Not quitting Facebook

On 29th June, I deactivated my Facebook account and removed the “apps” from my phone. I deliberately didn’t announce my departure, as the narcissism of drawing attention to myself and flouncing out would’ve come across as an attempt to get people to ask me to stay. It wasn’t: I didn’t need to be convinced either way.

A few people took my previous blog post to refer to my own resignation, which was recognized (I assume) by people subsequently looking up my profile to find that it was no longer accessible. This had an unexpected benefit: I received a handful of comments on this blog, which has long been devoid of any reader feedback.

The deactivation of my Facebook account wasn’t intended as a final and immediate decision. The standard two week “cooling off period”, whilst presumptive on the part of Facebook, was helpful to allow me to withdraw with the option of returning, once I’d had the chance to see what life without Facebook is like. A trial separation, if you will, and one where my possessions (or in this case, timeline posts and photos) were kept in storage in case I wanted to return.

There were three main reasons why I’d chosen to see how I got on without Facebook: an obligation to adhere to etiquette, privacy concerns, and time-wasting. Privacy is still an issue, but one with which people who publish to the internet always suffer: sharing photos or personal writing in any environment leads to one losing control over it. I will continue to de-incentivize theft my adding watermarks to my images.

During the seven days I wasn’t connected on Facebook, I became much more focused, enjoyed my lunchtimes more and relaxed much better in the evenings. I even started to become less stressed-out by no longer seeing the invasive level of dross which gets shared, in much the same way as I became more optimistic and positive after stopping reading the online versions of certain bigoted and moronic British tabloid media.

I came to the same conclusions as Facebook’s manipulation study by my own route a long time ago: a regular dose of negativity makes one negative. Incessant doses of inanity makes life become inane and it was this trend which made me start to recoil from such close interaction with the Facebook stream.

However, as Facebook devotees always argue, there was the danger of losing contact with people I wouldn’t otherwise hear from. Unlike a surprisingly high proportion of Swiss who remain outside Facebook, a large part of my circle isn’t local. I can’t just hop on a train or go to a local pub to meet up with friends and family, so I am more reliant on online media to keep in touch.

Remaining outside a monolithic social gathering place and insisting that people come to me if they value a friendship is more likely to lead to a loss of contact than a successful revolt against the gathering place. That’s no criticism of individuals, but an acceptance of the reality of the modern world.

During my “week off”, I came to the conclusion that I would lose more than I would gain by leaving Facebook, but that the site would serve me much better if I managed my interaction. That’s where time-wasting and etiquette comes in: because I saw most updates from most of my contacts and businesses I’ve “liked”, the home feed was an overwhelming stream, leading me to spend at least two hours of my day scrolling through the site. Two hours during which I could be doing things which actually make sense and which are valuable to me.

Because Facebook had become such a large part of my daily life, it had taken on an inflated level of importance and had an increased effect on my mood. Regular irritation and frustration had led to a change in my mood; one which those who know me well could recognize by a shorter temper, more aggression and a lessening of my laid-back approach.

By spending thirty minutes yesterday going through my account, I removed most updates from companies and “fan pages” from the daily stream. By selecting more carefully what I see every day, the stream becomes much more manageable and I still remain in contact with people I’m connected to. I also need to reign in my tendency to be distracted; hence I haven’t re-installed the Facebook “app” on my phone and I am consciously avoiding checking the site regularly.

Finally, in order to remove all of the annoying, repetitive and distracting adverts on the page (and on all other websites, too), I’ve installed Adblock Plus in my web browser at work and at home. That helps in two ways: by cleaning up the page of unwanted information, and by helping to improve privacy by hiding my web history from cross-site advertisers.