One month ago I decided to do a little experiment upon myself and give up the social media giant, Facebook, for a month to see if it made any difference to my life. That month is now complete and what follows is a short summary of my personal experience of largely abandoning social media and my plans for the future now that the experiment is over.
When I say I have not used Facebook at all, that is not entirely true. It is certainly true that I have not actually logged into the web version of Facebook and I have not used the mobile application at all, what I have done is allowed a couple of applications to update my Facebook status but that has been more out of laziness than anything else as I did not want to be bothered to disconnect everything before I'd make the final decision about how to move forward with all this.
When I initially stopped using Facebook, if I am honest, it did seem rather strange and I had this feeling of being disconnected from what was going on but this passed very quickly, probably within about 48 hours. Almost immediately I felt relieved and more relaxed, I was not really consciously aware of how intrusive all the notifications about other peoples activities had become and what a habit it had become to regularly check Facebook to see what was going on.
I have not yet logged into my account now that my one-month trial is up so I do not actually know what, if anything, I have missed but I do know that by simply looking at the mainstream news I have easily kept up-to-date with the important things that are going on in the world. What I do know is that if I have missed anything I don't know what it is and I also know that nothing has come tumbling down as a result of my not being permanently"connected" by Facebook.
I have definitely found that as a result of not using Facebook I have had more time to simply let my mind wander, to read, to think and also I have got around to writing quite a few things that I probably otherwise wouldn't have bothered getting around to. These things might seem quite small but they are important to me. Simultaneously I have definitely managed to keep a much more regular exercise regime going with all the benefits that that will surely bring both now and into the future. It is without doubt far better to spend time doing things yourself than checking applications to see what other people are doing!
One of the "problems" that I felt that the use of Facebook probably caused was that I felt that it had the potential to bring about considerable anxiety as it does generate the tendency to constantly compare what you yourself are doing with what other people are apparently doing. It is quite easy to forget that many of the postings of others are simply highly edited highlights and do not really reflect the reality of a lot of people's lives. I have found that not using Facebook has made it far easier to concentrate and focus on the things that matter to me without the distraction of what can in some cases appear to be others trying to impress. Based on some of the reading that I have done over the last month the use of social media can lead to quite profound personal dissatisfaction with one's own life and this is certainly something to be avoided.
Another concern that I had about the use of Facebook was that I had come to dislike the feeling that I was being constantly tracked by "the system". It was easy to get sucked into the habit of "checking in" when one arrived somewhere even though I knew perfectly well where I was. The other thing is who the hell cares where I am or what I am doing? It is arrogant to think that people do! Facebook generates a wholly bizarre desire to let people, many of whom you hardly know, know what you were doing and where you are and I had come to resent this. After a very short period of time I came to realise that I much prefer doing what I want where I want and I very quickly lost the desire to let anybody know about my activities, in the end I am doing things for me and not to trying to entertain or impress others.
One of the major things that I was delighted to be away from having abandoned Facebook was the apparently endless arguments and bickering about politics etc and all the nastiness that can go with it. I am a great believer in democracy and I believe that everyone is fully entitled to their views and to express them. What I intensely dislike is having other people's views forced upon me or presented in such a way that it is almost impossible to avoid them and leaving Facebook has been a considerable relief in terms of removing these irritations from my life.
At the back of my mind as a Facebook user it also became apparent to me that the Facebook community is by and large split into two sub-communities. One of those sub-communities is made up of active contributors who are posting their thoughts, photographs, comments, likes, dislikes, locations etc. etc. The second sub-community is made up of people who are not active contributors, this group keep themselves pretty much to themselves but at the same time absorb and digest all the information posted by those in the first community. After quite a bit of thought I eventually came to rather resent the fact that I seemed to be posting quite a bit of information about myself but in many cases this was not reciprocated and this led to a feeling of "why bother?".
So, that's a general summary of how my month has gone. It has without doubt been an entirely positive experience and I have absolutely no regrets about the decision I made to try a month without Facebook, I would recommend it to anybody. I have decided, based on my experiment, not to give up social media entirely but to take complete control of my use of social media and not to allow it to control me.
I have deleted the Facebook application from my mobile telephone and my iPad and this essentially means that my whereabouts can no longer be tracked, from here on my use of Facebook will be limited to the web interface only. My plan is to log in to my Facebook account perhaps once a week or once a fortnight and this will enable me to use the events and calendar systems where events that I'm interested in are being arranged solely using Facebook, This is a convenient feature that I would not wish to abandon. I may allow a couple of other applications I use to post to my Facebook news feed just to keep it alive but I do not plan to post regularly. I may post occasionally but I will definitely be far less "engaged" than I have been, I won't be checking in, liking, following or anything else.
I think the bottom line for me with Facebook is that I felt that it was becoming an increasingly toxic environment which was riddled with untruths and aggression and I felt that it was an environment that I didn't really belong in. I feel that I have taken back a chunk of my life, my mind and my privacy and in a world where these things are in short supply that has to be a good thing, for me. I believe the filtering of "news" feeds to ensure that we see "content" aligned with our own thoughts is probably dangerous and if I can avoid being controlled in this way I wish to do so for as long as I can.