Monday, July 28, 2014

I didn't die, I just deactivated Facebook

So I’d been toying with the idea of deactivating Facebook for some time now. A muddy state of mind, coupled with low-simmering discontent and the continuous noise from Facebook: The Soapbox had really started to get me down. I wasn’t going through a break-up, I wasn’t avoiding anyone in particular and while there were probably a lot of people broadcasting from places I would rather be, I wasn’t drowning in absolute FOMO. It wasn’t really a cry for help or an attention-seeking stunt, it was honestly my povo way of packing up and disappearing to the coast for a week without telling anyone. I would always much prefer the latter, but ‘beggars’ and all that.

So last week, I did it. Only as a temporary measure – I do still need it for one of my jobs and have since logged back in – but with no fanfare, no ‘catch ya on the flipside’ status, just cold-turkey killed that shit. And the silence was nice for a while, and then it got weird, and then it was really nice again.

What I wanted to be rid of:
- the constant, unsolicited, impersonal notifications
- the urge to log on just because I could
- guilt from accidentally spending wasting hours looking at a timeline that rarely changed for the better
- feeling frustrated at people, feeling frustrated at my life in comparison to everyone else’s curated experience and then feeling frustrated with myself for feeling that way

Being as overly self-critical as I am, I would always say I should just get over it, toughen up and display more self-discipline and self-confidence. But I felt like this dark cloud was starting to seep into all areas of my life. My writing was suffering. My relationships were suffering. My motivation was suffering...I mean, it’s only Facebook, was this even a normal reaction? Apparently so. According to a report, “passive following triggers invidious emotions, with users mainly envying happiness of others, the way others spend their vacations and socialize.”

I’d realised I wasn’t even really being very pro-active on Facebook, as much of my posts fed from other social media sites, but I had just become a passive observer of everyone else’s virtual life. Some of these people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. Some I’ve never met in my life. Most of which I’d never even interacted with virtually through this one channel that eventually connected us. This did not make me feel good. But a 500+ friends list compared to 150 on Instagram, and even less on Twitter (let alone Pinterest, Linkedin and whatever else I've probably forgotten I signed up for), seemed like a lot of people to turn my back on. But would they even care? And did I care if they did or didn’t?

“Try to give up Facebook...and at least some people are likely to think you have an axe to grind with them personally, are going through a divorce or, worse, have slipped into a deep depression.”[Source] How about things actually being about me, for once? Not having the choice to just casually load up my Facebook feed has been a lot about restricting myself but also about removing those whose only connection to me is obviously virtual. Those whom I had a genuine connect with would have alternative ways of contacting me (which most did) and those that didn’t wouldn’t be the wiser, so it seemed to be a win/win situation.

What I realised I missed*:
*Not emotionally but that I physically didn’t have in my life anymore.
- information from/on businesses and events that I didn’t also follow on my other social media channels
- a connection to a very small minority that didn’t have my phone number, email or that I could see IRL
- a default thing to do when I’m uncomfortable or alone or in transit.

I’m sure you know the feeling, similar to forgetting any essential item before a long day (wallet, keys, phone, headphones), there is that void in your daily activity, that habit that you’re so used to falling back on, that is no longer there to cure your awkwardness. All of a sudden I had to think about what I was doing, and why, and resist the urge to just log back in on my phone. I noticed things in my city again. I wrote in my notebook daily. I finally finished the book I was reading. I had time to think and unwind and reset my mind before I went to work...or after. What started off feeling like I’d just been pushed into the ocean unexpectedly – I honestly felt an internaly ‘flailing’ happening in those first few days – had turned into a welcome silence and calm, like I’d finally come to terms with my surroundings, taken control of my body and was drifting afloat in a tropical sea. Kind of. At least, in the already over-saturated environment that is my mind, I had rid myself of a 500-person strong stream of consciousness and that could only be a good thing.

I’m sure this might be all part of a larger process of being more focused and centred and present in my life. I still feel the need to engage in some form of social media and there are obviously plenty of alternatives still present, but at this stage none of the others are quite as detrimental to my state of mind than Facebook has been. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t – it’s just that Facebook has developed the most longevity and is my widest audience, if I’m being honest. And maybe because it is my largest audience, the pressure to perform is higher there than anywhere URL. But until I can really discipline my physical interaction with it (and subsequently, my emotional reaction to it), I’ll continue to do these cold turkey stints and hope it develops into an actual detachment from the incessant need to tell everyone “what’s on your mind?” And by some chance if you are one of my Facebook ‘friends’ and you’re actually reading this, don’t worry. It’s not you, it’s me. But then again, it might be you.

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