John-Paul Flintoff




On Thinking About Giving Up Facebook


I posted recently about giving up Facebook. Irony of ironies, I posted this shocking idea on another social media platform (LinkedIn).

I’m posting the full text here, plus for your delectation a sketch that wasn’t included with the original post.



Not only was there no picture, but I formatted the text without line breaks, to look undigestible, so that (as much as possible) only the thoughts within it could account for the post’s “success”, i.e. reach, on LinkedIn. Like this:


Anybody here ever quit Facebook?
I think about doing it probably every week, sometimes daily.
Not that I actually visit often.
What keeps me there? Sunk costs: the thought of all the years I’ve “invested” my time and attention and ideas on it.
But I hate it.
Not because of the people there (my Friends, as Facebook calls them, whether or not that’s accurate.)
It seems determined to own everything.
When I first used Instagram, it wasn’t owned by Facebook.
Whatsapp, ditto.
Now a large part of my life takes place on, basically, Facebook – as if Facebook has become some kind of public utility.
And goodness knows the company has not been a great global citizen.
Why don’t I leave?
Because it feels like I’d be saying (to myself, to them?) that I don’t want to be Friends with those people any more.
Not true, obviously.
Because I might miss out on something (no idea what).
Not true, obviously.
Because my world will shrink.
Not true, etc.
Because to be consistent I’d have to leave Instagram too, and Whatsapp.
Not sure about this one.
Friends (he asked, not unaware of the irony of calling you that, on yet another social media platform), am I the only person who agonises about this?


***


I’d like to report here, because it’s nice to have a record of something so fleeting, that after about a month that post had:

  • been “viewed” 1,215 times,
  • received 15 reactions (raised thumb symbols, mostly, plus 2 x a heart balancing on an open palm) and
  • elicited 25 comments (including my own replies to other people’s).

To me, what’s most interesting is that only about half of the comments were from people with whom I am connected directly on LinkedIn.

The other half were from second-order connections (people who know someone I know) and third-order (people who know someone who knows someone I know).

I imagine that this testifies to a strength of feeling that other subjects don’t provoke.

May be wrong, of course. Often am.


***


One of the earliest responses was from a woman I know:

I rarely visit but I do because there are a group of friends, not close friends, who are really active on there. We met during A’Levels and went on trips together, holidays and had lots of fun together and I don’t want to lose touch again. I’m caught in the loop. I really don’t like Meta and Facebook business but it works as they’ve got me


Then someone I don’t know commented (itself relatively remarkable):

Professionally I was on it for a few short months as a firm I worked for insisted it was used for working groups, thankfully no longer on it. Though I get very frustrated around ethics of social media & it’s impact on wellbeing when users are drawn into making misleading life comparisons. Equally frustrated around firms that publicly condemn social media impact seen across likes of Facebook, but then as a company they continue to use Facebook’s workplace service. I’ve never used it personally & the only social media account I have & engage with is LinkedIn.


Then a man I do know:

I think like many things that give us this sense of angst, it’s about a sense of control. One narrative is Facebook is controling us – easy to justify for all your above reasons and probably several more.

Or we can create a different narrative and control our use of it. Be clear on what we want out of it – keeping in touch with particular friends, or keeping a social media presence for our businesses, for example. At that point we set our boundaries and it doesn’t have to be a problem. Allow ourselves a guilt free 15 minutes of scrolling, liking and leaving comments, but set the timer.

I find I don’t suffer the angst if I limit myself. It’s only when I fall into the endless scrolling does my mood start dropping at an alarming rate

I replied to him:

That’s definitely a huge part of it. Weirdly (maybe not) I also find myself worrying that I’m somehow enabling Facebook by even being there at all, as one of the zillions of data nodes.

And he replied back:

I think that narrative can apply to almost everything we use in life. In essence there are 2 ways of looking at things when we see the big picture and disagree with it – either we refuse to buy/participate on a principle that if we all did, the power in question would cease to have power, or we consider that our drop in the ocean would make not one scrap of difference to the world, therefore we would only be harming ourselves.

In reality we bounce back and forth over many different things about this. I boycott Nestle because of their appalling practices in developing countries, but at the same time end up buying stuff on Amazon because of the convenience.

Am I banking with the most ethical bank? Probably not. Is there even such a thing? However, if I’m eating meat it I make sure it’s free range and is reared under a recognised welfare standard.

If we tried to avoid using/buying/consuming everything that is dodgy on some level, then look into it deep enough and we would have problems even drinking water from our own taps.

Somewhere along the line we try and find a balance in the way we live, while trying not to do as much harm as we fear we probably are.

I don’t think anyone gets it completely right.




Subscribe to Everyday Writing (newsletter)