Up until September 2018, I lived and breathed Facebook. I was horribly addicted to this form of social media. I let Facebook, or more to the point what I saw on Facebook, determine my decisions, essentially living my life through and by it.
For someone who has experienced regular bouts of depression and anxiety, this was not a good thing. We’ve all heard of those stories of people comparing their lives to the lives that they see on Facebook. We’ve probably all fallen prey to using Facebook as a platform for showing off, for showing that we’re constantly living “our best life” (more on that later) … but last year something in me clicked. Was Facebook actually serving it’s purpose of connecting me to people, or was it simply fuelling my jealous tendencies and my social anxieties?
There were quite a number of occasions when I felt that Facebook was not good for me. Or, in more honest terms, I was not good at using Facebook in a positive way. I’m going to elaborate on a couple of these incidents to best get across to you why I’m “that weirdo who doesn’t use Facebook”.
- People think that they can say whatever they like when they are protected by a screen!
In my hometown we had a page called “Rants”, which is something that I’m sure every town or borough in the country has. It was pitched as somewhere to rant and rave about things in the local area, but more often than not it was used to belittle and berate each other online, and didn’t often do much in terms of celebrating what’s good about where we live. As a teacher in a local school, I –along with my colleagues- had to often see our place of work being slated and tarnished, mostly unjustly, and we were completely powerless. We couldn’t retaliate for we would be going against the Social Media policy in our contracts. We couldn’t even stand up for ourselves or explain why certain posts were completely fabricated. Can you imagine how infuriating this is? To know how hard you work, how hard your colleagues work, to only have the local community think that you’re no good at your job or you work in a hopeless abyss; and that this is all thanks to the ill-informed opinion (always disguised as facts) of a handful of disgruntled people? This happens regardless of your profession. Facebook allows for people to say the most slanderous and horrific things about people you know and love, and there’s zero consequences because the hateful remarks are protected behind everyone having the right to the freedom of speech. When did it become so acceptable to treat people terribly just because you’re hidden by the screen?
- Facebook turned me into a lazy friend.
This one is a big one. I have been on both ends of the “lazy friend” spectrum since I first joined Facebook in 2007. I had been too reliant on using Facebook as a way to know how my friends and family are doing. Using photo “likes” as a replacement for traditional greetings. I assumed that what I was seeing on Facebook was the whole story, so I didn’t actually take the time or make the effort to check in on people anymore. I wouldn’t ask how they were, and would rarely text or call anyone to see what they’re up to. It was, to put it bluntly, turning me into a shitty friend. Now, I’m not saying that I was the only person using Facebook as an easy alternative in relationships. I was often on the receiving end of this too. I wouldn’t hear from or see friends for months at a time, but they didn’t see a problem with that because they were liking my photographs, they were still engaging with my posts. In one extreme I had been accused of not being a supportive enough friend because I hadn’t liked enough photos and posts on their profile! This made me take stock of life on Facebook. Was this constant online presence worth sacrificing the real life interactions for? For me, it wasn’t. So I had to make a change.
- I was missing out on real-life.
Predictably, the downside to living your life via Facebook is that you miss out on a lot of what is happening in the real-world. I believe kids these days refer to it as “IRL”. My son would ask me if I’d just seen something impressive that he’d done. I would miss it because I was too busy looking at how a girl from school was decorating her front room, for example. I would start too many stories with “Did you see on Facebook…?” and I would spend my time worrying about what other people thought of me. In addition to all of this I wasn’t reading as much as I would like and I was always behind on any decent TV shows that come on. I was tired of living my life through the screen of my iPhone!
Now, I am aware that there’s a sense of hypocrisy in what I say about Facebook, when I am spending my time behind my laptop writing for this website. Also, I am aware that I use Instagram a lot for my Slimming World progress, but I do feel that Instagram in the way that I use it is a much more positive and encouraging place. I also see the huge benefits for the use of Facebook in terms of connecting to people you’d otherwise never see, or for business purposes, but on a personal level, it just wasn’t doing my mental health any good. I originally wanted a month off Facebook and just deactivated my account, but I have thoroughly enjoyed life without it so I have deleted my account completely.
I’m not saying I’ll never return, but, for now, I’m enjoying this long-term separation from all things Facebook! It’s nice to actually know how my loved ones really are!