So a little after midnight on January 1st 2014 I disabled my Facebook account. That is - I temporarily closed it down. Apparently there is a way to delete it completely but naturally I am not quite ready to do so and the truth is that not only have I signed back in twice since (late at night when no one can see me - sshhh) but I have also been using another Facebook account to check messages from my sister and two best friends... and a work colleague... and a friend from my old account who found me and asked me to be my friend on my new account. Excuse me while I scream... THERE IS NO ESCAPE! (< untrue, if I am stupid enough to have a secondary account...)
It was the plethora of 2013/2014 status updates that tipped me over the edge and sealed the 'I am coming off Facebook' deal for me. They started at some mid-morning point of 31st December 2013 and ranged from the 'fuck you 2013, good riddance' to 'what a wonderful year you were, here's to the next one'. The thing was, I had been composing my end of year Facebook status update for many days and was primed to sign off and shut down my account with a perfectly worded status which hit all the right '2013 I hate you' notes while managing to offer a '2014 you will sparkle and shine because I am going to be so much a better person' kind of vibe. Pfffft. Here were people not even bothering to wait until the actual real new year to post their crap, Don't they know how to use Facebook?
I had other more serious reasons for deleting my account, primarily that I wanted to rediscover what life feels like when you don't know what other people are thinking and doing and secondarily because disabling it was the only way I knew to stop myself over-sharing. I am not the kind of person who can open a box of chocolates and just have one, so if I kept my Facebook open with the intention of not sharing then I just knew it was a non-starter. I was right. The first couple of days was unbelievably difficult and it was definitely the right thing to delete the app from my mobile phone because when I woke up on 1st January the very first thing I did was grab my mobile phone and go to take a look at what everyone else was thinking; only I couldn't, so I didn't and it was weird. It was weird that every time I did something or thought something my first reaction was to compose a status update in my head. It was weird that when I took a photograph on my phone my first thought was to upload it to Facebook. It was weird that I missed knowing what people were doing and saying and thinking.
It certainly got me thinking about how on earth I managed to get to this point, along with hundreds of thousands (Millions?) of other people for whom Facebook is as vital as thinking and breathing and living. How did I get to the point where I have to share how I felt about 2013 with hundreds of other people, some of whom I don't even like? How did I end up feeling like those hundreds of people should even care what I thought about the terrible choice of programming on the TV post-Christmas, the noise my neighbour was making, the lovely bath I just had, the lovely meal I just made, what I think about my dentist, my husband's snoring, the cretinous article in the Daily Mail about breastfeeding or the hundreds of other status updates I composed in my head but couldn't post? 24 hours later I was starting to worry that this internal dialogue of potential Facebook updates would never stop. So I started doing things...
I made my own thank you cards (thank you Pinterest), I de-cluttered my shelves and recycled all my Christmas cards, took down the last of the Christmas decorations, sorted the toddler's clothes drawers, Counselled my sister (By text), watched some films, read a book... READ A BOOK! I actually read a book, not an article someone linked to on Facebook but an actual book. It was rather good but then ... I got ill. Or rather my son got ill and I followed, which meant a couple of days lying about at home with nothing to do but post furious replies to stupid questions on Mumsnet or watch daytime TV. How badly I wanted my old Facebook account back. My secondary account was boring with only four friends and none of my usual groups and pages to peruse. So I started doing things...We made a gingerbread house, went to the park and flew a kite, took some long overdue items back to the library and visited the allotment for the first time in many months! I took a funny video of the gingerbread house falling down, at the allotment I took several pictures of my son, my carrots, my weeds... Instead of thinking 'I'll put that on Facebook' I started thinking 'If I had a Facebook I would put that on, perhaps I will put it on Tumblr instead. On one day I sent 11 photographs to my husband at work, what else was I going to do with them?
Still - it was a step in the right direction. I had stopped obsessively composing status updates in my brain - everything was hunky dory. Then I came back to work. 'Your mum put something on Facebook for you' said my work colleague. 'Did you see that thing on Facebook?' said another. So I rather reluctantly signed back in just so I could read what ever it was my mum wanted me to see. Really, had I had any willpower, I could have picked up the phone and asked my mum what it was, got her to send me a photograph of the cushion cover she is making for me... but no, I logged in and made the mistake of reading a few ramblings from my friends and family. Within seconds I could feel my blood boiling and after a few minutes I was already proclaiming 'oh FFS how stupid' over someone's post about vaccines. So I disabled it again until last night when I logged in one more time to check that I wasn't missing anything. I wasn't.
I still want to give up Facebook, I still want to know what life is like when no one knows your business and every one else's business is a surprise. I toy with the idea of re-opening my Facebook account just to read and receive messages but not to post anything about myself but there have been so many times when I have been bitter and sniffy about other people who use it in such a voyeuristic way plus I really don't think I have that kind of will-power. It's only been ten days, surely I can at least make a month or two? I miss having somewhere to put photographs and I miss other people commenting on them. I miss seeing other people's photographs and I miss having things to talk about. Some of the best conversations happen on Facebook, it is such a great way to swap ideas, share articles and seek opinion. Sadly it is also one of the best ways to have fights, fall out and piss people off. I know there are people out there who have never had a Facebook account, others who have had one but never got sucked into it or who just gave it up and never looked back. I want to be one of those people. I want to know how long it will take before I am one of those people. Really I should just get rid of it completely and forget it... no secondary account, no secret logging in, no more Facebook occupying valuable head-space and stopping me from getting things done.
I will try another ten days... see how that goes. Make more effort to communicate with other people in different ways, ignore the many ways that people try to get you back on and keep reading, gardening, getting stuff done but, fuck me it's actually quite difficult you know. Still - I haven't written a status update nor uploaded a photograph in 2014. In my old life I would have updated my status anything between 5 and 15 times and bombarded people with cute photos of my son so that's progress, no?
I previously wrote about Turning off Facebook and listed some reasons why I should.