On (or Off) Facebook

Recently, I’ve read a lot of articles about how jealous Facebook makes us of our friends’ seemingly perfect lives. But they don’t ring any bells with me.

Blogs, yes, absolutely. Blogs are often carefully edited to show only the prettiest, most presentable aspects of a person’s life. They centre around smiling children and perfectly iced cupcakes and adventures in winter wonderlands. It’s easy (for me) to see how readers might take blogs at face value and feel jealous of the writer’s apparently perfect life.

Conversely, I can also see how the more or less unlimited word count gives bloggers an opportunity to write honestly and in depth about the sadder side of life; a more open blog can be a reassuring voice to somebody who feels that they are going through difficulties all alone.

But Facebook?

My Facebook isn’t like that.

If Facebook is to be believed, many of my friends spend their lives in a perpetual state of hungover rage. My news feed is a litany of idiot customers, incompetent bus drivers, unreliable delivery people, screaming children, unreasonable managers, drunken YouTube binges, intolerance towards knitters, disappointing pay rises, and abuse aimed at X Factor entrants. Other than the occasional set of holiday snaps, there’s nothing in my news feed I ever feel envious of.

Which is odd given that some of my friends have great jobs and happy relationships and cute pets and fun hobbies and, contrary to what their status updates might suggest, are generally rather fond of their children.

Rather than an opportunity to glamourise their lives and brag about their hair cuts, Facebook has become a place to let off steam.

And I do get it because I use it the same way. Recently, my wall has turned into a running commentary on my work’s central heating situation (“We have heat!”; “I’m wearing gloves whilst typing!”) peppered with the occasional random question (“What toy did Santa never bring you?”). I pop onto Facebook to alleviate my boredom, and if I’m bored, the chances are my status updates will be boring, too.

But I remember a time when I didn’t get bored. If I had a quiet moment, I would pick up a book or play with my cats or mentally prepare another first chapter of a novel I'd never write.

Lately, when I’ve had quiet moments, I’ve logged into Facebook and felt irritated by the lack of interesting comments in front of me. Rather than seeking out ways of entertaining myself, I’ve sat and hit refresh a bunch of times in the hopes that somebody else would present some entertainment to me. Generally all they had to offer was a Blondie video.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I’d had enough. I had a load of books sitting waiting on my Kindle and a ton of projects I was failing to get around to, and here I was wasting all this time on Facebook.

And, besides, I wanted some peace and quiet, a break from the constant stream of status updates.

So I stopped logging in.

And I didn’t miss it.

In fact, I felt happier without it.

Friends still sent me emails and text messages, and there was something a lot nicer about receiving a message meant just for me than hitting the “like” button on another generic update.

When the phrase, “I’m bored!” popped into my head, rather than trying to turn it into a status update and prompt a conversation, I would notice the thought... and forget about it. Likewise, when petty irritations crossed my path, rather than working myself up into a rage by dissecting them on Facebook, I'd shrug and let them go.

Over the last few weeks, when I've met up with people - whether socially or accidentally - we've been able to have conversations full of small talk rather than cutting each other off with a, "Yeah, you said that on Facebook."

And I’ve been getting on with so many of the things I wouldn’t usually “have time for”.

I’m not sure I’m ready to actually ditch Facebook. I have a couple of cousins I really only keep up with via Facebook. The majority of my social arrangements are made via Facebook. It’s an easy place to share pictures from nights out, to get recommendations for plumbers, and to offer round your mountain of unwanted books. But I’m definitely ready to have it take a back seat in my life. I’m ready to stop automatically signing in every time I switch on a machine. I'm ready to keep a few more of my thoughts to myself.

What about you? Do you use Facebook? Would you consider doing without it or is it an integral part of your life?

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