Saturday, 15 April 2017

Social media, real life and giving up Facebook for Lent

Spring flowers.
It’s nearly Easter and soon I will be able to go back on Facebook. I’m not sure if I’ll bother.

Actually, I know I will. Because some of the groups I’m in are work-related. Because I want to know what’s happening with my nieces and nephews who I rarely see. Because I want to keep in touch with old friends in different parts of the world.  Because some of my ex colleagues have put work my way because we stay in touch. Because of fear of missing out.

But I might not turn off that plug-in that hides your news feed. (Actually, I’m not sure how you turn it off. But still.)

I cheated a bit. I said that Sundays don’t count (I saw this in a book of Lent readings once so I guess it’s true. If you add the Sundays in Lent it’s more than 40 days.) On Sundays I posted photos and replied to people, but I didn’t spend ages following links from the news feed. The other way I cheated was that my Facebook was still being updated by my Twitter feed, so people could engage with me even if I wasn’t engaging with them.

Then this week there were all the news stories that Facebook makes you depressed.

Of course, this isn’t new. I just googled “Facebook makes you depressed” and there were results from 2016, 2015…

That wasn’t the reason I stopped, though. I explained to a friend: “I don’t know who I am any more.”

It’s not exactly that I put on an act for people. It’s more about wondering what it is I actually care about.  And it feels that the study is right when it says that the more you “like” things the sadder you get. The more time I spend interacting with my news feed, the more overwhelmed I feel.

When I click “like” or “angry” on someone’s post, is it because I think I ought to like it or be angry, or is it because I really feel like that? What exactly do I really care about? It’s quite hard to know now. Maybe Facebook is a bad medium for introverts, because it demands instant responses and I don’t really do instant. And for every five or ten minutes that I spend on Facebook, I’m creating opinions that maybe I don’t really have.

I don’t feel like this about Twitter, though.

My Twitter friend Justin, who is a bit of a Twitter power user, thinks there is a problem: “We all have our Twitter character now, and a tweeting style.”

That may be true for some but it’s not how I feel. I think that on Facebook you're putting on an act for people you know; on Twitter you’re talking to people who, mostly, you don’t know – so you don’t have to put on an act. Even though I have three Twitter accounts and I present different aspects of my personality to each of them, discuss different subjects, they all feel like me. A more likeable and wittier version of me than in real life, but still me.

(An aside.  They say that social media isn’t like real life. In real life, you don’t listen to a conversation for ages, then jump in with a soundbite and then go quiet again. Actually, this is apparently how I used to do talking in real life. Not so much now as I’ve learned to fake confidence.)

And did I feel less sad from not being on Facebook during Lent? Maybe. But that might just be the pills.

So, tomorrow. I will post some photos on Facebook that I’ve been saving up. I’ll check my notifications to see if anyone needs a reply. And then I’ll go back on Twitter.

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