I don’t know which is more traumatic: leaving Oxford or leaving Facebook. That’s right, folks, I’m leaving Facebook. Zut alors!
Me? Leaving Facebook? But I love Facebook! At least, I love the concept. I enjoy that sense of connection to friends all over the world and to friends from past eras. The eradication of distance and passing time. The immediacy and ease of communicating, sharing information and raising awareness. The sense of being in the loop and having a vague idea about what’s going on in people’s lives. The appearance of community that comes from tagging photos, liking people’s comments and joining groups.
So – as someone who loves ‘networking’ and having lots of friends – why leave? Inspired by friends who ditched it temporarily for Lent, I’ve pondered this for some time but couldn’t quite bring myself to cut my ties. But recently Facebook has become one more thing to do and is a bit of an information overload. And I’ve noticed myself getting disproportionately irritated by other people’s status updates. Annoyed by a steady trickle of trivialities, I am also disturbed by a growing dissatisfaction at my own life in response to a constant barrage of other people’s engagements, ultrasound photos and overseas trips.
Ok, so that probably says more about me and my issues than it does about anything else, and leaving Facebook won’t fix everything. Nonetheless, it is perhaps time for me to recognise that Facebook is currently one of those things that hinders, and there’s wisdom in detangling myself from something which clamours for my attention and takes my eyes off the ball.
And, put simply, I’ve become disillusioned with this whole new brand of friendship. I’m tired of adding friends instead of making friends. Of knowing how my neighbours are doing from the writing on their walls instead of from chats over garden fences.
I’m tired of the illusion of having hundreds of friends, while feeling absolved from the necessity to actually be in touch with them.
I’m tired of being invited to events in different countries or cities and being continually aware of things going on that I can’t be a part of.
I’m tired of the friendship requests from school ‘friends’ who I’ve survived without for 15 years and who I wouldn’t even recognise in the street. I’m tired of the temptation – generally if I’m having a bad day – to seek out people from the past who were or who might have been.
So I’m leaving Facebook.
I’m sad because there’ll be a few people I’ll lose along the way. Sad because some news items and events will pass me by because friends will assume I heard about them through Facebook. Sad to miss out on those serendipitous reconnections which crop up from time to time. Sad that no one will bother looking at my blog any more because it’ll no longer appear on their newsfeed. Alas!
However it is time, dear reader, for me to be brave enough to accept that life moves on, that time and distance do exist, and that I can’t be in touch with everyone forever. I console myself with the knowledge that there are other ways to connect with people and I feel excited at the prospect of using my reclaimed Facebook time to cultivate my character instead of polishing my profile, and to invest my energy once again in real relationships and real community.
I’m anticipating significant withdrawal symptoms and moments of regret, but am hoping that this detox will help.
Of course, this is all based on the assumption that it is actually possible to leave Facebook. No doubt it’ll take me a while to figure out how, but I’m sure any obstacles can be overcome with a little help from my friends. And I’ve got 407 of them, so I should be ok.