I get stares. Double takes. Fallen faces and awkward silences. When I tell people who ask me about my Facebook that I quit the social network over two years ago, I am given a look as if I had just proudly proclaimed that I spend my free time with like-minded people putting hedgehogs down my trousers.
I was a very keen Facebooker for a long time. Granted, I was not one of those who truly obsess over it. Saying you like Facebook is like saying you’;;re an Elvis fan – if you like it then your feeling is deep. But Facebook was my life, my whole life, in cheery white and blue. I’;;d chat to friends, make pointless status updates. Lol about and Like like a madman. It was my shield against ennui. And most importantly, it made me feel close to friends all the time. But after many years of happy Facebooking it quickly became that rather than being a mirror, to my friends it was becoming my mask.
I can’;t remember how it started. But I am sure most Facebookers have been part of dark whispers about what they or somebody else ‘;said on Facebook’;, intoned as if something unspeakably heretical and treasonous had been uttered in the courts of the mighty. This accusation of “I saw what you said on Facebook” has the potential to carry the kind of weight behind it which for centuries would have ended in someone’;s head being cut off. The great power of social networking is its ability to unite and feel part of a group. But all groups have the potential to turn into mobs. And mobs are fickle. The light-hearted japery of Facebook can turn on a sixpence into a witch-hunt. Perhaps this is how public figures feel when misinterpreted or make very public mistakes. In cold hard text a sentence can lack the warmth and texture of the spoken word, leaving it as much to interpretation as to being twisted.
Leaving Facebook does have its consequences. To most it is akin to self-ostracism, hence the reactions I often get as mentioned above. You do easily fall out of what is happening to your friends and texting and calling has fallen by the wayside in favour of Facebook. And most importantly for me, I no longer knew when anyone’;s birthday was anymore. And one does feel the isolation at first but this is just the initial shock. Like jet lag. You quickly find your time being more carefully spent. On evenings and weekends you suddenly notice the world around you a bit more. Once the final epiphany of freedom hits you, it is like you’;ve walked out of Plato’;s cave and out onto the pitch at Wembley on Cup Final day.
In the end, Facebook for me became too political. Side-taking, forensic Wall-watching, snideness and public humiliations. Eventually I’;;d sign in to Facebook with increasing trepidation, as if I were going to the dentist. Then it hit me like a wet fish – why bother? I’;ve since defected to Twitter and have not missed it for a second since. I would recommend anyone to have a Facebook amnesty for a short while. You may get much the same reaction as I do. But I implore you to perservere. Embrace the time you get back, and even the boredom that will initally come with it. Go to the park. Sniff some flowers. Feed the ducks. Just do whatever you Like.