25 Aug What I learnt from 3 months off Facebook
One of the unexpected consequences of being a pilot is that you find yourself having to fill in extraordinary amounts of spare time throughout the normal working week. You may find yourself having to fill in an afternoon on some idle Wednesday as you desperately wait for your partner to return home whereby you can then transfer your attention to annoying them instead. Fortunately, Mark Zuckerberg created a beautiful tool to solve this age old problem of too much time and not enough to do. The Facebook was the answer to all of our problems! Not only could we share beefed up narcissistic photo’s of ourselves, scoff at the lives of our failed school friends and stalk family photo’s of people that we’d never met, we now now had endless hours of entertainment right there at our fingertips. Thank god! No more boredom. Our problems would surely be solved!
Smash cut to me lying on the bed of my hotel room somewhere in Asia, the precise location of which, much like this sentence, is not important. I noticed myself in a ridiculous cycle. A cycle that repeated for hours on end. I would first refresh the Facebook app on my iPhone by pulling down the top of the page, a method Apple users will be all too familiar with. Then I would pop over to the messenger app to see who was online, not that I felt particularly compelled to chat with anyone. I just wanted to see live people. I would then continue a similar process throughout my Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, Stuff news and god knows what other apps until I found myself back at the comforting and oh so familiar blue border of my Facebook app. Pull down and release. Ahah! A new post! I have won the Facebook pokie! Somebody has posted a motivational picture saying that “Whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve” with a beautiful mountain scene in the background. Well, I most certainly agree with that premise so I better give it a wee like. Anything else new? No? I better pop over to Messenger and see who’s online. And so it repeated well into the night. An all too familiar pattern.
At this point I realise about 10% of you will have absolutely no idea what i’m talking about and will think I am borderline insane. We all know your type, you come on to Facebook once a month and post something that should be in a private message smack bang in the middle of your 20-something year old niece’s wall. Fortunately for you, my type live for these kinds of social media faux pas’. A simple comment under a photo such as “Hello Katey, your uncle John just had his haemorrhoids removed today, everything healing as it should” provides us with minutes upon minutes of puerile entertainment. From all of us, thank you and please don’t change. About 60% of you reading will be thinking, wow, I like checking my Facebook occasionally but what does he mean, stalk people’s family photos? Bless you. And, I can only assume that the final 30% of are you are sitting there reading this and thinking holy shit, why does he know my exact scrolling and refreshing habits and how on earth did he find out? Stay strong my brothers and sisters.
At some point I realised that at 31 years old, lying on a bed refreshing apps was possible not the best use of my time. I was keeping in touch with a metric shit ton of people but at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I was any better off, any more informed or any further ahead than I was pre scroll cycle. So, I decided to go on a Facebook diet. It would be three months long and I would not use any of the Facebook messaging or newsfeed features but would only allow my blog updates to post automatically to my page. It seemed simple enough, how bad could it be?
Fucking bad. I can’t lie to you people, the first few weeks of the diet were rough. I knew there would be messages from people that thought I was ignoring them. I kept thinking, what if someone posts something mind-blowingly important and i’m the only one on earth that doesn’t know about it? And OH GOD what are people commenting about my blog posts. It was torture for me.
But after a while the urge to scroll and refresh gradually subsided. I found myself with the kinds of free time that I used to have back in ’02. A handful of my friends reached out to me via email and text message. I used all of the spare time to reconnect with my family and a couple of my closest friends. It was amazing. I only had a few people in my life to think about and my mind was completely uncluttered from people’s information. Information that had no real relevance to me. Occasionally, someone would send me a text message saying “hey, this happened on Facebook, thought you’d like to know”. Perfect, my own private Facebook sorting and filtering system! Life could not have been more simple. I loved it.
Then, inevitably the day rolled around – August 18th. Three months was up and I hadn’t slipped once. I was so proud of myself. I was fizzing with excitement to see exactly what I had missed and also slightly trepidatious about falling into my old habits. Pfft, old habits. What’s the worst that could happen? I downloaded the app, opened it up and immediately saw all of these beautiful red notifications. 10 friends requests, amazing! 29 messages, stupendous! 84 notifications, goody! I felt a surge of serotonin course through my body. For a former Facebook abuser, this many notifications was the equivalent of an eight ball of Cocaine straight up the septum. I replied to messages, laughed maniacally at comments and accepted friend requests from people that I’d forgotten I’d even met! OMG, Facebook is so great! That night, I went to bed so happy.
The next day I woke up and could hardly contain my excitement! I couldn’t walt to get back on to Facebook and wade through the myriad of exciting notifications that i’d missed throughout the night. Hmmm, only two notifications. Something about some memories I have with some people that day and another saying that somebody liked my comment. Hmmmm. Only two notifications. Two! That’s kind of boring. What to do, what to do. I know, i’ll just pop over to Messenger and see who’s online…