I joined Facebook in 2009 and for ten years used it almost every day. Ten years of logging on to a web page to ‘like’ someone else’s lunch. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
I thought so. What an idiot.
It was fun for a while I admit. Hooking up with old friends, seeing what each other was up to. Conversing, joking, having a laugh. But then it got too serious and too silly. Too many photos of people’s dogs and children, too many petitions, polls and posters on stuff which didn’t interest me.
The very reason I stopped reading the news in the first place. Now it was being shoved down my throat. Suddenly Facebook had become a news channel in its own right. Personalised and branded news beamed right into my home.
I was a villain in this as much as anyone else. Posting my own self-congratulatory crap. Or links readvertising my book on France over and over again to MAKE SURE everybody saw it. I mean, it's only been out two years!
Once I was FB-free I felt lighter. The feeling was palpable, which is quite disturbing seeing as it’s just a website and proves, almost without a doubt, how stupidly addictive it is.
I also realised how much time I’d been wasting. Time I could put to better use, like looking blankly in the sky for instance. Thinking for myself.
Someone once coined Facebook “Boast Book”. I tend to agree, although it’s not necessarily a bad thing — we all show off, it’s part of human nature. But before I deleted my account I looked back at some of my postings. It’s pretty boring. Here’s a cycle/run I did today. Here’s my lunch? This is what I’m reading. I mean honestly, who really cares? Was I that insecure about myself that I couldn’t do anything without sharing it? When I look back now, I’m not really sure what the point of it is.
It didn’t take me long to delete my other social media sites. And last Friday I finally deleted Twitter. This was quite hard as I quite liked it even if I still don’t know how it works.
I can’t remember the number of times I’ve Googled “What is the difference between a reply and a mention.” Before concluding that it doesn’t really matter. Putting a full stop before a @ sign means more people might read that pointless fragment of information I’m posting than if I’d simply left it blank. Which I think I was craving for. A blank in my life. Just me again. And now I’ve turned it all off I feel like I’ve rejoined the real world. Even if everybody else hasn’t.
Last Christmas I worked in an Aldi warehouse as an order picker. At break times we all piled up to the canteen for coffee and cake. There was some lively banter on the way up — slagging off our bosses, goading one another, showing off about how much stock we’d nicked — you know, the usual stuff. However, as soon as we entered the cafeteria and got our coffees from the machine, everyone got out their phones. You could hear a pin drop.
I was the only one sitting there doing nothing — I haven’t got a smartphone either in case you’re wondering (perhaps that’s a boast). Simply looking out of the window drinking my coffee while everyone else was plugged in. I’m not passing judgement on my colleagues, I’m simply making a point. If I had a smartphone, I’d probably do the same. But I don’t so instead I sat there thinking of the pub I used to visit as a student in Nottingham.
It was called the Plumtree and on Thursday nights it was as raucous as hell. Jukebox on full, everybody tanked up, smoking and drinking, singing and talking. Everybody paying attention to each other and nothing else. No phones, no internet, no messengers, no social media.
I use technology. I read a Kindle. I’ve published books on Amazon and I use this site. I’m not anti-technology. I’m 45-years-old so I grew up with it, and yet I’m lucky enough to have lived in an age before it. When I could go to the pub like the Plumtree without the fear of being photographed cross-eyed and blind drunk in the corner. The image of my bedraggled self appearing around the world in seconds.
In 1994 if I took a camera down the Plumtree I would be considered really weird and unless it was my birthday would have probably been kicked out:
“Got some pervert here with a camera photographing everyone — you’re barred.”
I don’t think social media is bad — for a small business, it’s quite useful. But neither do I think it’s good. And I have the feeling (a strong feeling in fact) that as we creep towards the third decade of the century people will start turning off — if they haven’t already. Finding more innovative and fun ways of keeping in touch and promoting business. We might all go back to writing letters to each other. Imagine that?
“Dear Friend, since the last letter I’ve been enjoying fresh walks in the countryside, reading books and generally enjoying life…”
Maybe I’m living in the past. Or maybe social media is the past. A dangerous step back to the days of public floggings and hangings. You say something wrong, something off the cuff and you’re lynched for it. The Spanish Inquisition on hand 24/7. Terrifying eh?
Personally I feel better without it. I feel freer.