, somewhere along the line I decided that it didn’t really matter if I didn’t wish people I barely knew a happy birthday, or liked all 44 pictures from someone’s Saturday evening out. And as for the causes – well, I help where I can, write on my blog to affect positive changes, and remind myself of something Mother Teresa said: ‘If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.’ Sometimes, I think, that has to be good enough for us all.
Where once Facebook was a place you could go to get away from life’s daily stresses, it now feels, to me at least, that it can be a magnet for negativity. Between people complaining about their kids’ school, politics, or other people’s parking, let’s face it, a dip into the Facebook world can sometimes turn into a bit of a moan fest. Not that I’m totally against complaining – sometimes it can raise awareness or highlight issues which need tackling. However, when done on social media it can dissolve into nastiness, and I’ve seen examples where peoples’ reputations, their characters and even their businesses have been torn to shreds with unkind words. Sorry for rolling out the platitudes here, but there’s definitely some wisdom in that old chestnut; ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything.’ And as someone who is sponge-like in soaking up other peoples’ emotions, when I see that Facebook negativity rearing its ugly head again, I tend to take a very big step away.
4. Emotional Wellbeing
Various studies in recent years have suggested links between over-use of social media and feelings of unhappiness or inadequacy, and I have to admit, from my own experience, looking at Facebook hasn’t always made me feel too good. Looking at the negative stuff mentioned above isn’t really a mood enhancer, but conversely, looking at pictures of people having a great time doesn’t always make me feel too wonderful either. It’s not that I’m not happy about other peoples’ achievements and lifestyles – quite the contrary in fact – but somehow looking at Facebook can make you feel a bit like you’re on the outside looking in (which in most cases, of course, you are). Strangely, all the time I spend online looking at other blogs, and blogging over on Instagram, doesn’t make me feel like this. In fact, blogging, and reading updates from other bloggers usually has the opposite effect of making me feel positive, energised and inspired. Perhaps it’s just about the type of social media usage you engage in and finding your happy place, wherever it might be, on or off the Internet. Whatever the reasons – if scrolling through Facebook is making you feel unhappy, it might be worth giving it a break for a while and seeing if you really miss it all that very much.
When I joined Facebook back in 2011, it was mainly to interact with family members and close friends who were also on it. Fast forward six years, and although most of them still have a presence on there, very few of them are now actively engaged in Facebook or regularly posting updates. These days we’re more likely to share photos privately, and I do tend to think twice now before posting any Facebook updates in terms of what I’ve said in number 4. I question more my motivations for posting and if I can’t think of a good enough reason, I don’t bother (which is actually what tends to happen now more often than not). These days my Facebook usage is mainly confined to updating my blog, monitoring updates from clubs and organisations, and keeping up with the friends and family who still live far away. If I happen to be online, and the mood takes me, of course I still like or comment on the updates on my news feed and wish that acquaintance a happy birthday. And if I don’t? Well, I don’t tend to worry about it or scroll back to see what I’ve missed out on. And I’ll let you into a little secret – I really don’t think anyone notices or minds.
What do you think? Have you also fallen out of love with Facebook? Or does the thought of taking a break from it bring you out in a cold sweat? I’d love to hear your thoughts!