My break-up with Facebook.
What happened when I left Facebook? Nothing. Yes, not what I was expecting either. After years (Bath University was one of the first Universities to bring Facebook to the UK) of mindlessly scrolling, stalking, liking and crafting my profile to perfection I was expecting that my world would come crumbling down and that I wouldn’t be able to exist in a Facebookless world. I envisaged a life without connection; that I’d loose touch with my friends, family and even those I hadn’t seen for years. What about holiday photos, group chats and party invites? I feared that I wouldn’t belong anymore, I’d miss out and I’d get forgotten. Perhaps a little dramatic but one thing was for sure I had a fear of leaving Facebook behind. However, in reality de-activating and finally deleting my account couldn’t have be any any different.
The reason I left was two fold. Firstly, checking Facebook became a habit and a bad one at that. I was checking between 6–10 times per day on auto-pilot without even thinking. Like most, I’d check the Facebook app first thing in the morning whilst in bed, barely awake, and also last thing at night, it was like having a relationship with my news feed.
Not only that but when I was aimlessly scrolling through, most of what I saw didn’t interest me. A girl I haven’t seen for years went swimming, an ex-colleague had a beer in the sun, my friend is eating a piece of strawberry cake, I mean that’s nice and all but did I really need to know that at 7am in the morning? No. It is not the most welcoming of wake-ups.
Ok, so I could have un-followed, de-friended and wiped them out. And yes, there was an element of that and I did unfollow friends on quite a regular basis. I also de-friended in some instances although that’s a different psychology altogether. However, after a while I realised that this was only where the problem started.
It wasn’t always the lack of interest in posts that bothered me, it was the constant comparing to other people’s lives that really tipped me over the edge. From cutesy couple photos, amazing holiday snaps, images of perfect Sundays in the park, three-bedroom house in the countryside shots, cute dogs, party photos, festival shots, another wedding ring, another holiday, more kisses, another house…you get the idea! Each time I logged in there was a really unhealthy thought process that was triggered within me: my life isn’t good enough.
It is at this point I should probably point out I am happy person in general, have a great life, good job, happy home and filled with lots of loving friends and family, however, following a break-up and witnessing a freak accident with my next door neighbour right after turning 30 I’d reached a bit of a low and had decided to invest in some Cognitive-Behavioural-Therapy (CBT). As a side note, I would encourage anyone to invest in CBT, it’s been the most eye-opening experience of my life. The CBT enabled me to look at how I interacted with Facebook with a new perspective and up until this point I hadn’t realised how negative the experience was.
This takes me to my second point not only was my consumption of Facebook triggering all the wrong behavioural patterns but I had started to become aware of how my contribution to the network was also having an affect. On average I’d said I would post between 1–5 posts on Facebook a week, mainly photos of what I’ve been up too: running a marathon, drinks in the park, swimming at the Lido, cuddles with my nephew, cooking classes in Sri Lanka, cocktails at the Sky Garden, beers on the beach, weekend camping in the Cotswolds, yoga handstands, cycle rides and the list goes on. I mean all of these things did happen, however they only show one aspect of what was going on in my life. I was going through heart ache and had experienced a trauma, I’d ran a marathon yet but no-one saw how many toenails I’d lost or sheer exhaustion I’d felt after training runs of 3–4 hours every weekend. The point is that I was crafting a perception of my life on Facebook that mainly highlighted the positives, it wasn’t a true reflection of who I was and for the first time in my life I felt a huge responsibility for this.
So that was it, after quick Google and a bit of resistance and emotional blackmail from the Facebook team, I de-activated my account for a month just as a trial to see what would happen.
And what happened? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, if anything came from it then it was positive. My friend promptly texted me seeing that I’d left to remind me of her birthday party at the weekend, another friend then sent me a link to all the photos he took at the event, another friend messaged to remind of logistics for the festival we were attending at the weekend and the rest is history. To be honest, I thought I’d miss it more. There were a couple of times when I’d reached a natural break in my work I went to log-on however after a slight pause I took a step back and resisted temptation. More importantly I didn’t look for a distraction, I sat in the moment with my own thoughts instead of being spiralled off into a whirlpool of self-bashing destructive thoughts. It enabled me to focus on actually connecting with people in real-life, sharing actual moments with friends and waste less time stalking ex-boyfriends.
Annoyingly Facebook re-activated my account after a month, without notifying me (cheeky cheeky) and throughout the month sent me emails around what I could be missing out on and that my friends were missing me bullshit. These emotional blackmail fuelled emails were the last straw, I downloaded my data, deleted my account and have not looked back since.
I laugh about having a relationship with Facebook but leaving it felt like a break-up but not the traumatic kind, the freeing liberating I-can-now-breathe kind of break-up. I feel like I’ve let go of a bad friend who has been hanging around for years and it feels great. I am sure there are those out there who have a healthy relationship with Facebook but if you find yourself checking your app before you’ve even opened your eyes, checking again before you shut them and mindlessly throughout the day, then why don’t you challenge yourself to a 30 day trial of no-Facebook? Go on, what’s the worse that can happen.