Facebook, the social media giant, currently has approximately 1.79 BILLION active users worldwide and I’ve been one of them for a number of years now. I joined several years ago pretty much to see what it was all about along with many others and I slowly got drawn into it’s web.
Once I’d got the hang of how it all worked I managed to convince myself that it was “useful" and quite quickly it became the means by which I most frequently communicated with people. Publicly this took place in the usual way through reading and writing posts and privately Facebook Messenger became a quick and easy way to communicate with people.
Over time I found that I used the site more and more and generally enjoyed it but the point came where I found that I was using it every day and I started to find the stream of notifications to be irritating intrusions. The problem I initially found with Facebook was that as human beings we are naturally intensely curious animals and looking at what people were doing and reading what they were saying has a strangely addictive side to it, even though these were things that one would previously have been completely unaware of.
It soon became apparent to me that some of what I was seeing actually became a kind of competition in terms of what people were doing, buying, seeing or in some cases even eating - it all started to feel a bit uncomfortable. I then watched as it became a vehicle for people to expound all their political views and in some cases to vehemently disagree with the views of others, sometimes to the point of outright hostility and rudeness, I was having very serious thoughts about whether there was actually any value in this for me.
On top of the above I began to see more and more political and other annotated images which purported to portray facts/information/news when in fact frequently their contents were nothing more than fabrications or at best exaggerations of half truths, Facebook had become more than social media, it had almost become THE media and it was influencing people’s beliefs and opinions on very serious matters. On top of this I also became more aware of the targeted advertising which seemed to me to be more and more spookily related to things I had searched for, places I had been or things I had read.
One is left with a choice when one realises what is going on, to go with the flow or to change something. I decided that for a time at least and to see what difference it made to my life I would leave Facebook behind, completely. It has been about 10 days now since I logged into my Facebook account and the applications on my iPhone and iPad have remained logged out.
During those ten days many things have happened, not least the American People have elected Donald Trump as their next President. Even without Facebook I have remained informed about developments, primarily by the BBC News, and I do not feel that I have missed out on things that actually matter. What I have missed out on will be the inevitable bile spewed by both sides of the presidential debate who feel they have “lost" and indeed I’m happy to have missed out. I will also have missed out on a lot of news from people I “know" (virtually or actually) but the fact is that because I do not know what I have missed, have I really missed anything?
What I do know is that I no longer hear the regular pings of status update notifications, likes, messages etc. I also know that I no longer see what could be pretty hostile updates on all kinds of matters and these are all things which I can well live without. When I wake in the morning, during the day and in the evening I never think of “checking Facebook" to see what is going on and to be honest I find that my days are more peaceful because of it. I can live without it and I am confident that I will know soon enough when really important things happen through the likes of the BBC. I may know things a bit later than those 1.78 billion people but I can live with that.
I guess what I’ve learned so far is that I think Facebook can actually cause stress and irritation which many people can do without and that much of what we get from it is probably not that important to most people. I think something else I’ve realised is that social media is incredibly powerful these days, probably too powerful. I actually believe that without Mark Zuckerberg the next President of the United States would probably not have been Donald Trump.
I may return to Facebook at some point in the future but I know enough already to know that if I do it will be on maybe a “quick look weekly" basis with all notifications disabled. For the time being at least I am thoroughly enjoying not being “connected".